29 issues come down to this, can Mikey’s family finally save him from the Nevermind?
Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Andrei Bressan
Colored by Adriano Lucas
Lettered by Pat Brosseau
Can Mikey free himself from Lore once and for all? The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance!
With the release of Dragonball FighterZ, I’ve been on a bit of a Dragon Ball Z kick, specifically the Dragon Ball Z Kai cut. The Kai edit cuts a lot of the fat from the series, however, it still must contend with the realities of being a 22-minute animated series. This reality means when the big fights are occurring there is only a budget for about one BIG thing to happen per episode. While entertaining, these constraints effect on the pacing of the action makes everything feel stretched a bit thin. That stretched quality is what keeps coming to mind when considering issue #30 of “Birthright,” the conclusion to its sixth arc ‘Fatherhood.’ The issues stretches to fill pages at times, and undermines it’s dramatics in little ways. At the same time, it lands resounding dramatic moments in ways that help to cohere why other moments fall short.
The stretched feeling is derived from how physically big artist Andrei Bressan goes on certain pages and how that eats up page space. This is an Image book, but it isn’t one of those types of books. In that regard it may be a bit worse than those books: these pages are boring. Take the spread dominated by Lore’s Nevermind Cavern on pages four and five. It is five panels with a small series of caption boxes that don’t lead the reader across the page but down to the sequence of four panels as Mike considers Lore’s offer. Technically, the Cavern spread is quite good, the use of perspective gives the image a real sense of depth and scale, but that’s it. There isn’t anything else to it other than the size. Without anything going on, there isn’t much reason for it besides being able to eat up two pages for maybe a single page worth of content. It’s not like the art team of Andrei Bressan and Adriano Lucas can’t do awesome spreads, they do one later this issue.
The following page reads as a similar instance of stretching or at least a missed opportunity. As the issue goes on there is excellent use of mirroring between the present and the past-memories of Mikey as they clash for his soul, this isn’t one of them. The layout for this page is 4 panels, sandwiched with on top and bottom. This is the moment Mikey gives into Lore and allows for their union. The first panel is gigantic, taking up two-thirds of page space. The use of perspective is a bit odd since it is at a slight low angle, which is a perspective that emphasizes size. Making Mikey look bigger is the opposite of the scenes emotion, submission. Sure, he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger on all the steroids, but with these little presentational tricks you would be selling the moment. Also, with the emphasis on mirrored designs later, why this page isn’t symmetrical makes it appear out of place. Lore is full on monstrous shown at a slight low angle, because he should be, he has won. Yet his triumphant panel is about the same size as the other two so that sense of triumph doesn’t really land. It’s not that these moments are egregiously bad, but with the thematically sound design work that comes pages later they appear out of place from the coherent body visioned at the end.
This has been a lot of pointing out how a mixture of big and small presentational issues undermine the book as a whole. It’s a bummer because the back half of this issue has the quality design work you expect out of “Birthright.” There are little things, like dropping the strict border from the panels that deal in Mikey’s subconscious. This is mostly evident when speech bubbles rub up against the border of the panel and instead of being contained, fade into the white space of the gutters. That’s a really minor little detail that goes a long way in selling the surrealist nature of what’s going on in his head. The big detail is how Bressan uses symmetrical page designs to create a sense of concurrent action between the physical world and subconscious.Continued below
Understandably the Nevermind doesn’t take kindly to being separated from its host and sends Mikey bursting out of his cell – in a moment that makes the slightly larger panel size land. With two planes of action, Bressan splits pages into symmetrical designs and things begin to land. First a 2×3 grid split between Lore and Rya fighting for control. This is eventually blown out into a double page spread that is perfect example of why spreads work. Unlike the previously mentioned spread, this one is not just filled with action, but meaningful actions! As both Mikey and his parents relive the Nevermind taking root within him it is simultaneously being drawn out of him in a series of panels that pivot off one another beautifully. Imagine the final fight between Green Arrow and Deathstroke from Arrow season 2, but as a comic. It’s the correct visual representation to close out that thread, content and structure working together.
I don’t know who is at “fault” for this issue. If the structural failings are fundamental to the script or Bressan’s interpretation of it. It doesn’t really matter. This issue from a plot perspective effectively closes it’s longest running thread. However these moments of asynchronicity eat up space where the comic isn’t able close things out in as emotionally satisfying fashion as one would hope from an arc finale. It did the big thing, that was awesome, and ran out of time.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – Andrei Bressan, Adriano Lucas, and Joshua Williamson hit it out of the park in some moments and left me wondering what happened in others.