Image Comics | Top Cow Productions
(W) Caitlin Kittredge, (A) Roberta Ingranata, (C) Bryan Valenza
Rebooting comics is something rarely done. While series are often renumbered, not often is the title completely rebuilt using the single core concept as a foundation. But that’s what we have with Witchblade. While the debut issue scored well due to its great art and willingness to do something different with the concept, its nonlinear structure did leave some readers cold. Now that the series is two issues in, and the question still lingers – is the new Witchblade any good? Yes, it’s good, but don’t expect it to hit the heights of the original series.
The biggest hurdle for Witchblade is its protagonist. Alex Underwood has potential, but we as readers know very little about her. Yes, we know what her job is and a bit about how she ended up there, but there is very little in terms of personality. Writer Caitlin Kittredge may be trying to slowly peel back layers of who this character is as she grows more accustomed to the artifact on her wrist, but there needs to be something for readers to latch onto now.
Throughout Witchblade #2, Alex is a passive protagonist, lacking agency as the plot drives her from Point A to Point B and, ultimately, the issue’s end. We don’t understand fully why she’s acting like this. Yes, she may be curious about the Witchblade, but she doesn’t seem fully concerned about finding out what it exactly is and can do – even when she’s having a chat with someone that she seeks out and is clearly knowledgeable on the topic. If there is a silver lining, it’s that because Alex is such a blank slate, she is salvageable. Kittredge doesn’t need to give her the strong, overt personality of the original series’ protagonist, but there has to be something to keep the readers invested for the long haul.
Despite these issues with the protagonist, the remaining story elements are fantastic, combining to make the book worthwhile. Of course, a big part of that is due to the artwork of Roberta Ingranata and Bryan Valenza, whose visuals combine elements of neo-noir and horror for a very unsettling aesthetic. Valenza’s colors heavy feature blue and gray hues that makes this interpretation of New York City feel cold and uninviting. Ingranata’s use of shadows are atmospheric, where danger can lurk in any dark corner of the page. The duo’s combined efforts makes the city another important character in Witchblade.
The work by the artists elevates Kittredge’s narrative, as the neo-noir visuals make for an excellent setting for the issue’s two mysteries. The first mystery is who killed Detective Graves, which everyone who picked up the first issue knows is Alex. However, we spend much of this issue following the NYPD – specifically Detective Victoria Roseland – try to figure this out. The second mystery revolves around Alex and the circumstances which resulted in her bearing the Witchblade. Both are compelling, as the police’s investigation pushes Alex to confront her own demons.
Even after two issues, it remains unclear how the Witchblade will affect its current bearer. However, that ambiguity can be a blessing that allows the artists to have some fun. There is one sequence in particular that is amusing. Early in the issue, when a would-be-victim is giving a statement to police officers, a seemingly injured Alex just up and leaves in the background, resulting in a final panel that is a stunning visual of her silhouette against a hazy, snowing background. It is a playful, almost comical scene that transitions to something absolutely stunning.
This sequence described above is a microcosm of Witchblade #2. There are moments that are sometimes interesting, amusing, or head-scratching, but on occasion it hits you with something unexpected and beautiful. While it may be overall a step down from the debut issue, the creative team manages to clean up the overall narrative and lay the groundwork for some grand plans. I for one am excited to see where Kittredge takes us as long as it means more great artwork from Ingranta and Valenza.