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Witchblade #69

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2003
By: Ray Tate



Writer: David Wohl
Artists:Francis Manapul(p),Johnathan Sibal,Billy Tan,Marlo Alquiza, Mark Prudeaux,Jeff De Los Santos,Batt, Jo weems(i),Brian Bucellato(c)
Publisher: Image

Witchblade opens with Ian McNaughton--no relation to David McNaughton--whom I doubt new readers will get or readers, such as myself, familiar with the Yancy Butler series will comprehend. The strange outwardly violent guy seems to dream in the form of romance novel covers. He has absolutely no involvement with the story proper, which begins on page six but should have begun on page one. His placement in the book reminds one of Kim Bauer's increasingly ridiculous perils that stubbornly remained unrelated to the main plot in the second season of 24.

The story proper actually better describes what Witchblade is about. The parasitic family that seeks to prey upon Sara represents a great, long-living evil that the Witchblade was designed to combat, and the well-written dialogue between the blade and Sara nicely displays the conflict.

That one member of this nutso family chooses to do good and aid Sara generates pathos. She does not deserve the intended bloody fate seen last issue. The reader knows and Sara knows. The Witchblade also seems to know, but the way in which David Wohl characterizes the entity shows, rather than the behavior of a cursed or malevolent object, instead a being that works for a greater good.

Despite Claire's vehement attempts to free herself from her kinfolk, which the blade in a way recognizes, she ultimately becomes a mute witness to her family's evil rituals. While her fate saddens Sara, the situation was not of the blade's or her making, and you can argue that while Claire lives, this particular fungus can yet grow.

The story naturally directs the fate of these creatures. It was written the moment they first took a life, and the blade's need to protect as well as Sara's desire for self-preservation cannot be considered forces of evil or even cowardice. Instead, they are forces of nature. Therein lies the cleverness of the story and the resonance of the stars.

Witchblade's artwork has been prone to foul factors. Originally, the blade's purpose was to shred off Sara's clothing as quickly as possible and create a tactile sexuality in the "armor" she wore. That her entire body was twisted by strange conceptions of anatomy did not help an already established feeling of exploitation.

Francis Manapul respects the laws of human physiology. He also does not follow in the footfalls of other artists. He does not depict the manifestation of the blade as in any way sexual. Instead, it coats Sara's arm with magical, organic armor and stretches out tendrils that mete out a subtly depicted judgment.

The army of inkers still does Mr. Manapul no favors. I wish they would stop trying to make Witchblade manga-flavored. Granted, the blade's origins lie in pink Japanese cinema, but the tone has thankfully changed. So should the style of the artwork.

Witchblade could be a comic book that stands the test of time. Sara Pezzini is smart, likeable and heroic. She possesses a fascinating weapon that's more like a familiar. She could be in comic book history something special, but the character still suffers from being weighted down by a continuity that's constructed from unnecessary characters. The artwork has vastly improved but there's still a reliance on an overly cartoony look that I believe is enforced by the inking.



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