(w) Mark Millar, (p) Greg Capullo, (i) Jonathan Glapion, (c) FCO Plascencia
Mark Millar is one the more polarizing figures in comics. He is also one of the industry’s most talented writers. With Reborn #1, his latest work from Image Comics, it is the latter of Millar’s characteristics that shines here, resulting in an opening issue that is brutally violent, touching and sweet, and as a whole wildly imaginative. It doesn’t hurt that his collaborating art team is the same one that made Batman the stand-out title of DC’s “New 52” era, with superstar artist Greg Capullo on pencils, Jonathan Glapion on inks, and FCO Plascencia on colors.
Reborn #1 recounts the final days of Bonnie Black, an atheist woman who has suffered numerous tragedies throughout her life, and now finds herself in hospice care. Her lack of faith in any sort of higher power is perhaps the most important character trait in her overarching journey. It also makes her unique. Though society continues to grow increasingly secular, with atheism and agnosticism on the rise in the United States, elder generations have the highest concentration of those faithful to a higher being (1).
Because of her lack of faith, Bonnie spends her time living life to its fullest, or at least that’s what she recounts throughout the issue. We are introduced to her [deceased] husband, the victim of a sniper’s rampage, her father, and her granddaughter. More notable, we are introduced to the fear she experiences at this stage of her life. Just as her lack of faith liberated her to live a full life, it also stripped away the comfort that many of her peers feel as death becomes more imminent. To her, death means she ceases to be. Of course, with the imagery on the cover and the title of Reborn, readers are aware that there is more to this issue than an old woman’s recollection of life and fear for death before finally passing on.
While it follows the tried-and-true tropes on an origin story, these early moments in Reborn #1 allow readers to identify with Bonnie on a personal level before the title turns into a sci-fi/fantasy spectacle. And because of the work put into the visuals by Capullo, Glapion, and Plascencia, the word “spectacle” is appropriate. From the graphic violence of the opening page, the sweeping landscapes of (for lack of a better term) the afterlife, and even the mundane hospital setting, this is a gorgeous title. Over the years, Capullo has developed a reputation as one of the hardest-working members of the comics community, and his strive for continuous improvement reaches its apex here.
Every line is placed with the utmost precision, and each one has a specific purpose – further enhanced by Glapion’s inking. Characters express joy, sadness, contemplation, rage, and a host of others. For the “real world,” pages are laid out in a basic, 4 panel structure which conveys a sense of normalcy. When the issue transitions to the afterlife, the simple layouts are jettisoned for a flashier, open approach that provides a bigger canvas to both the artists and the reader. Each full-page splash is beautiful, from the composition of the linework to the colors employed by Plascencsia. Moreover, each splash serves an important purpose from a storytelling perspective, rather than to stretch the issue’s page count. Be it the transition from life to death, the introduction of a world, or setting the stage for what’s to come, every decision by the art team is done to drive the story forward.
Reborn is a title to get excited about. In its debut issue, the writer and artist prove why they have earned their star status. Millar’s script allows for a tightly paced, emotionally affecting, and action-packed narrative. Bringing that script to life is the sublime artwork by Capullo and his collaborators Glapion and Plascencia, who surpass their previous best work on DC’s Batman title from a few years ago. Reborn #1 is not a perfect comic, but it comes pretty damn close.
(1) Based on information from Pew Research: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/04/americans-faith-in-god-may-be-eroding/