So Much Fun To Be Back With Sara!
This review originally went up on my blog here.
More than a year on since I first read a Witchblade comic, and I’m still in love with the character of Sara Pezzini and the entire setting that has grown up around her and the other Artifact-bearers in the Top Cow Universe. While initially it all comes across as very superheroish, its all just the surface details really since none of these characters are what I’d typically call superheroes. They are quite different, and Sara Pezzini/the Witchblade show that off quite handsomely.
I haven’t actually read all that many Witchblade comics, which is why this week’s Witchblade #170 is so significant a read for me. Ron Marz is returning to the title after a long hiatus, replacing Tim Seeley as the series writer and Laura Braga is coming on as the artist, replacing Diego Bernard. As such, this is meant to be a jumping-on point for readers and it starts off a whole new arc.
As someone who is familiar with the character largely through Ron Marz’s own work himself, such as his Artifacts maxi-series, its nice to see that even after everything that Sara has been through under Tim Seeley with the long Rebirth arc, we can still go back to basics and focus on what makes Sara tick, even as we see her in her new surroundings. Gone is her NYPD detective identity, gone is her stay in Chicago as a private investigatorfollowing the conclusion of Artifacts Volume 4. Sara is now a small-town Sherriff in the county of Saratoga, New York. And it seems that supernatural troubles have followed her here as well since there’s been a rash of killings in the town, ritualistic killings that involve beheading.
Right from the get go, Ron establishes that this book is going to be part-supernatural with some horror vibes. It is one of the things that I love about the Witchblade books, and its great to see that in full force here. Of course, Marc Silvestri’s jaw-dropping cover also helps, but the writing really does sell you on that point. The story in this issue is a slow-burner as it turns out. Ron takes his time to introduce the character in her present surroundings, he builds her up, gives us flashbacks to what has happened before, and then in the end he hits you with a cliffhanger that makes you sit up and really take notice. He lulls you along, setting you up for what initially appears to be another cult killing-spree, the type that Sara is more than familiar with, and then he twists everything around, leaving you wondering just what is going on in Saratoga County. Because whatever it is, it is more than just random killings and beheadings.
There’s one flashback in particular, from Sara’s days in New Jersey, which adds to her situation here, particularly why she is no longer wearing the Witchblade anymore. It involves a cameo by another Artifact-bearer, someone that Sara has known for a long time and has worked with, so its great to see this character here. I kind of wish that we’d gotten to see more of an interaction between the two of them, but this is a book that’s focused on Sara, so I’m fine with the other character not being featured more prominently.
With the art, Laura Braga has a very different style to that of Diego Bernard, and I find myself quite liking it. The characters are always the most important thing in each panel, and Laura clearly lavishes a lot of attention on them, helping them to stand out from their surroundings. Even when there are multiple characters in the same panel, the details are not lost, and are enhanced. However, one thing that seemed odd was that the characters, especially Sara, struck poses a little too much. Like “take a photo” pose. It jarred a little bit and helped take away from some of the panels which had a very sombre, serious tone. Betsy Gonia is on the colours for this issue and her work lends a very animated feel to the story, something that is once again different from what’s been in the series previously, and its also memorable. If there’s one thing I really liked, it was that Betsy gets the light effects down really well. Its one of those little things that don’t appear all that important but they enhance the experience nonetheless. However, a small negative is that the colours were too… smooth, possibly a bit too bright in places, which took away from the full effect that Betsy was undoubtedly going for.
And one other thing. Previously, if I remember correctly, the Witchblade armour covered up much more of Sara’s body when it was in full effect. Yet here it is akin to its more risque look. It was a somewhat irritating inconsistency, balanced only by the fact that there are only a small handful of such scenes. Laura and Betsy draw an amazing Sara/Witchblade in these panels, but I still wish that the armour was more conservative, the way its been in recent issues/arcs. That would, I expect, draw in more readers.
But, all things considered, I had fun with this issue. I’ve already re-read it a few times and it holds up to multiple readings. Small things jump out constantly. I’m definitely onboard with the new creative team. They just need to get the kinks worked out here.