Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Adriana Melo (p), Mariah Benes (i), Sonia Oback (colors)
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow
Hey, I thought this series was all about T & A! For all of you who have thought about Witchblade in a similar fashion over the years, hereís a news flash: this is a very good super-hero comic. Ron Marz has made Sara Pezzini into a likeably compelling heroine, and the supporting characters are detailed and believable. Yes, thereís still a tendency for typecasting and predictability of plot, but I have nothing negative to say about characterization, dialogue, or pacing. Marz shows that he is a talented director of action and drama who understands his audience and gives them exactly what they want. Combined with the introduction of new series penciler Adriana Melo, this is a great lead-in to Issue #100 for both old and new fans. There is still room of improvement, particularly concerning Melo and Mariah Benes, but these gripes shouldnít prevent you from buying this latest issue at your shop.
Strangely enough, the current series has more in common with the television series than the comics preceding it, focusing more on Saraís role as a cop, which is great since this indicates more emphasis on characters and less emphasis on bells and whistles. I love character-driven super-hero books, and Marz has done a terrific job transforming Witchblade from a book centered on gravity-defying cleavage and funny-book violence into an intelligent drama. During Marzís tenure, he has introduced Patrick Gleason as a major supporting character and love interest (which probably indicates tragedy in the near future), severely wounded Saraís partner Jake (though he is back in this issue, but with a few secrets...), transferred Sara to a new precinct where she is a special investigator (Scully to Gleasonís Mulder), and, most importantly, explained the origins of the Witchblade (and produced two of my favorite Top Cow issues ever in Issues #92 & 93). He has basically transformed this sub-par comic book into a well-defined, entertaining series within the span of twenty issues, and has made this the must-buy series at Top Cow.
And the future looks so bright, youíre gonna have to wear shades! In this issue, an enemy-in-waiting is revealed, attacking Sara in the final pages of Issue #99 and leading us into what will hopefully be an action-packed and revealing Issue #100. While most seriesí would have phoned in the issue before a milestone, Marz takes the opportunity to add to his existing charactersí personas as well as keeping this installment accessible to newcomers who might consider picking up the 100th issue. Marz is like the Tony Gwynn of comics, in that he has been a consistently entertaining writer throughout his career without a lot of flash or hits and misses. Issue #99 is yet another piece of quality work from this well-traveled, professional comic book writer.
As for the artwork, well, itís good in bits and pieces, but I wouldnít consider this among the best looking Witchblade issues ever. Let me explain. Melo is a terrific artist, and I especially liked her work on Star Wars: Empire (also written by Marz). Mariah Benes, the inker, has worked on a lot of recent Superman issues, though Iím not totally familiar with her material. Combined, these two artists produce some close-up panels that are beautifully rendered, particularly those that contain the comely Sara Pezzini. However, when it comes to non-close-up scenes, the panels exhibit a little bit of laziness that is disconcerting. Granted, I am not a graphic artist in the least, but as a fan, I was frustrated by the panels that lacked many of the details I have come to expect from a major label comic book. I can understand how details can be lacking on panels created from a far off perspective, but I could count at least three instances where a medium range panel was missing facial details, which frankly distracted me from the proceedings. This is Witchblade, not the Question! I donít know whose fault it is, but that really shouldnít matter: both artists were involved in the final production. Melo and Benes should take a look at Michael Choiís work prior to Issue #99 and see the details Iím talking about. My complaints are not to say that Iím not excited about the Melo/Benes team, because both are very talented and bring a uniquely welcome style to the series. I just wish all of the panels in the issue had the same quality as the beautiful close-up drawings they produced.
Still, this is an issue to check out, particularly if youíve never picked up an issue of Witchblade before. For all new readers, I envy you. You were never subjected to the lackluster 70+ issues that preceded Ron Marzís masterful reworking of the series. But, you did miss out on great cheesecake...
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