By Ron Marz (writer), Michael Broussard (pencils), Rick Basaldua, Joe Weems and Sal Regla (inks), Sunny Gho of IFS (colors) and Troy Peteri (letters)

The Story: The bearers of the thirteen Artifacts begin to take their place and forage alliances as Armageddon approaches. In the meantime, two bearers in particular—Sara Pezzini, wielder of the Witchblade and Jackie Estacado who contains the Darkness—must deal with an additional, and very personal, crisis: their daughter has been kidnapped.

What’s Good: What a fantastic story Ron Marz is building here. Well written, perfectly paced, and new-reader friendly without insulting the intelligence and knowledge of people who have been following the Top Cow Universe for some time. This is what a major comic book event should look like. I don’t need a bunch of crossovers, I don’t need every single huge big-name character in the company worked into the first issue, and I don’t need the entire plot spelled out for me. Especially in issue two of a 13-issue event, all you need to do is hook me with good storytelling, and give me a general sketch of where you’re going with the event. This is exactly what Marz delivers. He doesn’t flood us with information, but he doesn’t hold back and play coy either. It is very, very effective, and falls squarely within my own personal Goldilocks Zone.

And then there’s the artwork. Like last week’s Witchblade issue, the pages are absolutely gorgeous. From the terrifying darkness of Estacado’s shadow demons to Celestine’s angelic throne room to a gritty New York crime scene, everything is pitch-perfect. More impressive even than these individual elements is how masterfully Broussard combines them when necessary (the scene of Celestine descending into a dark, rainy New York night is particularly memorable.) “Epic” is the only word for artwork like this; Top Cow certainly cut themselves a gem when they signed this young man.

What’s Not So Good: I absolutely love the little two-page summaries of the different Artifacts and their bearers that are included in the back of every Artifacts issue. I do wish they had released them all at once, as a quick one-shot primer in anticipation of this event though. Not that everything you need to know isn’t already contained within the Artifacts story itself, but it would had been very nice for new readers—or readers like myself who follow the Top Cow Universe but don’t read every single issue—to have a quick, compiled reference for when all the other Artifact bearers and their kin start showing up.

Conclusion: If Top Cow has been on your radar but you’ve been putting off looking at what they have to offer, this event is an excellent way to dip your toe in. If Top Cow isn’t on your radar, this event should put it there. Either way, this is worth the cover price.

Grade: A