Happy Halloween peeps!
Ok so the title this week is my (not so) clever attempt to give those of you that may have thought about my hint during last week's absence for the topic at hand this week. The hint was "small self-contained superhero universe," which of course rules out the big two of Marvel and DC, and for those of you that listened to me on the Meltcast (RIP) can probably surmise that I was talking about Marc Silvestri's Image spin-off, the Top Cow Universe.
Bad girl period. Very bad girl.
To give a bit of personal history, I never read books like Witchblade or The Darkness in the 90's. By many accounts the Witchblade title was one of many "bad girl" comics of the period that was more interested in showing scantily-clad women than actually telling a good story, and although I'm sure my teenage self at the time would of loved to have been able to read that book, my tiny town didn't have a shop or even a spinner rack for me to indulge in the early adventures of Sara Pezzini. So growing up I was never really exposed to any Top Cow characters. I knew they existed from a few random issues of Wizard magazine that I had laying around, but I never read any of their stories, and later on when I picked up the habit of hitting the local shop during college, I never even thought to check out those books, and instead opted for the tried and true superhero characters I grew up with.
Its fuzzy now, but I think I may have been listening to a random comics podcast in the last year or so, and I heard the host talk about how Ron Marz was writing a great run on Witchblade, and had really turned the character's image around from "bad girl pin-up" to "well-rounded character part of a great series of stories," and so I decided to give the book a chance.
At the time, Top Cow had been doing some great promotions to attract new readers such as selling the first trade of the Witchblade relaunch at $4.99, which I really couldn't refuse given the strong critical reception the book had been getting. The Darkness had a similarly-priced jumping on point with the creative team of Phil Hester writing and Michael Broussard on art that was roughly during the same period of time. So I devoured the first trades for each of these respective series (which by the way is called Witchblade: Redemption and The Darkness: Accursed for the jumping on points).
Dark times indeed for Mr. Estacado
Well that was a little while ago and now I'm through both of the second trades for each series, and I'm happy to say after getting over 10 issues in to each book, that both of these are a great buy and definitely worth reading. I'm a little bit of a sucker for the style and tone of these books, each contains superhero elements, but also has a strong horror vibe mixed with gritty crime in the case of the Darkness, and Witchblade has a detective solving supernatural cases a la X-Files (which to this day is my favorite show of all time, so for me that's an easy sell). The art in both of these books is fantastic, Stjepan Sejic does a masterful job of digitally painting his art on the Witchblade title, and his monster design is top notch. The first trade of The Darkness: Accursed, which sees Jackie Estacado essentially taking over a small South American country and becoming its benevolent(?) dictator is drawn by Michael Broussard, who has a strong Image superhero style that suits the first story arc well. The second arc is mostly drawn by Jorge Lucas, who gives the more horrifically themed story (Jackie is literally trying to free his soul from hell) a gritty, dark look that is perfect for the story's subject matter.
Basically, I'm really enjoying these two books, and I'm looking forward to going back and reading Ron Marz's full run on Witchblade (he had written a ton of issues before Witchblade: Redemption), in which he began laying the seeds for Artifacts, the big event that is happening right now in the Top Cow U. Basically the concept behind that is that there are 13 artifacts in this universe that choose bearers, and there is a mysterious figure trying to unite all the artifacts for a seemingly nefarious purpose. This week I also read the second trade for that series (its a 13 issue series and Top Cow are releasing 4 issue trades as it goes on to keep us trade-waiters happy).
Artifacts is a big bombastic event style comic that brings in a lot of the things Marz had seeded in his earlier Witchblade run, such as introducing several of the different artifact bearers, as well as elements of the greater Top Cow universe at large, such as Hunter-Killer and Cyberforce. Even if you're not familiar with any of these characters or concepts, Marz is careful to give you a good introduction so the reader is not lost. That also goes for the main Witchblade and Darkness titles as well, as they have recap pages that will get you up to speed on the proceedings so you can hit the ground running and simply enjoy the story and characters, which again, I'm really happy to say I have.
If you're looking for some cool superhero's that aren't Marvel or DC, that combines great genre elements like horror, sci-fi and paranormal mystery, check out the Top Cow Universe. They didn't pay me to write this, but I'm really glad I took a side detour to their dark twisted world. Do so for yourself at your own risk and sanity.
Happy Halloween peeps!
Aaron Brewer is an aspiring filmmaker, musician and writer living in Los Angeles. There are many irons in the fire, and hopefully one day he'll be able to complete all the ideas he has floating around in his brain stew.