"Artifacts: Deluxe Edition" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Top Cow Productions
Originally published as Artifacts #0 - #13 & Artifacts: Origins
Written by Ron Marz
Illustrated by Stjepan Sejic, Michael Broussard, Whilce Portacio, Jeremy Haun, and Dale Keown
2012, 448 Pages
Graphic Novel released on August 7th, 2012
"Big Event" books have dominated the comic landscape for the past few years. Each event promises to radically alter the status quo but all it really ends up doing is leading into the next big stunt. Rarely do the changes made in one of these titles have any lasting impact to the universe as a whole. Then there's Artifacts. The Top Cow Universe has existed for some time and has cultivated a rich mythology beginning with the Witchblade, an ancient weapon that is meant to balance the forces of good (The Angelus) and evil (The Darkness). These were the main three artifacts, but there are thirteen in total. If they are ever brought together, the universe would end. Can you guess where this series is going?
It's pretty clear from the start that the endgame is to bring these powerful items together and see what happens. I came into the book as a Top Cow novice, so there were a few things that I wasn't up to speed on. Fortunately, author Ron Marz provides extensive recaps of the players and props involved in the story. You don't have to wonder what the Heart Stone is or who Danielle Baptiste is because it's spelled out in a very organic way. The comic opens with the cyborg Aprhodite being awakened and sent on a mission that sets the entire series in motion. Her master fills her in on the details of what she should expect and as a result, provides the reader with all the information needed.
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Artifacts starts out strong with some key players making their initial moves. Before long, there are two very clear cut teams. You've got the people that want to end this universe and create a new one and you have the folks that want to prevent that from happening. This is also known as the good guys and the bad guys. In an effort to capture the artifacts of the opposing side, the two groups end up fighting a lot. Many punches are thrown. Countless bullets are shot. Minor characters are killed. This makes Artifacts look like any other event book.
So what sets it apart? For starters, the good guys aren't all that good to begin with. One of the heavy hitters on that side is Jackie Estacado, the wielder of the Darkness and head of a mafia clan. Sure he's got a kid with Witchblade bearer Sara Pezzini, but fatherhood has not softened his bloodlust when it comes to his enemies. Also along for the ride is Tom Judge. He's a defrocked priest who holds the artifact known as the Rapture. Tom popped back on earth after spending some time in Hell.
The fact that these characters are deeply flawed doesn't give you a lot of hope that they'll succeed in preventing the end of the universe. They can barely have a conversation with one another, let alone work together to save everything and everyone. Marz is playing for keeps with Artifacts. Since these initial 13 issues were released over a year ago, the Top Cow Universe has remained drastically changed. The events of this arc had some major consequences on the characters and their world. I'm obviously not going to spoilt things here, but suffice it to say, the phrase "nothing will be the same" is actually true in this case.
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The art duties for Artifacts were split up between some big name talents. Stjepan Sejic kicked off the title with the introduction issue. This is where all of the initial information is given. I would read a comic about bran muffins if it was drawn by Sejic and probably love it (and get a lot of fiber). The guy can draw like no one else in the business.
That's not to say that the rest of the artists aren't top notch. It's just that the bar is set pretty high from the onset. The other artists handle the main thirteen issues like a relay race. Michael Broussard, Whilce Portacio, Jeremy Haun, and Dale Keown draw the book in that order. Each of their styles complements one another, so it never feels like a drastic change when the baton is passed from one artist to another. Broussard's work looks like a mix between that of Portacio and Haun. Keown stands out with very clean layouts. He closes out the title with pages that are centered entirely on Sara, Jackie, and their daughter Hope. These are the most emotional sections of the entire book.
Broussard, Portacio, and Haun each bring in some huge action scenes. At times there are over a dozen characters on the page, but none of these battles are confusing or hard to follow. They're just very fun to look at. They know when to pull back to a full page or double page spread which lets the art breathe.
Artifacts is an event comic that matters. Whether you're a long time Top Cow fan or just starting out, you can dive into this book and feel right at home. Marz gets right to the heart of these characters, specifically Sara and Jackie. It forces them to make a choice that affects not only their family but the universe as a whole. How far would you go to save the world? What would you sacrifice?