Suppose you died in your old age, awakening only to find yourself in your twenties again, the powerful chosen savior of a fantastic afterlife under fire by dark forces. Suppose the realm in peril was populated by youthful reincarnations of the people of your past, including your long-dead father. And as you explore this alternate life, you have no idea of the imminent danger about to befall you, nor the old enemy behind it.
You’d be living Reborn, Image’s highly-anticipated new sci-fi comic series from prolific award-winning writer Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Civil War) and artist Greg Capullo (fresh from an acclaimed Batman run). Premiering in October 2016, the series focuses on the rebirth of Bonnie Black, an elderly woman who passes on and awakens as her younger self in an almost-Heaven known as Adystria, where she is revered as the Chosen One, the one who will save them from the evil forces of the neighboring Dark Lands (pretty much their universe’s version of Hell).
The series’ sophomore issue picks up following Bonnie’s reunion with her father at the end of #1. As he brings her up to speed in her new life, she learns why she has ended up in Adystria as opposed to the Dark Lands, and the extent of the populace’s expectations of her as a warrior. Upon finding many of the people of her past amongst its citizens, she suddenly wonders if her long-dead husband is somewhere in the realm, and sets out to find him. Her first stop: a visit with the Queen of the Faeries, Bonnie’s pious best friend in her former life, now a dour, apathetic matriarch embittered by the absence of God in the afterlife. Meanwhile, in the Dark Lands, the adversaries of Adystria–and, unbeknownst to her, of Bonnie herself–are about to make their presence known.
Reborn is such a treat, an absorbing read, and so visually pleasing that its subtle themes (religious metaphor, questions of faith, human frailty, etc.) are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Millar continues to slowly build the momentum established at the end of the premiere issue, effectively giving only the slightest hints at the conflict to come. The fantasy elements of the story–buoyed further by the lush, sprawling visual landscape Capullo has brought to life–play out through a filter of relatable characters and dialogue, so the reader is easily engaged. FCO Plascencia’s color work is manga-esque eye candy, lending itself very well to Capullo’s clean, classic style (shout-out too to Jonathan Glapion’s inks) and dynamic, emotionally nuanced characterizations. Its story and illustrations have the immediately nostalgic feel of classic fantasy-adventure comics, as if a Robert E. Howard character was given the reverse-Fables treatment, plucked from this modern-day life and plunged headlong into a magical dimension, only to have to defend it against evil forces.
Rumor has it that Reborn will, true to its title, itself be reborn in 2017 as a hardcover standalone novel to be penned by author Sarah Lotz (The Three). I imagine it will be difficult to replicate in words the magic achieved by Millar, Capullo and Plascencia’s combined efforts here; in the meantime I’m more than happy to continue enjoying this original series, as its creators have just scratched the surface in showing us what the immediate future of Adystria–and its heroine Bonnie Black–holds.