Witchblade #1: Witch Hunt
by Ron Marz, Mike Choi (Top Cow, 2008)

This is not the same old Witchblade.

And it's a trifle confusing to old-timers like me, who can remember back to the old days when Witchblade was first collected in trade paperback form. I spotted Witch Hunt in my friendly neighborhood comic store and was bewildered to see it listed as "volume one" -- when I knew darn well there'd been a whole bunch of previous books, including another volume one, in the past. Heck, I checked, and this wasn't a second series or anything. It's just another volume one.

To make matters a little more convoluted, I was told this used to be volume 10, but they reissued it with the new numbering system. Huh? But ... why? There's still a series 1 through 9, right? Then it goes back to 1, 2, 3, 4...?

I never found a satisfactory explanation for that. This isn't one of those marketing strategies where they reboot the character and start fresh. It's just back to #1 for no particular reason.

But, with an amazingly low cover price of $4.99 (in comic stores only; mainstream booksellers charge more), I decided to pick it up. I had actually grown fairly tired of the series long ago, and a few previous attempts to figure out what the character was up to failed to reignite my interest. But hey, it was priced to sell, so I bought it.

And it's good.

The creative team -- Ron Marz on words, Mike Choi on pencils -- have put new energy into the title. And it's not just a rebirth for Witchblade bearer Sara Pezzini -- literally, since she begins the story in an unexplained coma -- but a reinvention of the spirit of the book. Let's face it, Witchblade has always had some pretty good stories and some exceptional art, but it became a caricature of itself with its impossibly lean, excessively almost-naked title character. The book became famous more for cheesecake than substance, and it wasn't handled believably; I mean, while it might make sense for Wonder Woman to fight crime in a bathing suit, Sara Pezzini is a New York City cop, and they have pretty stern rules about keeping your clothes on.

Not that I minded the look of the old Witchblade, mind you -- but it was deucedly hard to take it seriously. And after a while, I decided that good girly art wasn't enough to sustain my attention as the stories became less interesting.

But Marz writes a good Witchblade. And Choi's Pezzini, while still fun to look at, mostly keeps her clothes on, as befits an officer of the NYPD. Surprisingly, the book doesn't suffer; in fact, this is good storytelling all around.

The bulk of the story revolves around a cadre of priests who, believing their God is dead, work rituals to bring a new god to this world. Of course, meddling with gods is rarely wise, and Sara has to clean up the mess. Also, there's a new cop in her life -- Patrick Gleason, who's been assigned to find out what exactly's going on with Sara -- and a wizened Oriental shopkeeper who offers obscure advice. Jake McCarthy, Sara's former partner, is still around, too, although in a reduced capacity.

There is a little bit of catch-up exposition that might bore longtime readers, but that makes this new Vol. 1 a great place for new readers to jump aboard.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new Witchblade, and I plan to read further in the series. Now, if only someone could explain why this is volume one...?

review by
Tom Knapp

19 July 2008

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