Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Adriana Melo, Michael Choi, and various (p), Mariah Benes & various (i), Sonia Oback, Blond, and Michael Atiyeh (colors)
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow
Why do creators feel a compunction to write anniversary stories featuring cheesy introspective interludes that result in either a swan song or rebirth for the title character? In Witchblade #100, the many bearers of the Witchblade throughout time give Sara the motivation to keep fighting, but youíll swear that this collective consciousness scene has been done and played before. Canít a 100th issue have some true originality? Well, youíre not gonna find any in Witchblade #100, as Ron Marz bucks his current trend for creating engaging dramatic tales to produce this light, paint-by-numbers affair. Sure, old plotlines are resolved and new plotlines are introduced, which will certainly satisfy all current Witchblade readers. But, the entire thirty-three pages of the main story flew by in a heartbeat and felt so familiar that I left the issue thinking I have read this story before. On the bright side, it was nice to see Michael Choi penciling Witchblade again, and the transition from Choi to Adriana Melo midway through the issue was a symbolic hand-off that really worked well. However, the overall impression I had about issue #100 was that it was a retread of the climax in Return of the Jedi (no joke). To make it worse, the cliffhanger ending designed to shock and thrill us was abrupt and forced, reaffirming for me the clumsy, formulaic nature of the issue.
Taking a page from King Kong (or An Affair to Remember, depending on your point of view), the entire issue takes place on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. The story is a direct continuation from last issue, as Sara takes on an unnamed demon that has inhabited the body of her partner, Jake. The panels move fast and furious as the battle between the bearer and the demon heats up, only to be interrupted by the aforementioned interlude (Oh, by the way: nice black oil/X-Files reference, Mr. Marz!). After some girl-talk, Sara hunkers down and defeats the powerful demon with all the ruthlessness she is capable of. But will Jake, the host body, survive the battle? I wonít tell you. But, if youíre a continuing reader of Witchblade, you probably sense that one of the men in Saraís life has got to go.
Anyway, while this issue is all about the action, even the introspective and dramatic scenes move at a lightning-quick pace. The battle ends, someoneís fate is sealed, Sara and a certain man kiss, and she drops a personal bombshell on this man (sorry about the vagueness), all in the span of three and a half very light pages. The buildup I would have expected for any of these developments just wasnít there, making it feel like Marz was cramming it all in, even though he had thirty-plus pages to work with. Oh, and the final page featuring a new player in the Witchblade universe didnít have an ounce of awe or shock factor, except for the realization that Sara might give up on the blade in the near future. This was a very clumsy ending for a very professional writer such as Marz, and I have to admit it shocked me in a way I didnít expect, with a large dose of mediocrity in place of compelling drama.
The artwork, on the other hand, is pretty good, with some great moments of action and drama drawn by Choi and Melo. Choiís full-page featuring Sara sprouting wings is a beautifully memorable drawing, as well as the menacing figure of the demon sitting on a throne over the burned-out remains of the world. As for Melo, her artwork (along with inking assistance of Mariah Benes) featured some wonderful expressive close-ups of Sara and Jake, making her the perfect choice for the more dramatic portions of the issue. I only wish the story itself was as engrossing as the artwork! One more thing about the art: issue #100 features some full-page images of past bearers drawn by a host of artists, including Marc Silvestri. But the one that stood out for me was the drawing of the gunslinger bearer, illustrated by Keu Cha. Man, would I love to see a mini-series featuring this Witchblade-user! Iíve been a fan of Western movies since I was a kid, so the very idea of having a female gunslinger wielding a gun and an ancient gauntlet sounds pretty cool to me. Make it so, Top Cow! It would have to be better than the Quick and the Dead (sorry, Sam Raimi)!
Verdict? I think if Marz had stayed on the same track he had been building over the last 25 issues or so, this would have been a nice transition into the next phase of Witchblade. Instead, issue #100 read a lot like the hackneyed stories that were produced prior to Marzís tenure, and that is where my disappointment lies. Let the river run, Mr. Marz! No, that doesnít mean rent Working Girl.
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