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Witchblade #140 – Review

By Ron Marz and Saurav Mohapatra (writers), Stjepan Sejic (artist) and Troy Peteri (letters)

The Story: Leaving the emotional turmoil of Artifacts behind for at least a little while, Sara and Patrick go back to doing what they do best—uncovering (and kicking the ass of) supernatural creatures lurking in and around New York. This arc’s Monster of the Week: two very creepy children with extremely overactive imaginations.

What’s Good: As much as I adore Artifacts and all of the awesome character work and earth-shaking storylines coming together therein, I think an issue like this—completely removed from all that action and quite simple and straightforward in its storytelling—is exactly what the doctor ordered. All of the importance and emotional baggage of the crossover was starting to wear a wee bit thin with so much time being devoted to it, and a straight-up, no holds barred, monsters-are-gonna-bite-your-face-off arc is a breath of fresh air I didn’t even know I wanted, and a great way to kick start the reader’s interest in another direction.

And quite the direction it is! (A warning for those who care: this paragraph gets a wee bit spoilery.) I don’t think there’s much I can say about Stjepan Sejic that I haven’t already said in a dozen different places, but for those keeping score at home: yes, he is still unbelievably brilliant. The panel layouts are varied and visually interesting without ever distracting from their primary function (storytelling), and the monster designs—both the actual monsters and the children controlling them—are properly unnerving. Fantastic, fantastic work.
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Velocity #3 – Review

By: Ron Marz (writer), Kenneth Rockfort (art), Sunny Gho (colors), Troy Peters (letters) & Filip Sablik (editor)

The Story: Velocity very-pleasing-to-the-eyes race to save her Cyberforce teammates continues.

What’s Good: Again, Kenneth Rocafort’s art is the main attraction here.  Just keep an eye on his name because he’s a guy who you’ll hear about in the future.  The guy is just very, very talented.  This issue is so pretty to look at that the story kinda fades into irrelevance.  I would probably say he has been heavily influenced by Greg Capullo’s art because I see a lot of similarities to that scratchy, hyper-detailed style.  But, what really set’s Rocafort apart is the dynamism of his figures.  You can tell he has a very good understanding of human anatomy and musculature because when you see his characters in an action scene, it looks like a still taken from a movie because the bodies are all in the proper positions (i.e. they are properly balanced and have correct posture) and the right muscle groups are all taut.  I’m not sure if he uses a lot of photo-reference or if he has just spent a lot of time studying bodies in motion, but the end product is nice.

And atta-boy should also be handed out to Sunny Gho’s colors.  Even though I feel like the girl-with-red-hair trick is almost cheating, I still fall for it every time.  So it must be a little harder than just saying, “Viola!  I give you…RED HAIR!” or else all colorists would do it.  What makes Gho’s work a little different than other comics that have the magical red hair (e.g. Batwoman) is that he is using a pretty bright color palate and it still works.  Nice job.

The story is nothing too remarkable in this issue.  Not bad, but the art is sooooo the main attraction that the story just needs to competent.  And, it accomplishes that as we follow Velocity as she tries to save her teammates from a virus that the bad guy has infected them with.  We do get a pretty big cliffhanger and I’ll be curious to see how that turns out.  The story’s simplicity also works very well with the publication delays this title has had.
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Artifacts #3 – Review

By Ron Marz (writer), Michael Broussard (pencils), Facundo Percio, Stjepan Sejic, Paolo Pantalena, Sheldon Mitchell and Nelson Blake II (additional pencils), Rick Basaldua, Joe Weems, Sal Regla (inks), Sunny Gho and IFS (colors), Troy Peteri (letters)

The Story: The prolog is over, and the two sides of the great battle are starting to take shape as both Aphrodite and Tom Judge start recruiting. Sara finds herself caught in the middle of this great war to come, when all she wants is to get her daughter back.

What’s Good: It’s redundant to say it at this point—and I have a feeling this redundancy will continue through all 13 issues of Artifacts–but Marz and Broussard continue to put out a fantastic product. Broussard (and company’s) pencils are beautiful and evocative, and Marz’s writing is dynamic and immensely satisfying. Marz’s expertise is well documented at this point, but special kudos need to go to the penciling team who not only helped things get back on track in terms of release dates, they do a fantastic job not of copying Broussard’s style exactly, but creating extremely complementary styles that mesh well and create an excellent story and a very visually appealing product.

This is a particularly important issue, in that it ends the setup for the Artifacts event, and begins the action that will drive the story forward. This is a delicate transition, because rather than focusing on the singular emotional event of Hope’s abduction, or reviewing the motivations of a few characters, the series must now shift into dealing with huge, globally-scaled events and dozens of characters. This issue makes a good start, even throwing in one final review of the 12 known Artifacts and their bearers, but it does remain to be seen how such an all-encompassing event will unfold in subsequent issues.
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Witchblade #139 – Review

By Ron Marz (writer), Michael Gaydos (guest artist), Troy Peteri (letters)

The Story: After the exceptionally traumatic events of the last few issues, Sara is ordered to see her Department’s psychiatrist. Following the appointment, she makes a trip to the cemetery to visit her sister’s grave, but runs into the master of the Darkness in the process.

What’s Good: As much as I absolutely loved last month’s one shot, it felt rather ill-timed and I’m very glad the focus is back where it belongs—on Sara’s quest to find and recover her daughter. Or at least her attempts to deal with the emotional and psychological fallout from the event.

Ordinarily the lack of actual action and plot progression in this issue would bother me, but Marz does such a fantastic job with the characterization, and his dialog sounds so real and is so moving, that keeping the action part of this story (at least temporarily) confined to the Artifacts title doesn’t do either book any harm. I’m not sure how long my patience will hold out on that front, but as long as Marz keeps his writing at this level, and as long as Artifacts continues to deliver solid plot progression, I don’t think I’ll have much to complain about.

I have to give special props to Michael Gaydos. I was extremely disappointed when I heard this issue would be drawn by a guest artist–especially after Stjepan Sejic’s bravura outing on #138—but Gaydos knocks this one out of the park. While his art is nothing like the hyper detailed, cover-worthy panels that are Sejic’s signature, Gaydos’ rough but expressive pencils and colors are perfect for this story. (His full page splash of Ground Zero in New York is one of the most beautiful and haunting renditions of that famous image I’ve seen.
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Artifacts #2 – Review

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.
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Witchblade #138 – Review

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

The Story: And now for something completely different. Rather than following up on the (rather shocking) events of the previous issue, Witchblade #138 tells us a short, simple Faerie Tale about a brave knight named Sara and an evil sorcerer named Irons. Other familiar faces, Gleason and Nottingham among them, also appear in the epic fantasy tale.

What’s Good: Uh. Wow. I may not have the most longevity when it comes to reading comics, but even so it’s been quite rare for me to be completely caught off guard by a book’s presentation. This issue of Witchblade absolutely shocked and floored me though, and I mean that in the best possible way. With the huge Artifacts event both changing up the Top Cow universe and offering a great jumping on point, it naturally behooves the Top Cow creators to offer a short primer for new readers. Since Witchblade is one of their flagship titles, it makes complete sense that a quick catch-you-up issue for new readers that introduces the major characters, relationships and conflicts of the series would be in order.

This is such an issue, but the magic here isn’t in the exposition, it’s in the presentation. Rather than bring drawn as a regular, panel-based book, this issue has only one piece of art per page (in the case of a couple splashes, one piece of art per two pages), with a beautifully lettered text box along the bottom narrating the story. No dialog, no word balloons, just page after page after page of cover worthy art and lovely (if simplistic) storytelling. I say again: wow.

The true brilliance of this issue is that it will give readers who have never heard of Sara Pezzini a good idea of who she is as a character, who the main antagonists of her universe are, and what the Witchblade is and what it is capable of. All of this information is painted in extremely broad strokes, and as such it may be a bit jarring for a brand new reader to go from this exposition back to the “real” Sara’s world in New York. But as a simple primer this still works well, and is honestly so gorgeous to look at that I would have happily paid twice the cover price for the art alone. Perhaps most importantly for an exposition issue, it certainly won’t bore longtime fans. The information covered is old ground, but it’s presented in such a fresh and fun way that reading it doesn’t grate or feel like a retread in the slightest.
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Velocity #2 – Review

By: Ron Marz (writer), Kenneth Rocafort (art), Sunny Gho (colors) & Troy Peteri (letters)

The Story: Velocity is in a race against time to save her friends in this BEAUTIFUL comic book.

What’s Good: The attraction for this book is Kenneth Rocafort.  The man is a beast of an artist and should be on the list of names to buy regardless of what they are drawing.  Rocafort just has the complete package for an artist: excellent linework on humans creating realistic and dynamic characters, wonderful page layout skills so that we never have pages with 4 boring widescreen panels and interesting use of perspective because in comics “the camera” can be positioned ANYWHERE.  Rocafort makes Velocity look fast without often resorting to squiggly lines and smears of color in her wake.  That is a real feat!  He makes his characters look “real” without it appearing that he is tracing over a photograph.  Really, the guy is incredible, but a cheer should also go up from the crowd for Sunny Gho as this is a wonderfully colored book.  Everything is just rich, textured and beautiful.
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Witchblade #132 – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Art)

The Story: Sara and Patrick share an evening together reconnecting before getting involved with a mystery involving missing children.

What’s Good: It’s been a while since Witchblade had an arc that featured Sara confronting the supernatural in a way that’s unconnected (as far as I can tell) to a future event. That’s part of the reason why Witchblade #132 is worth the read. It works really well as a return to the effective formula that made me a fan of the series in the first place.

While little happens in the first part of “The Bridge” to move the story forward past the setup, the character work done by Ron Marz in the opening scene makes up for it in a weird way. It’s a little heavy on fan-service (though it IS a sex scene, so you can’t be surprised it is there), but there’s no denying that the scene contains well written, mature, adult dialogue that does justice to the relationship that Marz has done such a fine job of establishing. The conversation between the characters had to happen and it is executed in a way that simply works.

What’s Not So Good: Stjepan Sejic’s artwork always shines when the Witchblade powers or the supernatural are a part of the story. Unfortunately, in Witchblade #132, there is little use of the Witchblade and only one shot of the supernatural thing that “The Bridge” is all about. As a result the flaws of Sejic’s style are a bit more noticeable than usual. The characters all look a bit plastic, inconsistent, or emotionless at times, some panels seem pretty rushed, and there’s a lack of definition in a few scenes that proves to be distracting. While the latest issue of Witchblade looks far from bad as a whole, but I’ve come to expect more from the series and the artist.

Conclusion: Witchblade #132 works because it takes care of some character issues in an effective way and proves to be a nice start to what looks to be a short, but entertaining arc. While the book isn’t exactly a “must read” in any way, it’s worth checking out if you are a fan of the Witchblade series.

Grade: C

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #131 – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer), and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: With the War of the Witchblades all wrapped up, I look forward to seeing where Ron Marz takes the series next. Will he dive right into another event or let the series go back to being about supernatural crime solving for a while? Time to find out.

The Story: Patrick Gleason and Sara Pezzini’s sister discuss Sara’s current situation while taking care of Hope. Meanwhile, Sara saves a child’s life and says goodbye to Dani.

What’s Good: Witchblade #131 serves as a great jump-on point for readers looking to check out the Witchblade series. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it does gives readers a taste of pretty much everything the series offers. The conversation between Sara’s boyfriend and her sister that frames the entire issue is realistic, written well, and does a nice job of filling the reader in on everything that needs to be known about the state of the series going forward. In addition, the Sara Pezzini action scene does a nice job of giving readers a feel for what the series is like when it’s not focusing on an epic, universe altering event (which it seems like it has been doing more often than not as of late).

What’s Not So Good: While Witchblade #131 is a great jump-on point, it’s also a pretty boring read for series regulars. Nothing new happens, no real story seeds are planted, and the brief action scene is pretty tame and underwhelming for the most part. In addition, the flaws of Stjepan Sejic’s style are really noticeable considering that most panels are made up of little more than “a day in the life” type stuff. The characters occasionally look mannequin-like, some details look smudgy, and the action scene only has two notable panels. The artwork certainly doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t have the “wow” factor Sejic’s work usually has.

Conclusion: There really isn’t anything more to say about the latest issue of Witchblade. As a place to jump on board, it works great. It just doesn’t have a whole lot to offer series regulars.

Grade: C+

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #130 (War of the Witchblades) – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Sjepan Sejic (Art)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: A dead main character, a powerful artifact once again made whole…yep, the War of the Witchblades has definitely brought changes to the series.

The Story: The War of the Witchblades concludes…

What’s Good: While some parts of the War of the Witchblades arc felt a bit drawn out, Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic make every page of Witchblade #130 count. The script is tight, nearly every panel aides the storytelling in some way, and the changes promised breathe some new life into the Top Cow Universe. In short, as a conclusion to a “game-changing” storyline, Witchblade #130 delivers in a big way.

The biggest problem I’ve had with the recent direction of the Witchblade series is that too often individual issues lacked balance. A book was either the Ron Marz show (a slow read, loaded with exposition/dialogue/narration and maybe a montage for flavor) or the Stjepan Sejic show (a really pretty, but very fast, read). Witchblade #130 truly gives readers the best of both worlds. Ron Marz’s War comes to a satisfying close as some new story doors open up, while Stjepan Sejic is given enough epic action to really show off what he’s capable of. And let me tell you what… Stjepan Sejic is capable of a whole hell of a lot. From the dynamic panel layouts and shapes to the level of detail that’s on display, Witchblade #130 is one great-looking comic. It can definitely be a negative thing when a book is loaded with large panels, but Sejic makes the absolute most of every single bit of page space that he’s given.

What’s Not So Good: You know what tends to bother me? When a storyline feels like it wraps up in a way that’s almost too neat and tidy. While the War of the Witchblades’ ending satisfies, it also veers pretty far into ” clean, happy ending” territory that seems out of place considering how dark the overall arc is.
My only other complaint is a familiar one. Stjepan Sejic’s characters occasionally look plastic and doll-like due to the techniques that he uses. A bit more facial detail would really go a long way towards eliminating the plastic look in my opinion.

Conclusion: The latest issue of Witchblade looks great and brings a solid story to a satisfying close. Pick it up.

Grade: B+

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #129 (War of the Witchblades Chapter 5) – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: One big problem that I have with events is that once one gets rolling, I can’t help but think about what’s going to happen after it. Is the Witchblade going to become whole again? Is one of the main characters going to die (for real this time)? Is the event leading towards something much bigger? With the War of the Witchblades winding down, I have to imagine I’ll find an answer or two to the questions I have in Witchblade #129.

The Story: Dani confronts Sara with the intention of ending the War of the Witchblades. Meanwhile, the Angelus force hovers outside of Dani’s place, intently watching Finch.

What’s Good: Witchblade #129 is driven by the action that Ron Marz uses to shake the status quo of the series. The battle between Sara and Dani is intense, questions are answered, and the future of the Witchblade series is made a little bit more clear. In other words, the latest Witchblade delivers where it matters most with an event like The War of the Witchblades going on.

Artist Stjepan Sejic does his best work when there’s a lot of supernatural stuff going on. So, needless to say, Witchblade #129 is one hell of a good looking book. The dark and light Witchblade armor looks fantastic, Sara’s Darkness-powered bridge/lair thing is awesome, and a few pages of the fight between Sara and Dani are truly epic-looking (I’d mention my favorite image, but I don’t want to spoil anything).

What’s Not So Good: Since it’s so full of action, Witchblade #129 is an extremely fast read. Dialogue is a bit sparse and since large images dominate the book, the pages just fly by. The only other negative I can think of is that occasionally Stjepan’s characters look plastic, unnatural, and, in all honesty, a bit creepy. That’s a minor complaint about the artwork though, since most of the character work is quite good.

Conclusion: Witchblade #129 is a must read comic for fans of the series. It looks great, packs some nice surprises, and will leave you wanting more.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #128 (War of the Witchblades Chapter 4) – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: “The War of the Witchblades” event got quite a jolt from the last issue, thanks in part to the (possible) deaths of not one, but two main characters. While I’m sure that at least one of the Witchblade bearers will turn out to be at least somewhat ok, it all made for a very nice cliffhanger.

The Story: The Angelus warrior Sabine sees an opportunity to make the Witchblade whole again, but needs to manipulate Dani in order for the plan to work…

What’s Good: Let me just say this this section is going to look a bit misleading because I actually like Witchblade #128 quite a bit… Anyways, “The War of the Witchblades” continues to intrigue, thanks to the mystery surrounding some of the elements of the mythology that the story has introduced. Ron Marz is doing a nice job of crafting a memorable event and handling the characters; the latest chapter of the story reads rather well. And thanks to Stjepan Sejic’s unique painted style (the artist’s work is as strong as ever in Witchblade #128), the event is as compelling to look at as it is to read.

What’s Not So Good: The problem with the latest issue of Witchblade is that it doesn’t do a whole lot to move the Witchblade war forward. See the story summary above? That’s pretty much all that happens in the issue outside of the (now standard) mysterious old shop owner appearance. Sure it sets the stage for what looks to be a classic battle, but that doesn’t feel like enough when it seems like more could be happening. It’s always frustrating when a good event is bogged down by pacing issues.

Conclusion: I know that’s not much of a review written above, but there just isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said about Witchblade #128. On a technical level, it’s a pretty standard issue of a good series. What that means is that the book reads well and looks absolutely spectacular at times (the “to be continued” page is poster-worthy for sure). As part of an event though, the latest chapter of “The War of the Witchblades” is a bit weak because not enough happens to make Witchblade #128 as satisfying as it could be.

Grade: C

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #127 (War of the Witchblades) – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: The War of the Witchblades got off to a solid start. Now that the stage is finally set, it’s time for the War to truly begin. I for one, can’t wait to see what happens.

The Story: Tensions between Sara and Dani erupt into a battle between the light and the darkness.  Meanwhile, an Angelus warrior named Sabine looks for the opportune moment to make a claim for power…

What’s Good & What’s Not So Good: Thanks to both the artwork and the writing, the fight between Dani and Sara plays out really well in Witchblade #127.  Ron Marz’s “fight” dialogue is effective and Stjepan Sejic’s work (especially the “Dark Witchblade” design/powers) makes the battle between the Witchblade bearers something to remember.  I must also point out that the limited use of dialogue keeps the focus on the visual storytelling, the use of color, and the rather impressive panel layout which, this case, is a good thing.

The biggest negative about chapter three of War of the Witchblades is that occasionally Sejic’s artwork makes people look a bit…off. Dani in particular looks so computer generated in a few panels that it proves to be a distraction until the fight breaks out. It’s a fairly minor complaint, especially considering how nice the majority of the book looks, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.

Another complaint I have is the way the events in the issue escalate at a wild pace, especially considering the fact that a baby is caught up in the middle of the clash. While I like the concept of Sara losing control, she seems uncharacteristically mentally weak in a way that says “plot device” in a very quiet voice. Maybe more will be explained next month.

Conclusion: I wish I could say more about Witchblade #127, but I’m sort of at a loss for words.  It features an entertaining, well-executed fight scene and ends in a way that will leave fans begging for more. The dialogue is solid all around, the visuals look mostly great, and the storyline is playing out in a way that should please new and longtime fans alike.  If I said much more, I would be ruining the surprises of the issue, so just go pick it up if you are a fan of the series.

Grade:  B

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #126 (War of The Witchblades) – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: With the Witchblade artifact divided between two owners, it was only a matter of time before some sort of conflict emerged. That’s where the War of the Witchblades event comes in. The first chapter showed a break in the friendship between Witchblade owners Dani Baptiste and Sara Pezzini and then left things hanging with the introduction of a few new creepy characters. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

The Story: The War of the Witchblades heats up in what can best be described as an expository chapter. The situation with the Angelus is explained, as is the reason for Sara’s sudden mood swing. In addition, the issue sets the Witchblade conflict up in a very clear-cut manner.

What’s Good: For an information dump, the second chapter of War of the Witchblades is surprisingly entertaining. Ron Marz’s handling of Sara Pezzini manages to be both unsettling and, in short, quite funny. He also does a nice of laying out the basics of the Witchblade situation in a way that is simple, yet quite elegant. The story looks to be a classic showdown in many ways and, in short, it works quite well.

As for the artwork, Stjepan Sejic does a great job of presenting the cast in a way that visually represents the upcoming war. It’s clear as to which side a particular falls on and it definitely adds to the mythology of the story in some ways. And speaking of the mythology of the story, it really allows for Sejic to showcase his talent, making Witchblade #126 one good-looking book.

What’s Not So Good: Because I knew an issue heavy on exposition was going to drop sooner than later, I really only have one negative thing to say about the writing. It disappoints only because the overall plot doesn’t move forward a whole lot. Understandable in ways, but it still makes the issue as a whole feel less than satisfying. The artwork disappoints only in that a few facial inconsistencies pop up and occasionally Sejic’s work looks a bit too computer generated.

Conclusion: The latest Witchblade is a must read for fans looking to pick up the rest of the series event. While some of the exposition might feel a bit dull, it’s vital to the story and is coupled with some really nice visuals.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #123 – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I’m honestly a bit worried about the latest issue of Witchblade. I’ve really enjoyed the supernatural murder mystery arc that’s been going on the last few issues, but I can’t shake the sinking feeling that the conclusion might end up being less than satisfying. And why is that? Because the big “January War ” (or will it be “March War” because of the delays?) storyline  that Top Cow has been hyping up is on the horizon. And it leaves me thinking that some of Witchblade #123‘s story might feel a bit rushed through just to make room for any set up that might be needed for the next arc. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve definitely talked about Ron Marz rushing to conclusions before…

The Story: Sara Pezzini goes head to head with an entity known as Marinette, a strange and powerful voodoo spirit known as a “loa.” The battle reveals that there are forces at work possibly more powerful than the Witchblade and more sinister than the loa. Meanwhile, the journalist Gretch mulls over what to do with her photos of the Witchblade in action, considering that Sara saved her life. Also in the issue, Dani decides to confront the person responsible for the stress plaguing one of her students.

What’s Good: As it turns out, the latest Witchblade is about as far from a conclusion as you can possibly get, even if it does bring about a few satisfying plot resolutions. And that readers, is a good thing. I’ll tell you why. The storyline (and battle) involving the voodoo spirit is surprisingly engaging since it seems to only scratch the surface of the bigger plot being developed. In addition, the developments in Dani’s portion of the issue are somewhat surprising, given how she is usually relegated to second fiddle status. Couple that with some great visuals, courtesy of the always impressive Stjepan Sejic, and you have one heck of an entertaining issue of Witchblade that works well in service to both the present and future of the series.

What’s Not So Good: A few things bother me in Witchblade #123. The first thing is that Dani’s reaction at the end of the book seems a bit uncharacteristic, seeing as how she is usually written. While I wouldn’t be surprised to find that something else is going on in that plot thread, it feels somewhat odd for the time being. The second thing that bothers me is that Ron Marz seemed to push the engaging murder investigation by the wayside in order to make way for more action. Now don’t get me wrong, I always like seeing Sejic given time to shine, it just left me feeling as though things progressed at a pace that felt far too fast, considering how the story has been something of a slow burn up until this latest chapter.

Conclusion: I consider Witchblade #123 to be a very pleasant surprise. It managed to exceed my expectations while successfully sowing the seeds for the future in a very interesting way. I look forward to seeing what happens next. As such, consider Witchblade #123 to be well worth picking up.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny

Broken Trinity: Angelus #1 – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer), Brian Stelfreeze (Pencils & Inks), and Dave McCaig (Colors)

prv1825_covSome Thoughts Before The Review: The latest Broken Trinity tie-in definitely has a few strikes against it already. I mean, the event it’s connected to has been complete for well over a month. In addition, the character the story focuses on died during the final Broken Trinity battle. So does that leave the entire issue feeling completely inconsequential? Time to find out.

The Story: The entire issue is a lead-in for the big battle that headlined the Broken Trinity storyline. A beautiful bartender is called upon to reclaim her place in the war between the light and the darkness. And despite her reluctance, she knows what must be done.

What’s Good: To be honest, not a whole lot. Sure the dialogue by Ron Marz is done well, the artwork looks decent (if underwhelming), and the story is interesting enough. But it all feels almost completely pointless given that the fate of the character being developed has already been decided.

What’s Not So Good: Knowing that the whole issue suffers almost entirely because of poor scheduling. It’s tough to care much about a character whose given only twenty pages to make an impact and whose fate is already set in stone. Long story short, despite being well written, the story falls completely flat. It’s a shame, considering that it might have been somewhat interesting had it just come out when it was (most likely) supposed to.

Conclusion: Just save your money and skip the Broken Trinity: Angelus one-shot. No matter how big a fan you are, it just isn’t worth investing in. It comes across as both extremely late to the show and utterly pointless (despite a few high points).

Grade: D+

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #122 – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Stejic (Art)

prv1560_covSome Thoughts Before The Review: There is no question about it, Witchblade #122 is a bit overdue. It is understandable though, especially considering the work Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic did for the Broken Trinity event. The current Witchblade arc, if I recall correctly, got off to a promising start with a grisly murder, a nagging reporter named Gretch, and the appearance of a magic golem. I look forward to seeing what happens next now that the Witchblade ongoing series is back on track.

The Story: Sara Pezzini, with Gretch in tow, continues her investigation into the mysterious murder that took place within a Jewish community. As forensics turns up new surprising evidence that puts an unexpected twist on an already strange case. Sara begins to feel that the Witchblade might come in handy. Meanwhile, Dani Baptiste takes time to meet with a beautiful, troubled student looking for some help as she experiences a surprise of her own.

What’s Good: While a bit predictable, the latest issue of Witchblade does a great job of weaving a story for both Sara the cop and Sara the artifact bearer. On one hand, you have an intriguing police procedural tinged by the possibility of the paranormal (think X-Files meets C.S.I.). On the other, you have the story of a cop with the ability to go above and beyond the call of duty as only a hero can, dealing with some of the baggage that comes with the territory. Both work extremely well and continue to show how far the series has come under the direction of writer, Ron Marz.

Also good are the visuals but, chances are you already knew that. Stjepan Sejic’s work routinely make Witchblade one of the best looking books on the stands and this issue is no exception. There are a few full page images so exceptional I consider them to be worth the cover price alone.

What’s Not So Good: I find it surprising that the other Witchblade bearer, Dani, continues to play such a low key, second fiddle role to the overall plot. I understand this arc is more Sara-centric, but Dani’s segment almost feels like an afterthought. Sure, it is interesting enough to make me look forward to how she handles the situation, but I continue to feel like she should play a bigger role in the overall scheme of things. Also disappointing is the fact that the current arc is going to conclude in the next issue. I can’t help but worry about a rushed conclusion considering how the story has been told so far.

Conclusion: You really can’t go wrong with this one. It features fantastic artwork, a well-written paranormal police story, an interesting cliffhanger, and even a little bit of fan-service. Check it out.

Grade: A-

-Kyle Posluszny

Broken Trinity: Witchblade #1 – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer), Nelson Blake II (Pencils & Inks), and Dave McCaig (Colors)

brokentrinitySome Thoughts Before The Review: I found Broken Trinity to be a pretty successful event for the Top Cow Universe. A fairly important character was killed off and a few new elements were introduced into the ever-changing mythos of the universe that opened up the doors for a number of new storytelling possibilities. In short, it left me satisfied and ready for the future.

The Story: Broken Trinity: Witchblade is the first story to explore the new status quo that exists following the tumultuous event that set the course for the future of some of Top Cow’s major players. And to be honest, not a whole lot really happens outside of some character work. Sara meets Dani at the grave of Celestine, the person that was possessed by the Angelus, and then heads over to give Jackie Estacado some time with his daughter. Also, Jackie takes care of some unfinished business left over from his own Broken Trinity one-shot.

What’s Good: As usual, Ron Marz does some real nice work with the characters in this issue. While not a whole lot happens as far as plot development goes, Marz doesn’t waste any space thanks to his continuing effort to add depth to the characters that he works on. He definitely has a good handle on them.

What’s Not So Good: While the artwork looks nice throughout the book, the style really isn’t to my liking. It just doesn’t seem to fit the characters or the world all that well. That said, I really don’t have any specific complaints on a technical level. The characters look nice, the colors pop, and the emotions on display are well done.

Conclusion: I would consider Broken Trinity: Witchblade to be something I’d recommend only to the bigger fans of either Witchblade or The Darkness. I enjoyed my time with it and came away impressed by the character work. However there really isn’t anything about it that screams “must read.” Base a purchase around how much emotional investment you have in the Top Cow characters.

Grade: C

-Kyle Posluszny

Broken Trinity #2 – Review

By Ron Marz (Writer), Stjepan Sejic (Art), and Phil Hester (Art)

First, a quick note. Now that I’ve read the first two chapters of Top Cow’s Broken Trinity crossover, I find myself absolutely baffled as to why the story is being limited to three main books and two tie-ins (one of which is a prequel and another that remains a mystery). The event feels and looks every bit the epic as advertised and yet it all comes to a conclusion next issue without nearly enough plot development to flesh out the story. Another book or two would do wonders for adding more depth to what looks to be an epic confrontation between the powers of the Top Cow universe. Why is this being cut so short?

Structure complaints aside, not a lot really happens in Broken Trinity #2. The characters and powers all come together in preparation for a clash that will take place next month. Yep, it’s a set up issue. While there is some great character work between Sara and Jackie and some more background on the nature of the conflict at hand, I never felt that things were really moving forward in a way that actually developed the story. That said, I came looking for a visually awesome battle and I honestly believe that Broken Trinity is going to deliver that in a big way… it just doesn’t happen in this issue.

Technically, the issue is quite solid. Ron Marz does some nice character work, but falls a bit short in plot development. He obviously has a strong handle on the characters, but it feels as though he really doesn’t have much planned beyond throwing all these powers together and having them fight it out. There’s no doubt that he really couldn’t have picked a better art team to work with. Stjepan Sejic and Phil Hester make Broken Trinity one of the most visually compelling events in quite some time. My only complaint is the (usual) noticeable drop in quality during minor scenes.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t let down by Broken Trinity #2, but I also find myself really looking forward to the conclusion of the event. Here’s to hoping that it delivers the action it seems to promise. (Grade: C)

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #120 – Capsule Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Comics like this one are extremely tough to review. It’s well written, visually impressive, and does a lot to give Dany and Sara (the Witchblade bearers) some more depth. On the other hand, the issue is pretty damn boring and, outside of a brief set-up for next month, quite easy to skip. See the predicament that leaves me with?

Titled “Girls Night Out,” Witchblade #120 is really a story about just that. Dany decides to take out her angst on some creep in a club, her Witchblade lashes out, Sara interferes, and then the two ladies leave the club to sit on some rooftop and talk about life, love, sex, and the responsibility that comes with wearing the Witchblade. That’s pretty much it. Everything is extremely sound from a technical standpoint so it is impossible to come down too hard on it. Ron Marz’s dialogue is casual and realistic, Stjepan Sejic’s work is a treat to look at, and there is some merit in the fact that such care was taken on what is, essentially, a “day in the life of” type of story.

I am definitely going to leave the purchasing decision up to you, the readers, on this one. The comic is solid all around, but with the price of comics today, this one can definitely be skipped without fear of missing much. (Grade: C)

-Kyle Posluszny

Broken Trinity #1 – Review

Ron Marz, (Writer) Stjepan Sejic, and Phil Hester (Art)

As I have come to learn since becoming a comic book critic, the first part of an event or a new creative run is tough to review. It must hook the reader in some way while at the same time going through the (possibly boring or redundant) motions necessary to set up the story arc. Things can really get off on the wrong foot if the set up (a necessary evil) isn’t sufficiently compelling (check out Uncanny X-Men #500 for proof). I mention this because I feel that Broken Trinity #1 is a great example of how to properly set up a new storyline without making it feel like a boring chore to read.

There are two storylines at work in this issue, both of them serving to bring the elements of this event together. One of them, a visually striking Viking skirmish that quickly escalates into an epic battle between supernatural forces, serves up the action while establishing new elements in the Top Cow Universe. The other storyline works to bring almost all of the main players together in a way that feels both logical and natural given the continuity. While I honestly have no idea as to where things will go from here, the set up is solid and full of enough combustible elements to make for a great event. One thing is for sure, the creative team working on this series set quite a high bar with the First Born event, so they have their work cut out for them if they hope to clear it.

As for the writing, Ron Marz does a great job in this issue. The dialogue during the Viking battle is suitably epic and the characters drive the story well in the present day scenes. While I wish he would have spent a touch more time establishing the Celestine character, I have a feeling more will be explained sooner than later. Marz deftly puts the pieces in place while keeping a sense of mystery about what exactly is going on and, honestly, he’s got me hooked. While this story could really go either way at this point (since so much is still up in the air), it is off to quite a start.

I expected some nice work from the team of Stjepan Sejic and Phil Hester, but I’ve got to say that they really exceeded every expectation. The Viking scenes are absolutely stunning, a display of what I suppose I’ll call beautiful brutality. The supernatural characters look fantastic as well, though I will readily admit that they are nothing more than extremely impressive looking fantasy clichés. My only true complaint is that, like nearly all of Sejic’s books, there is a noticeable drop in detail/quality from time to time, but I can excuse that considering it must take quite some time to create the more impressive stuff. A book needs to get out at some point, so I can overlook that for the most part.

Overall, I’m really enjoying the first part of the Broken Trinity event. It manages to avoid getting bogged down by the necessary set up while creating the hooks that make me want more as soon as possible. (Grade: A)

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #119 – Capsule Review

By Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

Witchblade #119 is a quick read, but it serves as a great example of everything I like about the series. By framing the story within an internal affairs review, Ron Marz really lets Sara Pezzini shine as a character. Her story of a battle with cyborg assassin, Aphrodite, is sprinkled with sarcasm and it really adds a lot to what could have been a pretty dry tale.

As for the artwork, Stjepan Sejic once again proves why he is one of the industry’s rising stars. Nearly everything in this action-packed issue looks fantastic, but it is clear more time was taken with certain panels than others. The instances of inconsistency will leave you wishing everything looked as great as the most impressive scenes.

If you are looking to check out Witchblade for the first time and don’t feel like hunting down issues #116-118, this would be a nice place to jump on. It’s a nice showcase for the strengths of the series and works well as a stand-alone story that should leave you wanting more. (Grade: B+)

-Kyle Posluszny

First Born: Aftermath – Review

Ron Marz, Phil Hester, (Writers) Stjepan Sejic, Lee Moder, Ryan Sook, (Artists) Larry Molinar, and Dave McCaig (Colors)

The Top Cow event known as First Born was one of the more exciting events in recent memory. A classic story of good and evil that was really cast in all shades of gray, First Born impressed with some incredible artwork by Stjepan Sejic and an epic feel. With Sara Pezzini’s child at stake, the forces of light and darkness brought the eternal war to our world in an attempt to gain control the Witchblade wielder’s daughter. The trade is definitely worth the pick up if you are a fan of the characters and it also serves as a decent, action-packed jumping on point for those curious about the Top Cow Universe. With First Born: Aftermath, a one-shot consisting of three short stories, fans can get some idea of where the characters are headed in the future. Since each story really is a stand alone tale, I will give each a short review before giving my overall thoughts.

The first story, “Stragglers,” is quite short but effective thanks to the artwork by Stjepan Sejic. Basically, the gist of the story is that some teens head down into the hole where the main battle of the First Born event took place and are being watched by some of Jackie Estacado’s Darklings. There really isn’t a lot to say about such a simple story, but Ron Marz has some fun with the dialogue and Sejic creates a couple of really impressive looking scenes.

The second story, “Armies of the Night,” is written by the Darkness’ Phil Hester and tells of some Darklings that stumble upon a statue of an ancient ruler who holds a bit of a grudge against the Darkness. We get a brief history lesson on who the ruler was and how his encounter with the Darkness changed his life forever. The writing is both darkly humorous at times, but has a nice dramatic weight overall. A good outing by Phil Hester with this story. The artwork by Lee Moder is serviceable, but I wish it had a more serious look that reflects the story being told. Everything looked too much like a cartoon. Still a fun read though and, again, the art does the job well enough.

The final story, “Faith,” is also by Ron Marz and tells about the Magdalena. She faces off with an “angel” of light and finds herself struggling with her place in the world. The writing is strong and it also gives some nice direction for a character that shows up from time to time throughout the Top Cow universe. Ryan Sook’s artwork is solid, especially some of the facial expressions, and the color work is very well done. A good closing story for this one-shot.

First Born: Aftermath is really for those that follow the Top Cow Universe. While the stories could be enjoyed on their own well enough, it helps to have some experience with the characters and story elements. If you recently came aboard with Witchblade or The Darkness, two series that recently developed new jump-on points, check this out for some idea as to what direction those particular stories will be taking. A fun, solid read all around that hints at future plot elements for those interested.

Grade: C+

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #118 – Review

Ron Marz (Writer) and Stjepan Sejic (Artist)

With Witchblade #118, the first arc of Ron Marz’s reboot comes full circle and I am happy to report that all signs are pointing to a successful run. While I have some complaints, I have no problem recommending this series for anyone looking for something outside of the superhero norm.

When I reviewed issue #117, which actually happened to be my writing debut with this website, I expressed concern that drawing on long passed continuity might alienate some readers who jumped on the series when a new direction was offered in Witchblade #116. Thankfully, this latest issue explains enough to keep the story rolling without forcing the reader to do any continuity research. What this issue has to offer is the introduction and history of a new threat to the Witchblade bearers, some nice action scenes, and closure to the mystery surrounding the religious murders being investigated by Sara Pezzini.

While a solid story overall, I couldn’t help but feel that things have been rushed. Everything works well enough, but I think I would have enjoyed this story more had it been allowed to build up through another issue or two. This issue packs a lot into a little over twenty pages and it suffers a bit as a result. We are introduced to a new threat, have a religious murder hanging over everything, a stolen Witchblade, and yet, surprisingly, all is seemingly resolved by the end of this issue. On top of all that, the last page shows the direction the next arc will take. I have no problem with resolving things quickly, but things wrapped up a little too neatly for my taste.

So I have some issues with the story, but, as a whole, the writing here is pretty tight. Marz does a nice job getting readers up to speed with the threat and his family ties, which could have easily come across as a convoluted mess of an explanation. Sara comes across as a suitably tough woman, though I wish the other Witchblade bearer, Dani, brought more than just self pity to the table. The villain represents a good use of continuity and he comes across as both threatening and ambitious. Special mention should be made of the dialogue as well, as it continues to be a strong point of this series. An exchange between the villain and the religious murderer in particular stands out as a good example of how to elevate a fight scene through the use of dialogue. This is good stuff for the most part, I just wish Marz would have given the story more room to breathe, building both tension and the epic conflict at hand.

As for the art, it is nearly perfect. I absolutely love what Stjepan Sejic is doing with this series as it gives Witchblade a very unique “feel”. Simply put, there is not another book out there that looks quite like this. If I have any complaint at all it’s that you can clearly tell which panels and scenes got the most time. The level of detail seems to vary throughout the book. While this inconsistency is most likely due to the need to hit a deadline, it is slightly distracting from time to time. One thing I must also note is the level of violence in this issue. There are some fairly disturbing images throughout, so I just wanted to give everyone a heads up. With that said, I’ll conclude my rundown of the artwork by saying that this is, a whole, an incredible looking book.

Witchblade #118 disappoints mainly because I expected more from this arc. The storyline seemed rich with opportunity for more depth and complexity, but instead, we get a fairly basic, far too tidy conclusion a bit too early. That said, solid writing and excellent, unique artwork still makes this a good read. On a side note, The teaser for the next arc has gotten me intrigued so I hope Marz gives it a bit more room to breathe. (Grade: C)

-Kyle Posluszny

Witchblade #117 – Review

By Ron Marz (writer) & Stjepan Sejic (art)

Witchblade #117 has a lot on it’s plate and, as such, the issue as a whole suffers from trying to tell three intertwined stories within just over 20 pages. That’s not to say this issue is a bad read however, as the final pages will leave the reader wanting much more.

The book kicks off with a Crusader battle, stunningly imagined by artist Stjepan Sejic. From there, the story continues the somewhat separate, yet intertwined, stories of the Witchblade bearers Sarah Pezzini and Danielle Baptiste. Sarah is still investigating the religiously inspired murders from the previous issue, while Dani invites her new boyfriend over to help babysit Hope, Sarah’‘s child. These three stories each get some time to be front and center, but very little happens to advance any of them until the final pages. I can’t reveal much more of the plot without spoiling anything, so allow me to highlight what works in the issue.

The art within this issue is fantastic from start to finish. Stjepan Sejic’’s painted work feels strikingly original in the realm of comics and really helps bring Ron Marz’’s story to life. It is worth noting, however, that the art is quite graphic from time to time. There is quite a bit of blood and gore during battle scenes and during the murder investigation, so keep that in mind if you have a weak stomach.

Ron Marz’’s dialogue is another highlight. The zealots are sufficiently unnerving, the interaction between Pezzini and her boyfriend Gleason is both darkly humorous and touching, and Dani is realistically smitten with her new guy. Also, the recently introduced crime scene forensics character, Chandrakhar, is quickly becoming one of my favorite supporting characters in any comic.
The storyline is quite interesting, if a bit unoriginal. Religious zealotry is a fairly common storyline device and, had things gone differently in this issue, I may have questioned the need for it in the first place. The characters and art are driving the story more than the plot itself, which isn’t a bad thing, but things should start to improve in the plot department if the final pages are any indication. One last thing worth noting regarding the storyline is that with Witchblade #116 serving as a re-launch of sorts for the series, it is somewhat surprising to find #117 hinting at a very continuity heavy storyline in the near future. (Grade: B)

-Kyle Posluszny


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