Birthright #39 Explores The Difference Between Nature And Nuture

by James Ferguson

With the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance, Mikey goes head to head with Mastema, Lore’s own daughter, in the hopes of getting her help to restore the barrier between Earth and Terrenos. She has others plans, reshaping whatever is left when both lands destroy themselves, creating a perfect world for herself. How very Thanos of her.

We’ve seen quite a bit of Mikey’s childhood, both with his family on Earth and growing up in Terrenos. Although he had some tough times, there was love in his life. Mastema is the opposite. She had none of the compassion that Mikey did and that has definitely affected her psyche. She doesn’t understand the value of life. People are toys to her.

Mastema lays this out in a poignant story from her past involving her first love. Writer Joshua Williamson controls the pacing and tone of this tale, creating sympathy for Mastema before adding some twists and turns to reveal her true motives. It’s fascinating to watch.

Where Mikey refuses to accept this fate and Lore’s rule, Mastema has accepted it as an inevitability. Why bother fighting such a force? This further distinguishes them from each other as the good vs. evil debate rages on.

The positioning of Mastema is interesting in Birthright #39. She’s always shown in the higher ground, either levitating above Mikey, or standing on the edge of a precipice, further illustrating the power she holds and how much Mikey needs her help. Artist Andrei Bressan morphs Mastema to alter her appearance based on the tone of the story. At times, she looks like an innocent young woman in a fun costume, then there are others where she’s a fierce warrior with raw power coursing through her veins.

I have no idea how Bressan does this, but nearly every issue of Birthright has a motion effect somewhere. The artwork gets a little blurred to make it look like it’s moving. It adds to the intensity of the scene, almost like a quick cut in an action movie, but without making you dizzy. You’re able to soak in all the details of the artwork at your own pace.

The encounter between Mikey and Mastema happens in a sort of pocket dimension where the sorceress controls anything and everything. Colorist Adriano Lucas brings this to life in a brilliant manner. The colors swirl around in the background like there’s nothing in this entire universe except these people on a small hunk of rock. It’s a cosmic feel which is interesting since this is a fantasy book.

The epic scale of this fight is backed up by the sound effects that often take over the entire page. Letterer Pat Brosseau has some great placement here, giving you an idea of the stakes of this battle. This is contrasted by the stoic nature of Mastema’s speech as she lays out her intentions in a matter-of-fact way.

Just when I’ve thought I’ve seen everything in Birthright, it hits me with a shocking twist that leaves my jaw on the floor. Joshua Williamson is the king of cliffhanger endings and Birthright #39 has a whopper of one. Where can we possibly go next? I cannot wait to find out.

Birthright #39 from Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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