First Born #2
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Stjepan Sejic
Cover by Dale Keown (A), Stjepan Sejic (B)
Letters by Troy Peteri
Top Cow Productions
Cover price: $2.99; On-sale: Sept. 26, 2007
Since everyone has to have their own big summer event, Top Cow brings us First Born, a tale set to shake the very foundations of the Top Cow universe and make sure that nothing is ever the same!! If I sound a bit cynical, it’s only because I’ve been around comics long enough to have seen all this before. It probably doesn’t help that outside of the first few issues of The Darkness, I’ve never been a big reader of the Top Cow line of books. I’m sure fans of these books are anticipating this mini and probably enjoyed the first issue [see review here]. Non-fans might have less reason to pick this up, although it’s not completely without merit. The event smacks of a “Me too” attitude that crashed these kinds of things in the late 90s. How many event minis did Wildstorm produce in their heyday, and how many of those does anyone actually remember as being any good? With so many things going on at Marvel and DC, it’s hard to see any other companies jumping on as anything but a cash grab.
There are apparently three major forces at work in the universe: The Darkness, found in the person of Jackie Estacado, a mob boss and general anti-hero; then there’s the Angelus, the forces of light, that are all angels who kick a lot of ass (is there any other kind of angel in comics?) Between the two forces is the Witchblade, formerly belonging to the now-pregnant Sara Pezzini, now belonging to Dani Baptiste. The first issue showed the forces gathering around, with the Angelus finding a new host, and a bunch of angels going after Jackie, forcing him to seek out Sara and reveal that he believes he is the father of her child.
This issue focuses on Jackie and Sara as they talk about how he may have impregnated her, until they get attacked by the forces of the Angelus. Really, that’s about all that happens. I’d say it’s a little light on plot, really not all that much happens but it’s a big explanation story, which I’m assuming pays off a good deal of Witchblade stories. It’s a little less inviting for new readers. Through the first two issues, I’d say this series is more for fans of the regular books. It’s not unfriendly to new readers; I could figure out what was going on, what each character’s relationship to other characters was, and what the stakes of the series was. It’s more of a matter of my level of caring about the events and relationships, which is low. It doesn’t grab me and force me to go back and find old issues of the series, but if I was a little more interested, I could see myself checking these books out. The biggest complaint about the story, both in this issue and the previous issue, is the cameos from other Top Cow books. The first issue had a pointless scene with Cyberforce, and this issue sees an equally pointless scene which amounts to the cast of Hunter/Killer saying “Oh look, the plot of this book is flying right over us. Isn’t that neat?” It stinks of editorial mandate that every character they own must be included.
The art also has good points and bad points. It is beautifully designed. Artist Stjepan Sejic uses a computer painted style that works well for these characters. There are some pages that are just a marvel to look at. Any scene with Jackie in full-on Darkness mode is awesome, as Sejic makes the armor and all the little darklings look very alien and terrifying. The forces of the Angelus are equally impressive with the computer coloring bringing brightness to those characters that plays well off of the Darkness. The contrast between the light and the dark works in the art to reinforce the plot of the book. The only problem is that the design of the book comes at the expense of emotion. The characters are largely lifeless on the page, and it’s particularly bad in this issue which has a good bit of talking head pages. There’s just nothing going on in the faces of the characters. The fight scenes look pretty but there’s no dynamism to them, they just kind of sit there on the page which is a large detriment to the story as the action kicks into high gear later in the issue. Keeping the design exciting while showing the emotions of the characters is a tough balancing act that very few comic painters can pull off, but I can usually enjoy the work if it’s exciting enough. The pages with The Darkness on them though, damn.
So, I’d give this a solid 3 out of 5. If I was a regular reader, I’d probably give it another point. It’s very solid, has some fantastic art that is brought down by lifeless characters, and a decent enough story. If you’re a big follower of Top Cow’s books though, I’m sure you’re already sucked into this, and there should be plenty for you to enjoy.