REVIEW: ‘The Complete Witchblade,’ Vol. 1 Trade Paperback

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Witchblade complete collection cover

The Complete Witchblade Volume 1 trade paperback is published by Image Comics through Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow imprint. The writers credited in this collection include Christina Z., David Wohl, Brian Haberlin, Warren Ellis and David Finch. The artists are Michael Turner, David Finch, Billy Tan, Nathan Cabrera, Marc Silvestri, Joe Benitez, Clarence Lansang and Tony Daniel. Inkers that contributed are D-Tron, Kevin Conrad, Matt Banning, Victor Llamas, John Livesay, Joe Weems, Marco Galli,  Jason Gorder, Edwin Rosell, Marlo Alquiza, and Richard Bennett. Dennis Heisler lettered the majority of work in the collection, but Robin Spehar helped letter The Darkness #10.  Colorists included in the collection are J.D. Smith, Nathan Cabrera, Tyson Wengler, Steve Firchow, Peter Steigerwald, Richard Isanove, and Matt Nelson.

The Complete Witchblade Volume 1 features over 600 pages of story and art. This includes the first 19 issues of the regular series, Tales of the Witchblade 1-4 and a couple of issues from The Darkness regular series. Throughout the collection, you will get the story of how Sara Pezzini stumbles upon the Witchblade, a few stories of Witchblade bearers from the past and future, and finally her crossover with mafia hitman, Jackie Estacado aka The Darkness.

If you don’t know the story of Sara Pezzini and the Witchblade, here’s a summary: Sara Pezzini is an NYPD detective that stumbles upon a clue about something big taking place at the Rialto. It turns out that at the Rialto a mystical gauntlet called the Witchblade is being offered to any person that can try it on without being rejected by the artifact. Rejection equals the potential suitor’s hand getting blown up. When Sara’s partner Michael Yee gets caught sneaking around, she tries to save him but they both get shot. However, Sara is saved by the Witchblade. From there Sara tries to figure out what the Witchblade is while being pursued by Kenneth Irons and Ian Nottingham.

You would think that an Image Comics story that came out during the “bad girls” comics craze of the nineties would be a bit more fast-paced. But let’s be honest a lot of people didn’t read these comic books because of the story, they picked them up because of the gorgeous art which was synonymous with the early days of Image Comics. As I read the collection though, I found that Christina Z. and David Wohl wrote a decent story.

Christina Z. and Wohl wrote a story about a woman that unintentionally becomes a superhero after she puts on the Witchblade, but simultaneously they stick to the core of the character as a detective. The detective aspect of Sara’s character is on display throughout the collection as she tries to figure out what the Witchblade does and who are Kenneth Irons and Ian Nottingham. But along with these story threads, integral to the Witchblade itself, Christina Z. and Wohl add the plot of the Microwave Killer.

Witchblade collection panel

The mystery of the Microwave Killer is introduced since issue one, but it remains a secondary plot thread throughout the majority of Sara’s story. Long after Sara’s storyline with Kenneth and Ian is resolved, the Microwave Killer is finally revealed and it is a bit of a shock. Unfortunately, after this mystery is solved you’re left with a lot of questions. In particular, if Kenneth Irons is in his eighties or nineties, how is it that he looks so young? Or for that matter what exactly is the Witchblade?

And that, lamentably, is where the writers seem to struggle. In the story, Irons gives a brief explanation, but all he talks about is how powerful the Witchblade is and that it does not have anything to do with the supernatural. Other than that it is revealed that the Witchblade and the Darkness power are polar opposites and hate each other, but again, in this humongous collection, it is not revealed how they are connected. Another minor issue is that the dialogue and narration can at times be stiff.

Aside from that, there are secondary characters that disappear for issues at a time and then come back out of the blue, like Sara’s sister Julie or her neighbor, Lisa. That was also a problem with the Microwave Killer plot thread. Sometimes as a reader you can forget about this particular mystery, because Z. and Wohl thread it back into the story every few issues, and you can catch yourself saying, “Oh yeah, that’s right, the Microwave Killer. Forgot about that.”  I imagine that happened more often when the series was being released monthly, and especially when issues were released extremely late.

A lot of people came to the series because of Michael Turner’s art, and you will not be disappointed, because you will have plenty of it in The Complete Witchblade Volume 1. In the early issues, you can see that Turner’s artwork was good but not great. If you pay attention you can see that at times the anatomy looks a bit off and sometimes there’s something weird happening with a character’s nearly perfect face (for example on page 13 panel 4).

Other than that be prepared to see beautiful people throughout The Complete Witchblade. Sara’s old police chief looks like he does P90X regularly. The average guys whether young or old from page to page look like they could put any superhero to shame in terms of their physique. And just about every woman much like Sara is svelte like a supermodel. Like I said, this was Image Comics in the nineties. Heck, I felt insecure as a kid when I first read this series because I wanted to look like those guys, but I was well, a Chicano geek . . . with glasses. Peak geek.

One image that threw me for a loop is a two-page spread (pages 302-303) as Sara walks toward the reader, New York is in the background and in the red dusk there’s a giant devil looking down at her. I saw this and I was thinking, wait, Kenneth Irons said the Witchblade is not supernatural, so why is this giant devil staring down at her? It is random, but it is a beautiful image that is enhanced by J.D. Smith’s colors.

Overall, The Complete Witchblade Volume 1 is a good-sized collection that contains the bulk of the work done by Christina Z., David Wohl and Michael Turner, the creators that made Witchblade a popular series. A highlight of this collection is the Tales of the Witchblade issues which are usually stand-alone single issues, and they are fun to read because they build on the Witchblade mythos. It’s a trade paperback that both old and new readers can enjoy. Yes, Michael Turner’s art is awesome, but Christina Z. and Wohl deserve a lot of credit for writing a decent detective story. It’s worth a read for both the art and the story.

With all of that being said, I just want to add, that many of us grew up on Michael Turner’s artwork. I’m a huge fan of his art and it was great seeing him improve from one issue to the next throughout this collection. It’s the perfect book if you’re a fan of his art on Witchblade. I, like many of his other fans, wish he was still around.

The Complete Witchblade Volume 1 trade paperback is available where comics are sold.


The Complete Witchblade, Volume 1
3.5

TL;DR

The Complete Witchblade Volume 1 is a good-sized collection that contains the bulk of the work done by Christina Z., David Wohl and Michael Turner, the creators that made Witchblade a popular series…Yes, Michael Turner’s art is awesome, but Christina Z. and Wohl deserve a lot of credit for writing a decent detective story.