Darkness Falls was meant to be one of the big moments for the Top Cow universe a while back, given everything that was going on in David Hine and Jeremy Haun’s The Darkness: Rebirth at the time, just about a little over 2 years ago. The build-up was definitely fantastic, but then plans got delayed for some reason, and so we never really got the follow-up to Hine and Haun’s big-moment finale of the second volume of the series, up until now, and in the pages of Witchblade no less.
White writer Ron Marz began a new arc on Witchblade with its #179th issue, issues #180 and #181 are devoted to the re-energized Darkness Falls: The Death of Jackie Estacado storyline. A confrontation between Sara and Jackie had been signposted for a good while in the pages of The Darkness: Rebirth so it was rather rewarding to see it all come about finally, even though it kind of felt as if the story didn’t get the execution it deserved and kind of fell a little flat as well. But things heated up rather nicely with the recent #182nd issue, which reverts back to the new arc that Ron Marz had started, and presents a few answers to a few mysteries already introduced.
One of the best things about The Darkness: Rebirth was that Jeremy Haun’s artwork was just… electrifying. All the dark and supernatural tones and moods that a series like The Darkness required were executed beautifully by him. But with artist Gabriel Rearte coming on Witchblade to wrap-up David Hine’s story, things just weren’t the same sadly. And it really sucks, because had Haun been on the art duty here, this finale could have been much more exceptional. As it was though, it was just a bit tepid, because Rearte’s art didn’t match up to teh story as perfectly as the previous artist, and a lot of the smooth flow of the story was just lost.
But all the same, I think that David Hine did a good enough job of the story in issues #180 and #181. We got the confrontation between Sara and Jackie that was promised. We got to see Hope be the icky little villain she got turned into. We got to see the madness of Jenny full-force. We got to see Aram be the big bad that he was hinted at from the beginning of David’s run on the title three years back. In fact, we got a lot of what we had been led to expect. And it was great too. I loved Sara’s horror at her discovery of the insane madness that has taken control of Erewhon. We got to see this big battle between The Darkness and the Witchblade. We got to see two old lovers reconcile, to a degree. And the ending, it was truly as emotional as I’d wanted it to be. The ending really hits you in the guts, even though you know what to expect, given the subtitle of this (crossover) arc.
However, I also felt let down a bit on the story-angle because it was all over too fast. I feel as if the writer could have stretched out the moments over a higher page count (and not necessarily an extra issue, which would have been too much), simply because this story has been a long time coming. And in the wake of some of the things that have happened over in IXth Generation, I wanted some answers on that front too. But I guess we have to settle for what we have. And what we have isn’t actually all that bad really.
Gabriel Rearte’s art, on its own, is pretty decent. There’s a certain moodiness to the artwork that lends itself well to a supernatural theme, but given how different it is from Jeremy Haun’s art, the comparison really isn’t favorable on any level. And I didn’t like how he drew Hope either, not to mention that some of the action scenes from Jackie and Sara’s fight were confusing to follow because the colours weren’t differentiating enough.
Witchblade #182 on the other hand, as I’ve already said, gets back to Ron Marz’s new arc from issue #179, where we see that Sara has come under the scanner of some powerful organization that is looking to… test her for some mysterious purpose. The new issue answers some of the questions that arose in that issue, and that’s gratifying on some level, though I wish that the whole thing hadn’t been cast in such a cliche context as can be found here. I mean, it is a pretty standard affair so far, with the difference being that Ron Marz’s writing is much better than could have been found otherwise had someone else been in his place.
The Sara Pezzini that can be found in this issue is a somewhat different Sara you might remember from the previous arc (from Ron Marz that is, not the interlude David Hine arc). She has gotten over much of her maudlin, depressing thoughts now, and is much more in control of her faculties. Not to mention that all of her gung-ho is back to, and that if anyone looks set to mess with her, he (or she) is going to find himself (or herself) on the wrong end of one of her Witchblade… blades. And Ron introduces a new character here, Amaryllis, who is Sara’s mysterious new employer. Much of what she is about is shrouded in secrets for now, but I like the direction that the arc is going in, and I can’t wait to see more of it. The only negative here is that Amaryllis’ character design leaves much to be desired and looking at her rather reminds me of Vampirella and her own costume.
There’s a backup story here by Andrew Knighton, one of the runners-up of Top Cow’s 2013 Talent Hunt. This deals with another artifact much like the Witchblade, the Blood Sword, and it takes place in Japan’s ancient feudal age. It is a nice, to-the-point story, and I liked it. Clear and concise with just enough exciting bits to keep you going, but not overcommitting and creating too many expectations. The issue provides a nice 2-1 combo in that respect, and I’d definitely like to read more, if it comes to pass.
Maan House is the artist on the main story, and I really like his art. Somewhat different to how Laura Braga handled things on the previous arc, but I like the switch-about and all the demon-action of the first half of the story really pulls you into the mood. This is totally the kind of high-octane supernatural visuals I wanted out of the story and Maan delivers. Not to mention that Betsy Gonia’s colours are fantastic too, something I’ve become a fan of since the soft reboot of the title with Ron Marz returning to the title in 2013. Maan and Betsy prove to be a great combo here, and long may it continue!
For the backup, we have Alvaro Sarraseca on the art, with Ross Campbell on the colours and Troy Peteri provides the letters for the entire issue, as is usual for him. The art isn’t special here. Much as the story, it is very… focused and to the point with no frills or such. It evokes the story well, that’s all you can ask really.
Very strong issue, in most respects, though not without its drawbacks certainly. Looking forward to #183!