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Graphic Novel Review: Witchblade Volume Two – Awakenings by Ron Marz and Mike Choi

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I know I said that the first volume of the renewed Witchblade series wasn’t exactly my cup of tea; but short while after saying, there I was — feeling an inexplicable urge to read super-heroine stuff on glossy paper, and so I picked up the second volume of Witchblade. To my pleasant surprise, it was actually better than the previous volume, story-wise. No more apocalyptic end-of-days cliches, but rather your more usual day-to-day supernatural killers and mutated outlaws.

First, a quick recap:  the renewed Witchblade series by writer Ron Marz follows Sara Pezzini, a beautiful New Yorker detective, the bearer of an ancient and powerful artifact called the Witchblade; the Witchblade symbiotically attaches to Sara’s (naked) body, both like an armor and a weapon (The original Witchblade series, with amazing art by Michael Turner, debuted in 1995, went on for 79 issues, and is still going on with the renewed series taking over from issue #80, first published in 2004; this second volume collects issues #86-#92).

 Top Cow's Witchblade 2 by Keu ChaWe join with Sara in the first story of the volume called “Blood Sword”. As Sara returns to her daily routine after being injured in the previous volume, she takes on a strange murder case at the American Museum of National History, where she encounters the ghost of an ancient samurai warrior.

This chapter is drawn by penciler Keu Cha, and to my taste was the least impressive of the whole volume, due to rigidly and squarely drawn characters; though, the part depicting the samurai phantom’s recollection of the past, somewhat compensated for that. Abandoning accented inking for a few oil-painting-like frames, Cha creates more expressive and fun-to-behold art.

In the second story, “Heart of the City,” Sara finds out that she is transferred to One-Police-Plaza station to work alongside detective Gleason, whom we met in the first volume. A new investigation of related murders will lead her to a strange encounter with ancient and powerful servants of the "living metropolis," whom the servants collect some kind of human sustenance for… After a short struggle with these creepy servants Sara is left alone in a dark alley, unharmed yet baffled — case unresolved. Hopefully this intriguing plot trail is to be picked up in following issues.

Top Cow's Witchblade 2 by Chris BachaloSimply adorable and refreshing cartoon-like art by penciler Chris Bachalo creates mysterious yet cozy atmosphere for this story. Great attention to details (especially when depicting Sara’s new ragged and messy basement office) and beautiful use of light and shadow (when walking the artificially lighted alleys of the city), create truly remarkable art. “Heart of the City” is easily my favorite chapter of the volume, though be warned that Sara's appearance — and that of detective Gleason —  significantly shift from their familiar style as drawn by Mike Choi.

In the third story, “Partners,” Sara investigates the disappearance of a young girl, another mystery which is left open for now, maybe to be followed in subsequent issues.

Top Cow's Witchblade 2 by Mike Choi“Fugitive,” the fourth story, spans three chapters, where Gleason and Sara track a poor monster down the city sewers, accompanied by two questionable FBI agents.  In “Partners” and “Fugitive” we return to the familiar art by Mike Choi, in most parts beautiful, but in some parts, less impressive and less accurate than it was in the previous volume.

In the last part, called “The Balance,” Sara steps into a vision which takes her back in time, through all the female bearers of the Witchblade before her, unto the first bearer and the origins of the Witchblade. Each bearer in each era is drawn by a different artist, so we get an interesting and visually very pleasing mix of art styles. 

All the art in this volume is perfectly and professionally colored by Brian Buccellato.

To summarize my impression of this volume, I would have to say that it is still not  my usual cup of tea, but once in a while, it’s exactly the kind of tea I crave — and for sure it had been better tea than the previous one. I may drink more of it, once in a while.

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