I had to go back through my saved documents to see when the previous issue was released. It seems to me like it had been a while, but I needed to check, as I could still remember what happened in the first issue with sparkling clarity. As it turns out, issue #1 came out in July, and the story is still locked into my mind. Marz is building a saga: a world-changing, landscape-sweeping carnage-filled adventure that is sure to alter the composition of the Top Cow characters Marz has been so prolific in reinvigorating.
There's a lot of teeth-gnashing, breast-beating, and hand-wringing in this issue. There's also a large amount of posturing and swearing. That swearing and posturing defines who the characters are and where they align, making this issue as approachable and informative as the first issue. Marz grounds this story with real world problems on an epic scale, being handled by people who have abilities beyond the ken of mortal men. Jackie Estacado shows up in this issue and there is no denying that he means business, on both a personal and professional level. Marz interrupts an everyday occurrence for Jackie with a personal calamity - the disappearance of Estacado's daughter. Jackie's reaction to the news and his choices immediately following the news of his daughter's disappearance are easy to imagine.
As I mentioned in the last review, Broussard's work is stunning and keenly detailed. His style is incomparable to anyone else, as there's a little bit of Leinil Francis Yu, a little Mike Mignola, and a little P. Craig Russell. Broussard's art defies comparison to any one of those other artists individually and is integral and perfectly suited for this story. While I was already impressed with Broussard's work on this series, the familial resemblance shared by Sara Pezzini and her daughter as well as Pezzini's aunt isn't simply an artist drawing three of the same person. Broussard draws a commonality to the three women, feature characteristics shared in the eyes and nose.
The players are taking their spots on stage - or are they pawns on a chessboard? - and this story is starting to take some shape. Unlike massive events at other companies, this event book appears to be self-contained and self-powered. Everything a reader needs to know to truly understand and enjoy the story of "Artifacts" is here, in this issue and the previous. No massive tie-in checklist, simply a strong story that propels the characters into a tense story that begs to be read.
The issue is rounded off with a set of profiles for the new characters (to this series at least) that pop up in this issue and an additional two-page origin of Darkness with great art from Dale Keown.
This issue, like the one before it, offers a fresh, exciting read with some compelling characters. Top Cow has a winner here in "Artifacts" as a new trail is blazed for these characters and their universe. Marz is putting just enough new characters and concepts in each issue to leave room for development, action, and evolution. It's a refreshing break from the standard fare on the new comic racks nowadays. This is that new comic that you've been looking for, that breath of four-color fresh air that is big and bold, but detached from excessive crossover muddling.