By Ron Marz (writer), Whilce Portacio (pencils), Joe Weems and Marco Galli (inks), Jared Liffreing (ink assist), Sunny Gho and Arif Prianto (colors), Troy Peteri (letters)

The Story: While the good guys continue to try and sort out their various personality issues, Aphrodite takes one giant leap for cyborg kind by infiltrating the HQ of Cyberforce, and leading them in a big 9if hopefully not yet climactic) assault on Sara and her friends.

What’s Good: First and foremost, a fond farewell to Michael Broussard and the absolutely superlative job he did bringing the last four issues of Artifacts to life. I love Ron Marz, and I love this series, but it was Broussard’s art that put it a cut above almost everything else on the stands.

That said, a hearty welcome to Whilce Portacio, who steps into this issue (and the next mini-arc) quite admirably. While it is different (and while I would just as soon have every Top Cow book ever printed drawn by Stjepan Sejic because everything his pencils touch turn to gold), the new look ends up being rather refreshing, and nicely sets this chapter apart from its predecessor. Considering the way this issue ends–with our team of heroes and team of villains face to face for the first time–I think that’s a very good thing indeed.

What’s Not So Good: More like “what’s to complain about”? These issues have not only been good individually, they’ve been a spectacular example of how a major company event should be handled. Zero prior knowledge of any of the characters was needed (indeed, Artifacts was my jumping-on point for the Top Cow Universe), but there was no two-page expository dump, either. All necessary information was given completely in-story, with some extremely cool extra pages at the end of each issue that delve deeper into the mythology of the Artifacts. I’m on the fence over whether isolating the event entirely is a good idea; on the one hand, it’s great that new Top Cow readers who ONLY read Artifacts don’t have to worry about continuity anywhere else. On the other hand, for those of us who ARE reading Witchblade, Darkness, etc, and who ARE invested in the continuity, it would be nice to have at least a reference to the event somewhere in the books. Nothing important mind you, just enough so that when I read Witchblade I’m not constantly thinking, “yeah, but what about the kidnapped daughter you swore to get back at all costs?” in the back of my head all the time.

I guess my only real complaint–rather nullified by the issue’s ending, but I’ll voice it anyhow–is that I’ve been waiting for over half a year now for some hint, some clue, as to who or what the 13th Artifact and it’s bearer might be. It’s time to let us have, not a full peek maybe, but at least SOME idea of what’s going on. The mystery and little teases have been fun, but now that we’re to the meat of the story, I don’t feel comfortable being strung along any further. It’s time to reveal something concrete–even something small. Here’s hoping we get at least a small taste of that in issue #6.

Conclusion: Another strong issue from a consistently strong group of creators and a consistently strong event series. This is shaping up to be one of the best arcs of this year, and I have a feeling the conclusion is going to be a doozy. If you aren’t onboard yet, get thee thy trade, and hop on. You won’t be sorry.

Grade: B+