By Ron Marz, Maan House & Betsy Gonia
Witchblade #176 is a oneshot issue that sees Sheriff Sara Pezzini, bearer of the Witchblade, and her ally Deputy Rooney investigate missing boys at an abandoned circus in this relatively simple story, that – whilst basic, works as a nice standalone story that can be read and understood quite easily. It’s an intriguing mystery and while it’s not overly complex, Marz is able to make it entertaining enough to keep the reader hooked and continue to tell a compelling story even if there are no straightforward plot advancements this issue.
Maan House takes over artistic duties from Laura Braga and whilst House doesn’t quite live up to the brilliance of Braga, his work manages to be more than satisfactory. Like Dark Horse’s Star Wars Legacy, it seems that Witchblade has a good selection of artistic talent to call upon, and House establishes a dark tone of this issue, with the mood very tense indeed. The haunted feel of the Circus is made all the more atmospheric by the colours of Betsy Gonia, which just go from strength to strength.
Unfortunately, this issue has a problem with pacing. It doesn’t feel like a smooth transition and there are several parts that don’t fit in well with the overall consistency of the title. However, that’s one of the few weaknesses that this issue suffers from, and aside from the fact that there isn’t anything really original here, with abandoned circus stories cropping up in a variety of mediums in the past, it’s a good enough read to keep you entertained and tide you over until the next issue hits shelves.
In the overall scheme of things, Witchblade #176 is a relatively solid issue. While it may be predictable, Ron Marz offers some great dialogue and the artwork from House allows for this book to have a very dark tone and feel. At times, the title feels like a jumping on point for new readers, and you don’t have to be familiar with the rest of the series to know what’s going on. So as a result this book can come recommended.