Categorized | Comics

Witchblade Volume 5: Firstborn Comic Review

Posted on September 5, 2008 by Flames

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I’ll start this with a confession. Witchblade Volume 5 is the first example of the Witchblade universe that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I wasn’t completely ignorant of the series. I wrote a profile of artist Mike Choi a few years ago which required some research, but Witchblade is one title that’s never screamed, “Read me!” Why does this matter? Because this review will split everyone into one of three camps – Those of you who, like me, have never read the series, Witchblade fans curious to read a rookie’s perspective, or Witchblade fans who angrily utter the word, “Duh!” over the next few minutes more times than is ever appropriate. The value you get out of this review will depend squarely on where you decide to camp.

Volume 5 covers a three issue miniseries called Firstborn, as well as Witchblade issues 110-115. We learn that New York detective Sara Pezzini was the bearer of the Witchblade, an ancient artifact borne of the elemental universal forces of light and darkness and it maintains a balance between the two. Light, known as the Angelus, and the Darkness both occupy human hosts on Earth. While the Darkness inhabits a local crime boss named Jackie Estacado, the Angelus remains searching for a host deemed worthy.

The Witchblade usually manifests as a gauntlet and bestows its wearer with incredible powers. However, having mysteriously become pregnant, Sara has given up the Witchblade to Dani Baptiste, the daughter of Sara’s boss. When Sara finds out the improbable identity of her unborn child’s father, the stakes are raised by the influence her baby may hold over the balance between the Angelus and the Darkness as well as the fate of the universe itself. Soon a war is waged over Sara’s baby as she struggles to find protection without the assistance of the Witchblade.

This volume is written by Ron Marz and for the most part the writing is competent and interesting. The aspect of the Witchblade universe I like best is its moral ambiguity. Good and evil are not black and white. This holds true both figuratively and literally. The antagonists in this story are not always as they seem. The forces of evil are fluid and nuanced and “good” seems to really be a matter of perspective. This makes the characters infinitely more interesting and unpredictable.

Witchblade covers topics that are atypical in comic books of this genre. There are plots and subplots devoted entirely to concepts such as careers, dating, sex, and motherhood. And although, it doesn’t entirely avoid the well tread path of the Lifetime Movie of the Week, Witchblade treats these ideas seriously and handles them in an interesting enough manner as to not alienate the young testosterone-infused demographic. Moreover, this universe targets female 20-somethings and it does so unapologetically and mostly successfully.

Despite these positive attributes it feels like there’s unrealized potential in the ideas explored within. Nothing ever rises to the heights that these ambitious ideas warrant. And stylistically, there are a few problems as well. I found myself annoyed by the abundance of on-the-nose exposition and confused by the equally abundant number of characters inhabiting any given page all at once.

Marz’s lead characters are strong, particularly Sara Pezzini. However, I find Patience the Magdalena, Witchblade’s requisite bloodline-of-Christ character, to be the most compelling of the peripheral folks populating this story. Unfortunately, she’s inexplicably underused and under motivated here. A bit more of that aforementioned unfulfilled potential, I suppose.

The artwork found in Witchblade Volume 5 is various and fantastic. Artists including Luke Ross, Sami Basri, Kevin Nowlan, Nathan Faribairn, Dave McCaig, and Rick Leonardi all contribute their respective styles and skills to this volume, but it’s the work of artist Stjepan Sejic that sets this book off. Sejic’s work is not photorealistic, but it’s realistically bold and alive in a slightly off kilter way. Sejic renders these characters with supple flesh and hair so well drawn you could reach into the page and style it provided you have a comb. Witchblade Volume 5 is visually nutrient and truly a pleasure to look at.

Overall, Ron Marz’s latest contribution to this universe is an ambitiously dynamic affair. It tries to meld T ‘n A from a feminist perspective with the insecurities of the average career woman, the supernatural with the metaphysical, and the ultra powerful with the very vulnerable, and he nearly pulls it all together. But you know what they say about coming close and in the end there’s much more of a lingering ho-hum factor than the exhilarating wow factor this should have inspired. Witchblade Volume 5 is worth reading for the artwork alone, but it hasn’t managed to make me see the proverbial light on this series.

2 1/2 out of 5 flames

Review by Jason Thorson

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