By David Hine, Gabriel Rearte & Betsy Gonia
What a way to kick off the nineteenth anniversary of Witchblade. Right from the start you know that this arc is not going to hold anything back, and that’s of course because Jackie Estacado is dead. The solicit gives the death away as does the arc’s title, The Death of Jackie Estacado, thus preventing it from being a spoiler, especially when you see the opening few pages, but the key element of this series is not the surprise. It’s not about what happened. It’s about how it happened, and who’s responsible, and David Hine, Gabriel Rearte and Betsy Gonia are about to reveal all in what has turned out to be a very strong first issue for the arc.
There’s no more Ron Marz on the book, at least for this arc, and in steps David Hine who becomes the first writer who is not Marz to write on this book that has been read by this reviewer. There isn’t any distinctive change to be had here in terms of writing style and they flow together pretty consistently indeed, and you certainly get the feeling that it’s still the same characters and the same universe. What you’re also presented with is the feel that this is going to be more than just your average two issue arc (although, having not looked at the solicits ahead of this issue for Witchblade, this could be wrong), because Jackie Estacado doesn’t play much of a role when the issue switches back to the scenes before his death.
Instead, it opens with the arrival of Aram the Witch King arriving at Sara’s house, and the result pretty much spirals out of control from there with Jackie being the key subject of discussion. It’s an interesting way to start the arc as well, with its managing to appeal not only to relatively new readers (however, it’s worth pointing out, that this might not be the best first issue for Witchblade fans. Those who are new enough to have built up a basic understanding of the Witchblade world should be fine though), but also fans of the comic who have been following it for a long term.
With the loss of Laura Braga to Superior Iron Man, Gabriel Rearte steps in for pencilling duties and pulls off an impressive display. Whilst they aren’t as strong straight out of the gate, it isn’t long before you’ll get used to Rearte’s work, which, makes use of some clear, concise panel layouts to the table that make the book simple and easy to understand. Rearte also impresses in not just the bigger moments of the comic but also the larger scale scenes but also the smaller, less important ones that achieve a strong element that’s mostly consistent. And when you throw in the ever reliable Betsy Gonia to the colours, you know that you’re in for a good ride going forward with the creative team getting the arc of to a very strong start indeed.
It’s safe to say then, that Witchblade #180 is a great start to celebrate the nineteenth anniversary of the series. David Hine, Gabriel Rearte & Betsy Gonia work well together to create an excellent new arc that will explore the death of Jackie Estacado hopefully to its maximum potential. There’s plenty of room for this story to progress from here and it’ll be very interesting to see what’s on the horizon next month, and the cliffhanger ending will surely have readers coming back for more.