Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Steve Rude
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Dave Lamphear
What They Say:
Birdman has faced countless threats in his career as one the Earth’s greatest heroes: giant monsters, alien invasions, secret societies and power-mad super-villains, but nothing he’s faced can prepare him for his most daunting challenge: fatherhood! Birdman’s battle against his old rival Mentok takes a dire turn when Birdman must use every ounce of his power to save the life of a son he never knew he had!
Content (please note that portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Even as Jen and Ray stand over Jacob’s comatose body, searching for any way to cure the boy, the maniac named Mentok and his minions burst into the room. This man is deranged, and with the sway he holds over his followers, they easily overcome our hero as he is unsure how to deal with the events unfolded before him. With the situation now in his control, the lunatic gives Ms. Holder an ultimatum – either kill Birdman or her son will not live. An empty click of the chamber is her answer, but the weapon was never loaded, a test from her master as to her loyalty. The villain needs misery, despair, sadness, all of the negative emotions to carry out his plan to capture his faceless god, but even as he divulges his despicable plan, Falcon 7 and her agents burst through the window, determined to arrest the criminal. Seemingly outnumbered, he and his men surrender, but in a flash of light, they disappear, never there and only an illusion.
With Ray too stunned by the so-called facts revealed to him by Jen and Mentok, the protector is incapacitated to know what is the truth and false, even as he pleads with Deva to unravel the mysteries. Not wanting to deceive her friend any longer, she relates what the records and her own knowledge know to be true, and first is the fact about Jacob – he is not his son. While he may have felt a connection with the boy, Falcon 7 states Ray never had a child with Ms. Holder, all she did was exploit gaps in his memory to her own advantage. Confused as to these new revelations, Birdman is now filled with more self doubt, demanding the whole truth behind his past. While she may not wish to tell him, Deva now has no choice than to recount what she knows, no matter how painful it may be to Ray. His past is the only thing which may save him and bring back the hero that is Birdman.
With the cliffhanger we were left with last issue, writer Phil Hester fulfills his obligation of creating a story worthy of fleshing out the underused hero Birdman magnificently. Though on the surface the narrative may be enigmatic due to the bombardment conflicting elements of philosophical questions as to truth and identity plus what actions of the past can relate to the meaning of the present, in the end it shines forth as a brilliant example to how we think of ourselves as to what counts. I appreciate the complexity of how he relates Ray’s confusion as to his past, Deva telling him truthfully what he was and what he could be, Jen reaching out through Jacob and showing how a parent’s love will make them do anything and Mentok trying smoother Ray with self-doubt… all cumulating to seeing how Birdman decides for himself who he is and what he wants to be – a hero. Although the tale may have been overly theatrical in trying to evoke the reader’s connection to the characters, it is this melodramatic enthusiasm which makes it more humane, but at the same time seems to bog it down with a lack of action, instead depending on psychological angst to drive Hester’s point forward, thereby leaving some with the feeling of an unfulfilled ending. While it might have been more satisfying to have a more physical confrontation between the two foes, this resolution has a better closure for the character, allowing him to become settled within his new life and realizing he is better off not knowing his full history. Though it may sound cruel, sometimes people are better off living in the present and forgetting the past, knowing this knowledge will do more damage, filling them with self-doubt and always wondering what might have been. For now, Birdman can become a new person and the hero he was always meant to be.
And yet even within this enigmatic and thought-provoking narrative, it is the phenomenal artwork of Steve Rude which brings such fluidity and at the same time, grounds the story within a sympathetic foundation of illustrative grandeur. However, even his grasp of the situation would not be as effective without the talent of colorist John Kalisz providing such an integral overview, enveloping the atmosphere within such dismal tones that they reflect Birdman’s emotional vulnerability – uncertain and raw. This synergy brings a whole new dimension to the narrative, allowing for the reader to submerge themselves within the story, the darkness of not knowing only to be polluted by differing sides, almost turning his trauma into a toxic sludge, only being purified by the truth. From the beginning we are treated to this cooperative display, Mentok puffing his own self-worth by lording himself over Jen, all while Ray stands his ground in true heroic fashion, his glowering mask staring down almost as if daring the villain to make the first move. It only gets better from there, each panel compounding the tension, shadows broadening the scope of our hero’s susceptibility to the various influences, all funneling toward his foe’s need for negativity. Even with that beautiful splash page of Birdman displayed proudly in all his glowing splendor, everything comes back to Mentok being the center of the story, his insatiable hunger to feed his faceless god. But even as I watched that scene unfold, those tentacles reminded me of Cthulhu from H. P. Lovecraft, the formless being and the Mind-Taker’s face becoming what he wished. The ghastliness of that image solidifies Ray’s determination, surging forward and making the reader want to cheer for the hero. It is a spectacular like this which make you wonder why comics are not considered an artwork by the general public … for if they saw this sequence, there would no longer be any doubt.
The human mind … a cryptic labyrinth of twists and turns, all thinking it to be an impenetrable fortress of determination, but when a vulnerability is found, it easily crumbles. This is the worth of Birdman, a hero who may appear to be forthright and strong, but given the right circumstances, can be seen as weak as those he saves. It is this marvelous narrative within a heartfelt story, contained by wondrous artistic talent which shows us even heroes can be vulnerable, and as such, they too need the understanding everyone does, even at the worst of times. And it is during those traumatic moments when they show their truest strength and prevail against their greatest foes – themselves.
Rating: T (Teen)
Released By: DC Comics
Release Date: February 21, 2018