Witchblade was created during the genesis of Image Comics. It was unabashedly a product of the 90’s, where edgy darkness and large bosoms abound. I never really got into Witchblade, as my preference in well-endowed women was of the Japanese variety at the time. As a result, I knew precious little about Witchblade and its lore, mostly through related material and second hand information. I had briefly played the Darkness II video game, starring the embodiment of darkness and its host, Jackie Estacado. I knew one of Marvel’s newest characters, Angela, was once part of the Angelus, the world’s righteous incarnate of light. I was even vaguely aware there was a loose anime adaptation. For all intents and purposes, I was a Witchblade noob and I was content with being one.
My interest in Witchblade piqued when I heard indie comic creator, Stjepan Šejić, was going to be involved in a new project involving the property. I knew he worked with the world of Witchblade before (Aphrodite IX) but I was a greater fan of his creator-owned work, Sunstone and Death Vigil. The former was a sex comedy that delved into the trials and tribulations of the little known world of BDSM; the latter was a fantasy action book that chronicled Death’s harrowing (yet often hilarious) crusade against eldritch abominations. Switch was definitely something I looked forward to.
Switch opens with delightfully amusing exposition, setting up the central premise of the book. Similar to the Slayers of the Buffyverse, there are multiple wielders of the Witchblade throughout time, dating as far back as the Paleolithic era. This time, however, the Witchblade doesn’t choose a warrior, queen, a cowboy or a samurai. Through either fate or chance, it chooses Mary – an ordinary girl – when agents of the Darkness tried acquire the Witchblade in their unending war against the Angelus.
As a typical teenager whose most pressing concerns were zits and bullies, Mary is a welcome change from the usual buxom babes of the franchise. It’s a refreshing take, juxtaposing the troubles of adolescence against the responsibilities of being the host of an ancient and powerful artifact. She has the know-it-all attitude of most teens her age that is both sympathetic and infuriating, in addition to be somewhat introverted and kinda nerdy. Normally, such traits spells doom for a neophyte warrior, but the Witchblade holds a ace up its sleeve – the spirit of everyone who ever used it. And boy, will Mary need it when faced with the array of foes arranged against her.
The aforementioned Darkness also has a new host in Tony Estacado, who, coincidentally, was also once a childhood friend of Mary. Unlike the Witchblade, the Darkness is passed through the Estacado bloodline and will possess Tony by the age of 21. Until then, he is under the watchful protection of a dapper Mayan monk and a blonde ninja. Opposing the Darkness, the fearsome armies of the Angelus view the Witchblade as a tool and views Mary as a nuisance. Lastly, there is the mysterious broker who possessed the Witchblade prior to the events of this comic. It’s clear that Mary has a long journey ahead of her. That, and the rest of high school.
Switch’s plot and characters are one thing, but the fantastic art is the real star of the show. For me, one of Šejić’s greatest strengths are use of distinct facial expressions and mastery of body language. He perfectly captures subtle movements, grand gestures and imposing auras. A combination of cartoonish caricatures and attention to detail allows him to depict the sarcastic smile of Mary’s best friend to the desperate gasping of an embattled mentor. His character and monster designs are superb, supported by great color schemes. Seeing his previous work, Šejić’s also challenging himself as an artist like improving the details in his backgrounds. However, he is still somewhat prone to succumbing to “same-face” syndrome when you look at his series of works as a whole. Sejic’s witty dialogue rounds out a very impressive product.
Overall, I believe Switch is a great entry point into the world of Witchblade for readers of all types. The exposition is light and it requires almost no prior knowledge of the franchise. Mary, and even Tony, are relatable characters in a world of immortal priests, celestial generals, and everything in between. The plot may start simple but it has lots of opportunity to grow in future issues. The banter is sharp. The art shows a fluidity of motion and expression that makes Šejić an artist to watch out for in the years to come.
If you want to purchase Switch #1, ask your local comic store or visit comixology.com! Switch #2 comes out in November 2015.
Author’s Note: Subsequent research places the Switch in it’s own continuity, separate from the core Top Cow Universe of the Witchblade, while still utilizing its elements and characters.