After seeing the event (and its ramifications) referenced for months, Witchblade #180 brings us to the opening chapter of how Sara Pezzini killed Jackie Estacado/The Darkness. Is it good?
Witchblade #180 (Top Cow Productions)
This issue opens with Sara having a tense face-to-face with Jackie. Unfortunately for him, his torso was not invited to participate in the conversation.
To be fair, my wife has the same reaction when we want to watch different games on the big screen TV.
The story then flashes back to Sara getting a visit from Aram, a former Darkness bearer and generally shady dude. After getting smacked around a bit, he manages to tell her that Jackie is about to open a portal that will allow that Ancient Ones into the world. He’s doing this for the sake of keeping the twisted universe he’d created intact…a universe where Hope was his and Jenny’s daughter and Sara was no longer part of her life.
Sara knows that Aram is full of it, but she agrees to help him stop Jackie. She tries to insinuate that her reasons for undertaking the mission have nothing to do with seeing Hope, but I think most of us would consider her a fairly unreliable narrator on that point. Of course she wants to see her daughter…who she once had to kill to save the universe…and who won’t recognize her at all…okay, maybe she really doesn’t want to see her. But something makes her agree to walk right into Aram’s trap.
…and it definitely wasn’t Erewhon’s diverse insect life.
Once she arrives in Erewhon, Sara finds that Jenny is (understandably) quite a few cards short of a full deck. But that weirdness is nothing compared to what Sara observes after locating Hope. In a truly heartbreaking sequence, her memory of the little girl’s love for creating things is paralleled with the horrible and twisted manner in which she is using those talents now. After witnessing some truly horrific stuff being conjured (and half-conjured) by her daughter from another lifetime, Sara realizes the girl in the twisted universe molded by Jackie is not the same little girl she’d given birth to.
This version of Hope is a monster.
After a gut-churning final few pages, were treated to a nice, creepy little tale involving Patience/The Magdalena. You know you’ve finished a strange issue when a backup about demon possession and the trappings of religious dogma feel slightly uplifting compared to the main story’s conclusion.
Is It Good?
This was a hard one to review, but not because it wasn’t good—it just depends on who’s reading it.
I just recently dove into the Witchblade/Top Cow universe a few months ago. The mythology is incredibly dense, but the writers have consistently done a good job of keeping it accessible. This story, however, is definitely for the folks who are currently immersed in all things Witchblade. If you’re a brand new reader or someone coming back to see how your 90’s icon of evil cool bites the dust, you’re going to be completely lost.
But speaking as someone who has been on a Witchblade binge since late last year, I can confirm that this one hits all the right notes for hardcore fans. We’ve all known that she was going to decapitate Jackie during their fatal meeting—it’s been foreshadowed and referenced since the beginning of ‘Born Again.’ But that panel where she’s talking to his severed head still hits you like a punch to gut. It’s almost as heart wrenching as the part where flashbacks of the Hope from the pre-Rebirth universe are shown. Maybe it’s because that seemingly happy time in Sara’s life (baby Hope, not murdered sister, Gleason, etc.) is still so fresh in my mind. It serves as a stark reminder of just how much Sara had to give up from that very different lifetime.
It also makes the revelation of what a horrible little hellspawn this version of Hope is even more chilling. She makes Damien Thorn look like Dennis the Menace.
While the writing by David Hine is solid throughout, the art by Gabriel Rearte takes a bit to get going. Sara’s facial features seem a little uneven in some of the early panels. By the time we get to the end, though—and all the horrifying stuff Hope is doing—Rearte is on (green) fire.
The issue’s backup story by Ryan Cady and Phillip Sevy is a microcosm of my earlier stated problems/compliments for the main issue. It’s well written, well drawn, and a neat tale involving one of the Top Cow universe’s most interesting characters…unless you don’t know anything about The Magdalena or her history. Then it’s a well written and well-drawn story that will probably leave you scratching you head.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Considering how accessible Witchblade usually is, an issue like this one can be forgiven for its deep and unapologetic ties to previous mythology. If you haven’t read Witchblade or The Darkness in a long while, this probably isn’t the place you want to start. Go snag some trades to help bring you up to speed.
But if you are generally current with the Top Cow universe, buckle up for a terrifyingly good ride.