WITCHBLADE #4 by Caitlin Kittredge, Roberta Ingranata, and Bryan Valenza
Despite suffering from a confusing plot, WITCHBLADE #4 continues to shine a brilliant spotlight on Alex Underwood's character, as well as the stunning art by Roberta Ingranata and Bryan Valenza.
77 %
Dreamy, but Strange
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Readers have had many questions since Image’s imprint, Top Cow, rebooted their popular WITCHBLADE series. With new lead Alex Underwood, fans have wondered how or if this story fits into the Top Cow Universe. I have waited patiently for these answers, if only because Alex is a great character. Writer Caitlin Kittredge has worked tirelessly to make Alex just as complex as her predecessor in only a fraction of the time. Thankfully, this week’s release of WITCHBLADE #4 continues this trend of fantastic characterization, while also delving deeper into the wider universe. With so much exposition, though, does this story still feel cohesive?

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After an intensive, painful training session with Ash, Alex turns to other sources to discover more about her mystical weapon. Meanwhile, in returning to work, Alex continues to investigate the murder of a young New York girl. These two disparate aspects of her life collide, though, when the girl’s possessed mother rages onto the scene. Calling on the full power of the Witchblade, can Alex defeat the woman’s possessing demon? Or will she end up dead again?

A  Glimpse of Character

Witchblade #4
WITCHBLADE #4, Page 1. Courtesy of Image Comics

WITCHBLADE #4 shines as a character story. Kittredge manages to paint a well-rounded portrait of Alex Underwood. Even if certain aspects of her past are still strangely unclear, her present-self comes across well. Alex feels utterly relatable. I think her strongest aspect, though, is that she has flaws. She gets a bit cocky throughout the book, and that damns her in certain instances. This leads to a character that feels human. It also pushes the plot in interesting directions, especially as conflicts arise around Alex’s flaws. I still need to know more about her history, as it plays heavily into her present. However, I am willing to wait a bit longer for this amazing character.

While we get a clear view of Alex, I didn’t feel like the rest of the cast got the same treatment. Ash still seems like a guarded mentor figure with no other defining characteristic. The ghost Natalie, who died in the previous issue, adds almost nothing to the plot. She supposedly reminds Alex of her motivations, but there aren’t any particularly memorable scenes between the two. Natalie mostly just floats around in the background. The only person with any sense of strong characterization is Majil. He has a very set and potent personality from the start. However, he isn’t on the page long enough for me to truly care about his role. They all have the makings of potentially deep characters but, without some legwork, they just feel like extras right now.

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Hyperspeed Storytelling

WITCHBLADE #4, Page 2. Courtesy of Image Comics

As I mentioned, Kittredge uses WITCHBLADE #4 to answer some long-awaited questions. Through the events of this story, we learn how Alex is tied to the other Artifacts and the overarching Top Cow universe. On this front, Kittredge does just enough to assuage any worries. I liked the very brief summary included and though I think readers will want more, it works well enough to catch newbies up. More importantly, this new exposition never overshadows the more important events of the story or of Alex’s portrayal.

In terms of the story beats, I found WITCHBLADE #4 lacking. The individual moments within the story worked. Kittredge choreographs the fight scenes well, and the images of Alex with the ghost girl haunted me. Something gets lost though. The transitions between scenes made almost no sense. The reader bounces from moment to moment with almost no context. The most coherent section of this story is a dream sequence. That scene, set near the very end, felt more grounded. Perhaps this because it focuses solely on Alex’s mental state. However, the rest of the story feels much more dreamlike. This dreamy feel works for certain scenes, but Kittredge keeps it going for far too long.

The Full Power of the Witchblade

Witchblade #4
Witchblade #4, Page 3. Courtesy of Image Comics

Despite these issues in plotting, I would still highly recommend WITCHBLADE #4 on the sole merit of the art. Roberta Ingranata and Bryan Valenza continue to bring a gritty, energetic style to this series. In any other story, Ingranata’s art would look like a cartoon (in a very good way) but, set in this world and with the brilliant colors of Valenza, it works well for this setting. At its core, WITCHBLADE is an urban fantasy series, meaning that the surreal has to mix with the real. I think that’s why Ingranata and Valenza work so well together. Ingranata’s work seems almost magical, while Valenza thrusts readers back into the dark Brooklyn alleyways.

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My one issue with the art has nothing to do with this creative team. Rather, it has to do with the original WITCHBLADE comics. The comic by Marc Silvestri, while hosting one of the greatest female characters in Sara Pezzini, has a horrible costume design for the heroine. The Witchblade’s tentacle-like blades wrap around her body JUST enough. Later versions of her costume were much better, allowing readers to focus on the character instead of her body. In WITCHBLADE #4, the artists portray Alex using the weapon’s full power for the first time. However, instead of revamping the costume for modern times, they kept it nearly identical to the first design. I get the desire to pay homage to the source but some things are better left in the past.

Final Thoughts: WITCHBLADE #4

While not as strong as the first three issues of the series, WITCHBLADE #4 is still an entertaining read. The plot suffers from some strange scene transitions and a lack of exposition. Still, the main murder case really only acts as the base for this story’s strongest aspect. Alex Underwood is one of the best characters in comics today, and Kittredge manages to make that clearer with every episode. Pair that with some fantastic art by Ingranata and Valenza, and you have a story worth your time and money.

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