I’m not normally the type to jump into a series part way, especially not 136 issues in. I stick to new series or try to pick an event in the time line, like the "Death of Captain America," which marks something of a new starting point for the series even though it’s quite a few issues in. So when I was sent Witchblade #136 to review it was always going to be an interesting read, but is any of that down to the actual comic?
In short, yes, and I think that’s partly helped by my chance picking up of the Top Cow Free Comic Book Day Comic Artifacts #0. Artifacts #0 features Aphrodite IV, a fourth generation cyborg assassin. She is introduced to the 13 artifacts, a collection of objects which hold the key to the fate of the world. Each object has a bearer and the bearer of one of those objects, the Witchblade, is New York City police detective called Sara Pezzini. The Witchblade is the offspring of two other objects, The Darkness and Angelus, and is a balancing force between the dark and light of the universe.
Witchblade #136 is the third part of a story arc called "Almost Human," and it sees Sara Pezzini working with Aphrodite IV. They have established an uneasy truce between them as they need each other’s help to achieve their goals, Pezzini’s is the taking down of a corrupt mega-corporation Cyberdata and Aphrodite’s is the tracking down of a scientist that Cyberdata is trying to protect. At the Cyberdata complex they battle three Cyborgs based off Aphrodite’s design in a rather impressive yet short altercation that’s made exciting by the unique abilities of Pezzini and the cyborgs.
Within the issue there is no reason given for why Pezzini needs to bring down Cyberdata, I mean, sure, they’re corrupt, and she’s a cop, but there’s got to be some greater reason for her risking her life on missions like this. I know it’s probably explained prior, but it was just frustrating because Aphrodite was given a reason for pursuing Dr. Singh in this issue. He was one of the people who created her, but he’s fled and is selling the designs she is based on to the highest bidder. She’s been given a mission, to terminate him, so her involvement has a purpose. Pezzini just seems to be meandering along like some sort of vigilante, and her actions at the end of the issue further confuse her reasoning.
While Pezzini’s character is somewhat frustrating, Aphrodite is brilliant. So many times we see the cyborg, android or other form of supposedly non-human killer start to gain human emotions as the character grows and develops. They become compassionate and sympathetic and begin to feel, resulting in a loss of that crazy killer edge that quite often makes them a cool character. Aphrodite, as yet, hasn’t really gained human emotions. She’s all about the mission, all about what she was programmed to do (kill) and about doing whatever it takes to get it done. As Pezzini’s character says “Aphrodite looks like us, but there’s nothing human about her. She doesn’t feel anything,” and I quite enjoyed that aspect about her.
Pezzini’s character didn’t really do much to impress me, but I did pick up on a ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ vibe at the end which certainly piqued my interest for the future. To see some sort of revenge or hatred plot develop for Pezzini, against Aphrodite, would certainly be quite an entertaining read and make for an action packed issue.
Fans of the series will pretty much know what to expect from Stjepan Sejic’s artwork this far in. Personally, I found there was a bit too much light and a bit too much pink in the faces. At times it appeared to be boarding on unnatural as the faces almost looked like they were glowing. There were a few times when the head and face seemed to standout too much from the rest of the body. It was a shame because on the cover and towards the end of the comic the faces have some shadow or colored light on them which tones them down creating a more natural look.
What I did like is the way they blurred the backgrounds to highlight certain actions, like moving at high speed or a final coupe de grace. It was really impressive and gave those panels some really powerful imagery. It was disappointing, though, to see what looked like an unfinished product at times. Random black lines appeared on Pezzini’s face where previously there had been her Witchblade armor. Meanwhile, when she shoots off her Witchblade, like a tentacle, the same random black lines are mixed in with the armor. They look like they are unfinished sketch lines which were meant to be refined and turned into a piece of her armor.
Similarly, there is a scene where a ball of energy is being charged and about to be released. It’s encased in a blue aura of energy and looks really cool when you see the three cyborgs combining to charge it. It then zooms in on the ball and it looks like someone has gone onto Microsoft Paint, selected blue and drawn a series of squiggles around it. It just looks somewhat rushed, like they weren’t sure what they wanted it to look like.
On the whole Witchblade #136 was an interesting read, due to the cyborg assassin Aphrodite IV, who is a kick ass character, and due to my experiencing a series for the first time at issue 136. I found enough to get me interested in the series, both its past and future, and this issue should help long-term fans to start looking forward to Artifacts.