I have to admit that I was late (but only by a month) to the Comic Book Party that is Joshua Williamson’s brilliantly paced Birthright #1, a jaw-dropping childhood fantasy with more twists and turns than a dragon’s small intestine. While ish #1 was a perfect introduction to a book dealing with some pretty high concepts, issue #2 settles things down quite a bit, narrowing the focus on our hero’s journey, both before his Earthly return and after. While the shock factor of Birthright‘s first installment was missing in this ish, gaining some insight into the main character’s background, both past and present, was certainly necessary. The change in narrative, however, left plenty of room for some fantasy action, solidifying Birthright as a must-read fantasy adventure comic.
Although Birthright has many strengths, issue #2 shows off just how great writer Joshua Williams is at creating rich and interesting characters. While the ‘boy-turned-barbarian’ lead character’s epic past and super-heroic present gets most of the attention, Williams builds this characterization marvelously through flashbacks and heartfelt interactions with family members. It’s really easy to identify with all of the characters, leaving them intimately endeared to the reader, and Williamson utilizes the ubiquitous bonds of family to help drive the overall narrative of the ish. But Williamson also shows off his flexibility, as scenes change from emotional reunions to exciting action from one panel to the next more than a few times, with the overall story suffering none from the drastic shifts. Artist Adrei Bressan pulls just as many punches as our hero (meaning absolutely none), as everything from the rich landscapes of a fantasy world and its inhabitants, to the emotion-filled character expressions and awe-inspiring action scenes come together in a synergistic feast for the eyes.
While there is nothing overtly wrong going on within the pages of Birthright #2 or the series as whole to this point, I have an overarching problem with the way the police in this book handle things. Sure, this is a fantasy book that flips basic fantasy storytelling on its head, but it does so without adhering to this flipping throughout the issue. Although the chief police detective portrayed in the book is a friend to the family starring in the book, the craziness associated with the events of Birthright do not seem to mesh with the attitude of law-enforcement. This is easily overlooked, however, and I’m much more concerned with writer Josh Williamson’s blatant attempt to make me love a lead character who is destined to betray everything he holds dear, and us the readers in the process. Although this may lead to an awesome tale of self-conflict that makes the lead character even that much more endearing, the allusion of the eventual betrayal should make this book difficult to read, and it would, if it wasn’t so much damn fun.
Birthright is a comic book that takes everything you know about what makes for a good comic and takes it to the Nth degree. It’s a thrilling adventure full of rich characters, with a plot that keeps readers guessing at every turn of the page. Writer Josh Williamson expertly weaves a tale that is impossible not to fall in love with, while Andrei Bressan’s art completely sucks readers in to this wonderfully imaginative and daring world. If you’re looking for big adventure that keeps you guessing do not miss Birthright.
Story: 4 Out of 5
Art: 4.5 Out of 5
Overall: 4.5 Out of 5