By Ron Marz (writer), Stjepan Sejic (art) and Troy Peteri (letters)

The Story: An artifact is stolen, its power is unleashed, and an ancient enemy of the Witchblade rises to seek out the current bearer of the Balance.

What’s Good: Is there anything better than to open a comic book and be greeted by Stjepan Sejic’s artwork? Not for me there isn’t. Whether it’s the rough, gritty streets of New York, the Cthulhuesque features of some new hellspawn or (as here) the rich and beautiful details of an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh’s throne room, Sejic’s jaw dropping talent provide enough eye candy to keep even this story-and-character obsessed reviewer happy irrespective of the rest of the book’s content.

Happily (VERY happily) Sejic’s work is only further enhanced here by a very promising story. This is Marz and Sejic’s last hurrah on Witchblade (at least for the foreseeable future), and it looks as if they’re planning to go out with a thoroughly epic bang. Ancient gods, monsters, and not a little Witchblade lore all look to be involved and woven together into a massive tapestry of history and drama.

What’s Not So Good: It’s hard to make a judgment at this point–this is very clearly a “setup” issue, and it performs that function extremely well by putting all of the pieces in play, explaining the back story, and setting up the main conflict of the arc. The next issue will tell if all this setup will pay off. My only concern might be that Marz is trying to fit too much into a single storyline (we’re still dealing with Lieutenant Phipps’ investigation of Sara, in addition to the rise of a hostile Babylonian goddess of primordial chaos.) Given Marz’s track record though, I suspect we have little to worry about.

Conclusion: My love of ancient mythology, the TCU and Stjepan Sejic’s artwork make this issue a perfect storm of awesome for me. Even leaving those personal prejudices aside, though, it’s still easily the most interesting and engrossing single issue of Witchblade I’ve read this year. If you’re at all a fan of the series, this will not be an arc you want to miss.

Grade: A-