Posted on February 17, 2011 by alanajoli
Available at DriveThruComics.com
Back in the mid-1990s, Top Cow launched a daring new series about an artifact that could be wielded only by women — and the man who tried to take possession of it. In Witchblade: Origin, the first eight issues of Witchblade are brought to an audience who missed them the first time around. It’s a great origin story: Sara Pezzini, the tough cop who becomes the bearer of the Wicthblade, is far more vulnerable here than we see her at the current point in the series. She’s largely alone in the world: she has an irresponsible sister, a neighbor whose murder leaves her with a teen girl seeking her advice, and a partner who dies in the first issue. Her parents have been dead for some time, but she still thinks of them, often, talking to them in the box text. While she knows she has her boss — who is much like a father to her — and coworkers who care about her, she hesitates to share herself with them, especially when she is feeling weak. Not to mention she isn’t sure how to explain the Witchblade — or the deaths she inadvertently causes when she first dons it — to anyone she trusts. She has to be strong, and in steeling herself against her emotions, she falls into the trap laid by the villain who wants the Witchblade for himself.
Ken Irons is the archetypal billionaire bad guy — he’s got an empire built, and he donates to all the right causes, keeping himself squeaky clean in the public eye while getting into all sorts of bad business through back doors. His right hand man is Ian Nottingham, an assassin of tremendous skill. Through a ritual, Nottingham and Irons intend to harness the power of the Witchblade, allowing Irons to become the bearer. To work, Irons has to undermine Sara’s confidence — making her unworthy of the Witchblade — and has to be prepared for the Witchblade to transfer over to him. But Nottingham is no tame dog, and the tensions between the pair, along with mysterious dreams Nottingham has that make him sympathetic to Sara, complicate Iron’s intricate plan.
There’s much that isn’t explained in this first arc: Sara’s sister Julie and teen neighbor Lisa get involved with a very bizarre modeling community that looks more like a kinky version of the Playboy mansion than any sort of legal business realm. Irons is revealed to be at least 90 years old — and we never learn his true nature or how he extended his lifespan. Sara is assigned to a case (before she is put on leave after the death of her partner) that features a microwave killer — a serial killer who burns his victims from the inside out, and then poses them as supplicants. Those threads aren’t tied up at the end, leaving the curious reader to wait for Top Cow to release other old issues of Witchblade in graphic novel form.
In comparison to the new volumes, the storytelling is simpler, the dialogue isn’t quite as natural, and the booty shots are more gratuitous. I suspect that somewhere along the line, realization that the audience included a lot of women led to some changes in the art work — though, as I’ve mentioned in reviews of more recent issues, gratuitous booty shots do continue to be a feature. That’s part of the character of the series, and all a reader like me can do is move along and get to the good bits of the story. Other elements remain the same, however: the world is a pretty bleak place in the Witchblade universe. There are corrupt cops, overdoses, murders both mob and otherwise. The New York of Witchblade is a truly gritty place, and the story never shies away from the creepy, the graphically violent, and the sleezy when such factors serve the story. To have a supernatural story told against such a bleak backdrop heightens the nature of the powers being dealt with. Evil isn’t just something supernatural to be fought — it’s part of the world in which the characters act on a daily basis. While the mythology of the Witchblade is still clearly in development at this stage, the feel of the world is set, and it remains a large part of how the series has evolved.
I’m not sure how I’d think this story arc would stand up on its own without knowing how Witchblade has grown from its origins. If this were all of Witchblade that existed, would I pick up more? I’m not sure. But knowing the depth the series has gained since these early years, it’s nice to see how it all began.
Review by Alana Abbott