THE COMPLETE WITCHBLADE, VOL. 1, available from Image on September 2, 2020, the collection includes WITCHBLADE #1-19, THE DARKNESS #9 & 10, and TALES OF THE WITCHBLADE #1/2-3 from writers such as Warren Ellis, Brian Haberlin, David Wohl, Christina Z., and David Finch. The stories are original, the art is stellar, and the style is so 90’s you expect M.C. Hammer to make a cameo appearance wearing his signature parachute pants.
There’s a lengthy list of writers contributing to the volume, so we’ll focus on the creation. Witchblade, created by Marc Silvestri, David, Wohl, Brian Haberlin, and Michael Turner, is the story of an NYPD cop who bonds with an ancient weapon. The Witchblade’s origins are never clearly explained. It could be magic or alien or something else entirely. What the characters do discover is the Witchblade has been instrumental in many of the great conflicts throughout history, and it only bonds with women.
The Witchblade never explains why it chooses its host. Unlike Green Lantern and the rings of OA, there is no defining characteristic(s) that stand out. Sara Pezzini spends some time trying to figure out what the Witchblade wants from her, but the larger story arc is focused on high-level criminals that want to take the Witchblade for themselves. When competing gangs run into each other, gang wars break out, and Pezzini must fight to keep the peace.
The dialog between characters is fairly strong. Conversations felt authentic, and the writers succeeded in making sure every character had a distinctive voice. When you look at the collection as a whole, it’s easy to see how this could translate (with the right budget) into a film. Despite a few unresolved plot points, this is a comic story you’ve never seen before. High marks for pure originality.
The volume spans a lengthy art team, including Marc Silvestri, Tony Daniel, Nathan Cabrera, David Finch, and Billy Tan. For this review, we’ll focus on the collective result.
First, the art on practically every page is spectacular. You could remove a single panel from any part of the volume, and it would stand on its own as a work of art. The artist’s lines are super-refined, giving a hyper-realistic level of precision to every character, object, and background.
When the action happens, it’s big, loud, and dynamic. The artists hit the mark with storytelling that moves. You never feel like the story drags, and every page has so much detail during fights, you could spend days trying to notice everything.
The time and detail it must have taken to draw the Witchblade armor is impressive. The armor is a cross between alien and demonic, with copious amounts of claw-like edges and appendages. Even on Pezzini’s slim frame, the armor is both impressive and imposing.
There’s one area in the art that may not work for you, depending on your taste. The artist’s really, really, really want Sara Pezzini to dress as skimpily as possible or be naked as much as possible, to the point of absurdity. When the Witchblade activates, it feels the need to shred almost every bit of Pezzini’s clothing. You could argue it’s very consistent with the style of the ’90s, but you could also see how this volume would be Exhibit A in the male gaze argument.
The artists succeeded in an equally stellar job coloring this volume. When you consider the ultra-high level of detail, it must have taken a massive amount of effort to color within the lines. However, what stands out most is a small coloring choice in the super-criminal costumes. The artists combined deep red and gold in either the costume trim or an accessory. It’s not overt, but the subtle highlight of color gives the costumes a regal quality that makes the criminals seem more imposing.
Even the action boxes and inner monologue boxes have exceptional detail in this volume. Rather than separating voices with different fonts or different box shapes, the letterers keep voices separate with distinct font and fill colors in each box. It’s a lot of work and color, but it pays off artistically. The Witchblade’s voice (Yes, it talks!) has a mood and tenor due to the color choices, and that gives every word emotional impact.
THE COMPLETE WITCHBLADE, VOL. 1, is a prime example of Image Comics at its creative height. The story is wholly original, and the art team’s output is awe-inspiring. If you’re not put off by the VERY 90’s aesthetic and salacious costume choices, this collection is worth your time.
Author’s Note: Local Comic Shops (LCS) are going through a tough time right now with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Comics fans of every flavor that care about his or her LCS should try to do what they can. So, here’s my part:
If you’re in Northern Delaware, South East Pennsylvania, or Southern New Jersey area, please take a moment to visit Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Say ‘hi,’ pick up a book, order a book (they’re on Comichub.com), and let them know you support them.
If you’re nowhere near that area, please find YOUR LCS using Comic Shop Locator and lend your support.
Thanks, and stay safe.