I don’t want to bury the lede: the new “Witchblade” is good comics. The writing is sharp, the art is cool and occasionally gorgeous. It’s a well put together book. It is, however, a new crack at a “Witchblade” series, and one helmed by female creators, so it carries with it the baggage of the series’ history as an exploitative cheesecake delivery system, and is in conversation with the comics industry about gender equality. The book stands on its own merits, but is almost more interesting to consider as a cultural artifact. Still, you can be rest assured that these creators know what they are doing.
Written By Caitlin Kittredge
Illustrated by Roberta Ingranata
Colors by Bryan Valenza
Lettered by Troy Pateri
“LIFE AFTER,” Part Two
Struggling to adapt to her new life as the Witchblade’s host, Alex finds she’s the prime suspect in the death of an NYPD detective—and that the dead cop had powerful and corrupt friends who will do anything to keep his shady business quiet. But in the world of the Witchblade, nothing is quite what it seems, and Alex soon learns that there’s more than greed and graft at play inside the circle of corruption. The bent cops also have a supernatural backer, and Alex has just landed in his crosshairs.
To be clear, “Witchblade” isn’t going to be a book for everyone. It thoroughly leans into the grimy, violent, noir aesthetic that made the series such a hit in the ’90s. In that mode, the book delivers. The cop banter isn’t always hilarious (though it often is) but it always feels true to the characters. You believe that this is how these people would talk.
The artwork isn’t often flashy, but draws engaging people who look like people. Every so often, something like the beautiful snow catches your eye, and makes you appreciate Roberta Ingranata for the talent that she is. When an undead creature menaces our hero, it is way creepier than it has any right to be. “Walking Dead” zombies (and “Evil Dead” deadites for that matter) should take note. There is so much shadowy atmosphere packed into these panels, you start to get really excited when you imagine the creeps and creatures that will come crawling through these pages in future issues.
When you get down to it though, “Witchblade” is a trashy supernatural revenge fantasy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. “I had become someone else,” protagonist Alex narrates, “something else.” She doesn’t claim to be the Green Arrow, but you can’t be blamed for making the connection to the Stephen Amell CW show. It’s similar in tone. Sort of self-serious, but also really goofy.
But where “Witchblade” distinguishes itself is in the focus it puts on violence towards women. That’s a whole subgenre in and of itself, and one that’s generally something of a bummer. That was one of the things that held back the original series, when it was written and drawn by men. It’s always going to walk a tricky line by being a story about a vengeful murdering vigilante woman who stabs dudes while wearing very little.
All of that is handled reasonably well, and full credit is given to the two capable lead creators. Alex never goes full metal bikini. She never unleashes the full power of the Witchblade. That’s part of the issue’s biggest problem.
It’s clear from the first issue that there is talent involved in this series. Hell, the lettering, done by Troy Peteri, is some of the best I’ve seen in a while. Good lettering can be hard to notice at times. It’s mostly something that I unfortunately take for granted. Each font, from the regular dialogue text, to the narrative captions, to the journal entries, to the jaggedy red letters of Alex’s vigilante persona, drips with flavor. “Witchblade” can be a very atmospheric book when it wants to be, thanks to strong collaborative teamwork.
The problem is that the story. Moves. So. Slowly. It feels like one of those Netflix shows that doesn’t really get started until the very end of the season. You like the characters, and the story, and the writing and everything, but you just want them to do the premise of the series. You want Alex to start fighting dark powers with her cool magic weapon.Continued below
The bare hints of the mythos are intentionally very muddled, leaving a lot of room for the series to explore the history of the Witchblade moving forward. Ash, the mentor character, feels like a well realized and modern portrayal of the Roma, who could use some positive representation in a genre full of evil gypsy curses. There’s hints to the larger world, and they are tantalizing. You just want them to arrive already.
That makes me feel like I need to continue putting an asterisk after my recommendation to read the new “Witchblade.” The writing and art are good enough to start to earn my trust, but the ultra-decompressed pacing wears on my patience fast. There’s plenty of comic in this book, but not a lot of spooky action. That seems like something that will change eventually, but until it does, “Witchblade” doesn’t do enough to stand out in the crowded mystery genre.
Final Verdict: 7.7 – Witchblade #2 is well-drawn and well-written, but it needs to get going already.