Saturday, October 15, 2016
New Book Review: Reborn # 1
Reborn # 1
Mark Millar and Greg Capullo
Separate yourself from DC Rebirth and the title of Mark Millar and Greg Capullo's new sci-fi/fantasy series, Reborn.
Likewise, don't be deterred with a false impression this series is stuffed full of religious diatribes and puritanical cleansing. Its protagonist is as secular as it gets, and given all that's happened within her mortal life, her rejection of God is a very real, new-gen form of fundamentalism spreading around the world--even if Bonnie Black is an elderly misanthrope. It's no secret the church as an institution has seen better days and held a firmer grasp over humanity than it does today. The concept of one, all-powerful deity and a subterranean devilment waiting to singe wrongdoers has been more of a control construct than people have been willing to acknowledge. Until now. Preacher crossing over from Vertigo to AMC is telling of where we're at as believers in contemporary society.
Really, without the mandate of preparing one's soul for a perpetual afterlife of harmony at the threshold of heavenly nirvana, we humans would be extinct as a species. Lawlessness, especially murder, would be the prevailing norm without a checks and balances system reinforcing that crime does time and Satan feasts on your innards once the justice system is done with you.
Keeping this in mind, Mark Millar and Greg Capullo exploit this very fact within the opening pages of their brow-raising Reborn. It's not often you begin a fantasy series with a gory spree killing sequence, but these brothers go right for the jugular and slash it open before we're ever introduced to our lead character, Bonnie Black. Yet there's a purpose to this gratuitous nihilism, which is immediately halted with a peek into the world we're about to enter, a fantastical realm Millar insinuates is built partially of one's own design.
Bonnie Black has lived a sad and cruel life. She's lost her husband to the very sniper introduced in Reborn # 1. Her father suffered a squishy death in a steel plant, her mother dying shortly thereafter. Bonnie Black is in the waning moments of her senior life and like any rational mortal, fears what is to come. The writing here is magnificent as Bonnie reflects upon her finest life moments in the wake of her past tragedies and looming death.
Though a forthright cynic, we feel her pain inside one single panel, which Greg Capullo illustrates with heartwarming innocuousness: a young Bonnie, married, suckling her newborn, nestled beneath the nook of her husband's arm. Mark Millar cites it perfectly for us to get where Bonnie has been and why her life's a blown tragedy: "I'm twenty-six and feeding Barbara, loving the way she blinks as she swallows. Loving the fact she needs me so much. Carson on the box. Harry beside me. Never happier than this perfect moment."
Instead of turning this story into a would-be "Kick the Can" or Cocoon for comics, there's no magical youth restoration, at least in the real world. Bonnie Black is doomed to die, but magic does play into our story.
We've all had dreams, even nightmares, where we reunite with our departed loved ones, often in surreal settings. The foil of mortality, however, is we awaken from those dreams, forced to face reality, compelled to keep going no matter how sensational it might've felt we've escaped our humdrum grinds forever. Our loved ones remain departed and honestly, do we really know if we ever rejoin them after crossing over? There's no concrete attestation for what lies beyond, much less whether or not angels' wings come in plus-sizes and Heaven's gates are pure alloy or merely gold-plated. Where does reincarnation come into play, assuming you subscribe that theory?
It's often said amidst idealists that when we die, we come back to the next plane in our prime. We're not babies, we're not elderly husks, we're the full essence of ourselves, assuming we've been given the appropriate time to live to our fullest. So we like to think. In Reborn, Mark Millar sweeps Bonnie Black into a Conan-meets-Terminator fantasy realm where dragons, warlords and soaring battle craft collide. This a weird, blood-soaked world Bonnie is set to figure prominently in as it's revealed everyone's been waiting for her to arrive--in particular a bear-sized, barbarian reformation of her father.
What this series proposes at face-value is a sweeping and gruesome adventure where death is not the end, it's merely preparation for something grander and more explosive. Beneath the surface, however, is a latent tapping into Bonnie Black's horrific experiences. As the audience, we should expect whatever psychosis she has suffered in her life as a result of so much terror will inevitably come back to haunt her as this series rolls. The expressionistic creatures sprawled into this opening of Reborn may be figurative, or they may be Bonnie Black's hellish new reality. This duality makes the series intriguing off-the-bat.
Has Bonnie really died and transcended to a butcher block landscape, or is she deep in a coma, powerless to fight the demons ravaging her from the depths of precognition? Shudder to think in either case, but what appears very much real is we're in for a messy, dramatic and potentially cathartic ride.