Reviewed By Katy Rex. The worst part about “Birthright” #5 is that we won’t get a follow-up until April. Williamson has been playing with a balance of simultaneously building two distinct worlds and keeping mysterious secrets, and this end-of-the-arc issue brings it all to a climax.
WRITTEN BY: Joshua Williamson
ART BY: Andrei Bressan
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASE: February 4, 2015
A lot of comics would go from mid-battle in the previous issue to a single panel battle wrap-up so that the old issue can end suspensefully and the new issue can move on and be fresh. It’s a common strategy, and a logical one, and it’s one that I’m glad they completely ignore in issue #5 of Birthright. The issue starts with the battle between Mikey and Rya and the beast, in the past, and the battle between Mikey and the Ward, in the present. Both battles work to characterize Mikey as a whole and complex person; the past shows the boy he was and the innocence and compassion therein, and the present shows how far he’s willing to go, and his motivations for doing so. Plus blood and fire and swords are cool.
This issue also does a lot of work to develop the relationship between Mikey and Brennan. Brennan, in some strange way, still feels like the protective older brother of this full grown warrior man. He’s beginning to realize that Mikey is his brother and also might not be exactly what he seems. He’s dealing with this introduction of moral ambiguity exactly the way a big brother would; he’s not telling their dad, because that’s a tattletale move, and he’s not pushing Mikey on it, because he figures it’s secret for a reason, but he’s going to stand by his brother and protect him and maybe find out a little more about the secrets.
The art in this issue is consistent, and the character designs… I want to talk about the character designs, and the way they develop consistently with the characters as the characters change, but I don’t want to say what exactly I mean by that, because I don’t want to actually prepare you for the last panel of this issue. When you get there, you’ll see what I mean. As always, Adriano Lucas is kicking ass on colors, particularly the palette during the battle in the forest. The panel layout is creative enough to avoid monotony, but not complicated enough to inhibit the plot. The real strength, though, is very much the characters; the details of their appearance, their body language, their facial expressions, it all combines to convey the very real and complex human (and nonhuman otherworldly) characters realistically.
The main flaws I see in this issue are the parents. They are the least interesting, realistic, and believable characters of the series, but development over time could help flesh them out more and make them as engaging as the others. And not to repeat myself, but the last panel. You guys, the last panel. It’s a gorgeous splash, and it’s everything. It’s absolutely responsible for why I’m so mad about waiting two months for the next installment.