Thanks largely in part to Ron Marz and Laura Braga’s recent work on Witchblade, I’ve gotten into the groove of catching up on the back-issue trades of the series, from when Ron Marz started his run, and it has been a pretty damn good experience as well. But then, I expected that already since I’ve loved Ron’s recent work on Witchblade. Sara Pezzini is easily one of the best and most awesome female characters in comics, and while Laura’s art has been somewhat problematic, it has also been quite good, enough so that I keep coming back to the series for that.
After the end of the first arc, Ron Marz launched a brief interlude intended to catch up Rooney with Sara’s background, and also to tell some short stories such as the ones in Witchblade #175 which bring back characters like Patrick Gleason and also introduce new bearers of the Witchblade from years past. In Witchblade #176 Ron tells a straight-up horror story involving kidnapped children, and in Witchblade #177 he launches a new arc that sees Sara try to get some answers as to how Jackie Estacado’s wife came to be the current bearer of the Angelus. In both Witchblade #177 and #178, we see some of Ron’s best writing with his second run on the title, and also some great art by Laura Braga.
In Witchblade #176, we see Sara and Kate investigate the kidnappings of several kids at a local circus. This is a straight-up horror story, with the two characters going up against a villain who is creepy as hell. Given the kind of first arc we saw from Ron with his return to the title, I expected more of the same with this one, but it was very different. This is an interlude from the main story, focusing on Kate and Sara doing their job as part of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, and I liked that. It hearkens back to Ron’s earlier run on the title, doing the “regular” supernatural cases in New York.
Aside from just being a story about a criminal case, Ron also uses it to explore Sara and Kate’s relationship further. Kate knows about Sara and the Witchblade, and despite everything she is along with Sara to see where it all goes. The story is still fast-paced but Ron often takes the time to show how these two relate to the other and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
The pencils in this issue are by Maan House rather than Laura Braga and the differences are quite obvious in their styles. There’s a much rougher look to the issue, and it fits with the kind of story that Ron tells. Betsy Gonia’s colours also really evoke the whole creepy/horror vibe, and while I kind of thought it was a bit much and wasn’t with it the whole way, I still liked the switch-up. Every title could use something like this, I say.
In Witchblade #177 and #178, we see Sara finally get down to finding out what caused Jenny Romano to become the new bearer of the Angelus, and part of this involves investigating Jackie’s mansion, Erehwon, which has fallen into ruin since his death. Sara beats up demons left and right to get the kind of information that she needs, and she’s pretty ruthless to get the answers, helped along the way by Kate, who has been taken in by Sara as a friend and ally by this point.
“The Darkness At The Edge of Town” is a very emotional story in that it references the underhanded things that Jackie did in the Artifacts series. He remade the universe as he wanted it to, and created himself a perfect life with Hope as his daughter and Jenny as his wife. Before the events of Artifacts, Hope was his and Sara’s daughter and Jenny was dead, but with everything that happened in the first year-and-a-half of Artifacts, Jackie gained an opportunity unlike anything. And here we are now.
Ron deals with Sara’s emotions and feelings over having lost Hope, and even the fallout of Jackie’s death. He wasn’t a hero always, and he was the bearer of the Darkness, but he was also a friend to her once, and even her lover, and dealing with everything that is going on in the world is starting to wear down Sara. That’s what I took away from these two issues, which are both beyond excellent story-wise.
We also get to see what is happening in Erehwon following its master’s death, with the Darkness running unchecked now that it has no bearer, no host to take over. That just might be the most dangerous thing in the world right now, the Darkness without a bearer, and this is another thing that we kind of get to see Sara deal with. For the moment.
There’s kind of a big twist at the end of Witchblade #178, something that I’m not quite sure about since I don’t know the characters, but the setup is for something going down in a couple issues or so, and that’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to. Even another match between Sara/Witchblade and Jenny/Angelus. That would rock, I think.
Laura Braga returns for these two issues and she does some great work once again. The characters can sometimes have really thin features and “talking heads” panels aren’t so well done as a result, but generally, her work is still impressive. Sara’s fight against the Darkness in #178 is a great moment, for example, with a really dynamic fight between the two. As always, Betsy’s colours too contribute well to the overall visual aspect of the story, and by the time you are done with both issues, you really do end up wanting more of the same kind of art.
And both the covers are done by Laura and Betsy, which is nice to see, after all the great covers from Stjepan Sejic and the one that John Tyler Christopher for Witchblade #176. It is a good cover for sure.
Bring on more Witchblade! The current creative team is getting its second breath for a second strong round right now, and I want more!
Rating for #177 and #178: 9.5/10