WITCHBLADE #5 by Caitlin Kitteredge, Roberta Ingranata, and Bryan Valenza
Despite a few confusing plot lines and character moments, WITCHBLADE #5 is the most cohesive and strongest entry in the current run. With a fantastically re-imagined costume and a straightforward, action-packed narrative, this is a must read for Image fans.
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Sometimes, we cannot escape our worst moment. For Alex Underwood, her entire character stems from several traumatic experiences. In many ways, these moments have only had passing mention throughout the new WITCHBLADE series by Caitlin Kitteredge. However, everything changes in WITCHBLADE #5. Suddenly, Alex is forced to relive the scariest moments of her past traumas in a sort of psychological prison. Now, with demons coming to infest New York, Alex has to break free and learn to play nice with her mystical Artifact. However, can she control it in time? Or will the demons of New York continue their reign of fear?

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The Shadow World

WITCHBLADE #5, Page 1. Courtesy of Image Comics

I have really deeply enjoyed Caitlin Kitteredge’s run on WITCHBLADE thus far. Her focus on this intensely powerful female protagonist feels so satisfying with every issue. However, because the Witchblade deals with the supernatural, some of the plot elements have felt somewhat confusing. Kitteredge likes to delve into strange psychedelic sequences, and sometimes these leave me with more questions than answers. The same can be said for WITCHBLADE #5. The beginning sequence, especially, focuses on the deepest aspects of Alex’s mind, and sometimes the explanations we get are just not enough. At other times, certain scene transitions lose some weight as the reader tries to readjust to their new setting.

With that said, though, WITCHBLADE #5 suffers the least from this problem. In fact, compared to previous issues, this story has the most clear and compact narrative of the series thus far. Besides the two brief instances I mentioned, I had no trouble discerning place or time. I love the gritty, nuanced world that Kitteredge explores throughout, including the depths of the corrupt police force. Everything from the fantastical demon possessions to the grounded crime investigation flows together better than ever before. In many ways, this story works so well that I can look past the little hiccups in clarity. Kitteredge seems to experiment with each new issue of WITCHBLADE, and I can really respect the chances she takes.

Deep in the Mind

WITCHBLADE #5, Page 2. Courtesy of Image Comics

Looking at Alex’s character, I find myself torn. On the one hand, Kitteredge manages to delve deeper into Alex than we have seen before. While we know she has suffered greatly in the past, the depth of that pain forces Alex to hide those emotions away. In WITCHBLADE #5, though, we get to look through a few cracks in her armor. This new look feels profound on the surface, especially since we watch her have to relive the horrible events of her past. However, I feel like I have more questions than answers at the moment. We are told on the first page of this issue that Alex was kidnapped at one point in her life. This is an intriguing detail. However, we barely get any more information about this to make it truly relevant.

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I do have to give Kitteredge credit, though. While this characterization point does fall away, it still manages to inform the themes of this issue. Alex stumbles upon a human trafficking ring in her city. While Alex doesn’t reflect on the similarities to her own situation, the thematic implications here are so obvious. A lot of time, characterization simply falls to the wayside, acting as an opportunity to learn about the character without truly affecting plot. The sign of a great storyteller, though, is the ability to mirror a character’s personal struggles with those she sees in the world. While we don’t get enough about Alex as of yet, I am still happy with the way her past intermingles with her present.

Donning the Armor

WITCHBLADE #5, Page 3. Courtesy of Image Comics

I have gone on record in previous reviews by saying that Roberta Ingranata is one of my favorite modern artists. Her work on WITCHBLADE has been incredibly high energy and beautifully orchestrated. I can say all of that again here, as nothing has changed. However, I do want to talk about the final reveal of the Witchblade armor. In previous iterations of the costume, it was a skimpy bikini built from thousands of spikes. It left little to the imagination. However, Ingranata changed the game with the new costume. The black and green full-body suit looks incredibly badass and it perfectly fits the gritty supernatural world. More importantly, it updates that former skimpy armor while simultaneously paying homage to it with the spiky vines that wrap around Alex.

Bryan Valenze joins Ingranata on colors again, and I have to repeat how incredible his work on the series has been. It isn’t simply the colors of characters’ costumes or the setting. It is the entire atmosphere surrounding the characters. Every page is filled with this blue-green haze that has no real purpose than to give the scene an emotion. For me, it feels so much like a supernatural story for this reason. Perhaps it is my own context from the HARRY POTTER films and the green light of Avada Kedavra. However, it seems to fit the story and give it that slightly horror edge that it needs.

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Final Thoughts: WITCHBLADE #5

WITCHBLADE #5 has its issues. Certain points within its plot are a bit confusing in context, and some of the characterization leaves a bit to be desired. However, this issue is one of the best in the series thus far. Kitteredge, Ingranata, and Valenza have hit their stride, giving readers a cohesive and exciting plot. I am very excited to see how this first arc concludes, and I cannot wait to see more of the updated Witchblade costume.

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