Witchblade Volume 2 (Graphic Novel Review)

Witchblade is one of Top Cow’s biggest IPs, by far. Unless I am mistaken, it is one of the publisher’s only two titles to have made it past the landmark 100th issue, and the only one to have made it past the landmark 175th issue as well. And one writer who has shaped this incredible run, more than others I’d reckon, is Ron Marz, who enjoyed a seventy-plus issue tenure before he got back on the title with issue #170 last year. Of all the Witchblade stories I’ve read to date, Ron Marz’s scripts have been the most consistent and engaging and my current read-through of his run has been a very rewarding experience.

Witchblade Volume 2 continues everything that Ron Marz setup in Witchblade Volume 1, taking the Witchblade’s bearer Sara Pezzini into new environs and with new supporting cast members. Unlike the previous volume, this one contains many one-shots that slowly build-up a larger story continuing the plot threads that Ron introduced at the start of his run. If anything, I enjoyed this volume even more than the first, though it should be said that sometimes the stories can be a bit too much by-the-numbers. Like Phil Hester says in the introduction to this volume, Ron defies expectations and notions of genre limitations.

The first story in this volume, called “Blood Sword“, deals with an ancient Japanese weapon with a long and storied history that is kept in a museum in New York. Sara is a lone ranger on this case, and it really brings out the best in her since she isn’t dependent on any other characters she can bounce off of. She does work with Detective Frank Boyle of one of New York’s downtown precincts on the case, but his contribution is limited. As a one-shot this works great, largely because the mystery itself is developed nicely and there is a great payoff in the end that links Sara once more back to her mysterious ally who owns a relics shop and who has knowledge of her artifact to a degree that she doesn’t.

The second story is “Heart of The City” and this one sees Sara moving out from her own precinct to the top precinct in the city since her penchant for clearing weird cases is much more in demand and this also sees her working in the same office as Patrick Gleason. As part of the new digs and new outlook, she gets a new case as well and this is where the weird really comes through for Sara and she goes up against a villain who is most unusual. Sara’s interactions with Gleason are pretty spot-on and there are even hints that there might be something more here since they are both clearly attracted to the other. But thankfully, Ron keeps it all restrained and focuses on the task at hand. The villain in this issue was lots of fun to read about, but the payoff here wasn’t so good, though in hindsight I think this was another case of Ron setting something up for the longer run and I want to see that happen.

The next story, “Partners” sees Sara investigating the disappearance of the daughter of her friend Molly, who works at her old precinct as a janitor. Working with Gleason again, this is a personal case for Sara and we really see the emotional impact of it come through the pages. The absolute best moment in this issue is in the final page, when Sara has to give Molly the bad news. Just the wordless emotions of that entire scene blew me away. Sure, getting up to that point, Ron wrote a great investigative story, but the final moments are what steal the show.

Then we have the three-parter “Fugitive“, in which one of Sara’s cases draws the attention of the government and also offers some more insight into how the government looks at… special people. This is, I think, the best story in the entire volume because this one gets to breathe with some proper pacing and the increased length also allows Ron to really focus on Sara’s developing professional and personal relationship with Patrick. That is something I was quite looking forward to in this volume and Fugitive finally delivered on that. There are lots of different twists in the story and it ends in a way that I didn’t expect when it started, or even when the first part ended on a cliffhanger as it did.

This story also showed that Patrick really isn’t all that comfortable with the Witchblade, though he has no problem with Sara herself. The Witchblade is a mysterious and dangerous power as far as he is concerned, to the extent that he doesn’t accept healing from the Witchblade until Sara promises him that she is going to make an effort to learn more about it. To find out whether or not it is something that can be… trusted. That’s what I loved about their relationship, that Ron made the effort to progress the overall story and also delve into their personal beliefs. That’s what’s most important in any given story, especially something like the Witchblade.

The final story here is “The Balance“, and this is the result of Fugitive. Knowing that the strange Asian man, who runs the relics shop near to the hospital where she stayed for three weeks while in coma, knows more about the Witchblade than she does, she goes to him and asks him the money question straight up. The answer he gives, well, it is something. I know what the Witchblade is, what it is meant to be, what it is meant to do, the place it has in the grand scheme of things. But what I didn’t know was the Artifact’s storied history. This is what Ron deals into in this big issue and I loved the hell out of it. Easily a match for Fugitive, and more. Different eras, different cultures, different villains, different challenges, Ron covers a hell of a lot of ground here and he really gives the Witchblade an epic history while also showcasing some really great female characters.

On the art-front, things are quite complicated as each story has different artists. Keu Cha on pencils, Jay Leisten on inks and Brian Buccellato on colours for Blood Sword. Chris Bachalo, Jon Holdredge and Brian for Heart of The City. Mike Choi, Sal Regla and Brian with Chad Fidler for Partners. Mike Choi, Sal Regla and Brian with Tyson Wengler for Fugitive. That’s all well and good, but then The Balance has an army of pencillers, inkers and colourists. Almost 25 artists in fact. Alongside the artists who have already contributed so far, we have the likes of Darwyn Cooke, Luke Ross, Terry Dodson, Marc Silvestri, Rachel Dodson, Matt Banning, Sonia Oback and more.

If there’s one thing that can be said for this volume of Witchblade, it is that the entire team is superb. Not a moment in the entire collection where I felt that the art suffered for any reason. I loved the artwork on all the stories, and with The Balance the epic feel of Ron’s story is matched by the epicness of the art, given all the different artists involved, and in such numbers as well. And of course Stjepan Sejic’s collection cover art is superb too. Then again, that’s the thing about Top Cow and Witchblade, they attract the best artists out there and Witchblade Volume 2 is no exception to that. In fact, it is one of the best examples of it.

Just as with Witchblade Volume 1, Volume 2 is an absolutely awesome read with a story that demands to be read and an art that demands to be seen. I can’t recommend this enough.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Witchblade: Volume 1, #170, #171, #172, #173, #174, #175.

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Posted on September 20, 2014, in 2014 Reading Challenge, Challenges, Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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