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Into the back issue box #34

This time I got a comic that was completely unexpected.  I’m not willing to say it was a good comic, but it was like nothing I would have guessed.  What could it be?

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Witchblade #86 by Ron Marz, Keu Cha, and Jay Leisten.  Published by Image/Top Cow, July 2005.

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I guess I should have realized from that cover that this wouldn’t necessarily be what I expected.  I had never bought a Witchblade comic, mostly because when I looked at the early issues it was all T & A, and who needs that, really?  But this book is devoid of that, and is not that bad.  Does it do a good job explaining things to new readers?  Well, no.  And that’s where the problem is, frankly.

The story, however, is at least interesting.  Sara Pezzini shows up at the Museum of Natural History in New York, where she has been sent because an unusual murder has occurred.  We learn very quickly that this sort of thing is kind of her specialty.  The cop in charge, Frank Boyle, takes her to the body and introduces her to Larry Bethea, and Director of Security.  The victim is a security guard, and Sara notices right away that his head is missing.  It’s way on the other side of the room, and Sara notices that the cut is very clean, so it’s not some “PCP junkie with a machete” and the victim probably saw it coming.

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She and Bethea go into the storeroom to look around, and Bethea tells her that when he was growing up in Harlem, he wanted nothing more to work at the museum, and he worked his way up from security guard.  Sara tells him that she doesn’t know how to do anything else except be a cop, but before she can expound on that, they hear a sword being unsheathed.  As they hunt, a samurai dude with a big-ass sword who had been a statue moments before shows up behind them and barely misses killing Bethea.  Sara shoots him, but it has no effect, and then the samurai slashes her gun to pieces.  She grows some sort of armor on her arm and pulls his mask off, and there’s no face!  Well, that’s not terribly surprising.  As he brings his sword down toward her head, she stops the slash with that funky armor and is transported into the ghost’s head.  There she learns that the samurai betrayed his master back in the day (let’s say 1600, just for the fun of it) and took his sword, the “sword of blood.”  This makes him invincible, but he also discovers that “the sword thirsted for blood, and I supplied it gladly.”  He believed he had the power, but of course, it was the sword who really controlled him!  Even after his death, he was “held in thrall” to the sword, and now he’s just a ghost slave of the sword, thirsting for blood.  We snap back to the present, and Sara fixes her power on the sword and causes the samurai dude to drop it.  The ghost flows out of the sword and disappears.  Bethea whacks the armor, and the threat is over.  Huzzah!

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Sara takes the sword to an old Asian dude, who tells her she did the right thing.  She responds, “Gee, I’m shocked.  Mysterious old guy who won’t even tell me his name knows all about the mysterious old sword.”  He tells her that when it was forged, a shaman called a demon, captured its essence, and shackled it to the blade.  It gives the wielder great power, but it craves carnage, and the wielder is bound to the blade.  Sara leaves the sword with him, promising she’ll be back with more questions, and leaves.  The mysterious old guy puts the sword under his counter and the issue ends.  How odd.

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This is a weird comic, because it tells a complete story but is strangely unsatisfying.  First, the samurai ghost dude is a lousy villain, because Sara barely fights him and easily defeats him.  Sure, he’s wielding a demon-possessed sword, but he’s no match for Ms. Pezzini!  That leads back to how she defeats him.  We have no idea what that thing on her arm is or why it helps her defeat the samurai.  I get that this is issue #86 of an ongoing series, so we should know what her power is, but it’s still something to mention.  In comics where the characters might not be well-known, either the writer or the artist usually gives us a decent chance to figure out what the powers are.  Sara has some kind of thing on her arm that lets her beat ghosts.  More than Marz not explaining the powers of the thing, he doesn’t even make it clear how she beats the bad guy.  There’s a big flash and the samurai drops the sword.  He hung onto the damned thing for 400 years and a flash of light caused him to drop it?  Wow.  The whole story feels rushed, as Sara doesn’t even do any actual police work, just pokes around a bit until the bad guy shows up.  The armor is in the storeroom, so that’s a reason why it hadn’t killed anyone before, but it doesn’t make too much sense.  How did the museum acquire it?  How did they get it into the storeroom without it killing anyone?  How did it get out of the storeroom, and why didn’t it go on a rampage once it got out?  And why did Sara get rid of the sword so cavalierly?  It feels like this could have been a two-parter that would have worked much better at explaining everything.

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That being said, a first-time reader might come back for more.  The idea of a policewoman investigating weird crimes is a nice hook, and the fact that she has this mysterious armor adds a bit to the draw.  It’s interesting enough that a person might come back to find out more about this character, which is part of the point of a single issue, right?  So, although it’s not a perfect comic book by any means, Marz does a nice job at least giving us an interesting premise with an intriguing main character.  I was pleasantly surprised not to see Sara wearing that armor with hardly anything covering her.  This isn’t a very good comic, but it has a lot more potential than I would have guessed.

4 Comments

Someone recommended me the Ron Marz run on Witchblade (and only that run). As the hypothetical first-time reader that you mention, I did enjoy it and later bought the whole storyline in trade. The X-Files style “weird investigations” was a great hook and made me want to find out more about Sara and her strange powers.

It looked horrible! The drawing was just not up to standard and the samurai’s face was too western, not the more flat face of the Japanese. I was very unhappy with it and threw it away.

Wow. Most racist complaint ever.

It’s racist to point out anatomical differences? On average, Japanese have flatter faces than most other races. Would it be racist to say that an African character was colored too lightly, and thus not in line with the (on average) much darker skin tone of Africans?

If you were being ironic, Apodaca, I apologize. If you were serious in your comment, then I would suggest you have a skewed view of what “racism” actually means. Referring to the fact that the different races have differing physical characteristics, in and of itself, is not a prejudicial act. It’s just an acknowledgement that some people look different.

‘Cause you know, that’s what we mean by “race”. Some groups of people resemble each other more than they do member of other groups.

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