Darkness is spreading across the Top Cow Universe thanks to David Hine. The writer of "The Darkness" has been laying the groundwork for "Progeny," Top Cow's four-part crossover event, ever since he took over the title along with artist Jeremy Haun following the Universe-shuffling Rebirth spinning out of "Artifacts" which created a brand new status quo -- and reality -- for mainstay titles "Witchblade" and "The Darkness."
While "Artifacts" writer Ron Marz wrote the first part of the "Progeny" crossover in "Artifacts" #25 and will also tackle the final chapter in "Artifacts" #26, Hine has been the real architect of this story which features a version of Jackie Estacado threatening to destroy the world thanks to the actions Marz penned in "Artifacts" #13.
Enjoying a new world that he rebuilt, Jackie went a step further and created a copy of himself to house the Darkness, but much like his universe-rebuilding, this event started having negative consequences that threaten the very fabric of the new Top Cow Universe. That's where "Progeny" comes in with lead character Tom Judge doing his best to warn his fellow Artifact bearers about the dangers Jackie and his doppleganger present while also explaining exactly what he did to cause all this.
CBR News spoke with Hine about writing this event with Marz and "Witchblade" writer Tim Seeley, how his Rebirth stories influenced "Progeny" and how Sara reacts to the news that she once had a daughter while catching new readers up on what's been going on in his book since he took over with #101.
David Hine has been guiding "The Darkness" into "Progeny" since he took over
David Hine: It's a lot less complex than some of the crossovers I've been involved with in the past at Marvel and DC. I have a lot of contact with my fellow writers, Ron Marz on "Artifacts" and Tim Seeley on "Witchblade." We had Skype conferences where we talked the project through at length, so it was all fairly easy to put together.
For readers who might be coming into "The Darkness" with fresh eyes thanks to the crossover, can you explain a little bit about what's been happening in the series of late?
The biggest change with the Rebirth of the Top Cow Universe was the event at the end of Ron's first arc of "Artifacts." Sara Pezzini and Jackie Estacado were given a terrible choice. It looked like the only way to save the world from the threat of the gathered Artifacts was to sacrifice their child, Hope. Sara was prepared to make that sacrifice. Jackie wasn't. He found another way out.
In effect, he allowed the world to be destroyed, and then rebuilt it exactly the same as it was before -- or almost. It's typical of Jackie that he never gave in, but equally typical is the fact that he couldn't resist the temptation to play God by putting one little twist on the new universe. He brought back his long-dead girlfriend, Jenny Romano, and rewrote history so she -- and not Sara -- was Hope's mother.
So far so good. At first no one seemed to notice, but gradually anomalies have been creeping in. There are literal cracks in the universe that are allowing an ancient evil to slip back into our world. It has taken on various guises in the "Witchblade" and "Artifacts" books. In "The Darkness" we have been more explicit. We've named them the Ancient Ones and revealed that the reason for their appearance is that Jenny should not exist. She is the anomaly that is causing the cracks to appear in the fabric of the new world.
One of the major aspects of "Progeny" is seeing Tom Judge explain how Jackie recreated the universe. How will that information getting out change Jackie, if at all?
In "Progeny" we're dealing with the problem of Jenny head-on and examining the consequences of Jackie's tampering with history. Tom Judge was the first to put the facts together and he's intent on fixing things by making Jackie reverse the process to put things back the way they were. He's the nexus of the Artifacts and he's planning to use them to force Jackie's hand. If you've been reading the "Darkness" monthly, you'll know that Jackie expelled the Darkness from his body and it created a new human form for itself. The Doppelganger is Jackie's double -- but all Darkness. Neither Tom Judge nor Sara Pezzini knows that. They assume they are dealing with the same old Jackie.
Sara finds out about Hope and Jackie recreating the universe in the "Witchblade" portion of the story. How does that play out in the "Darkness" installment of "Progeny?"
For Sara it's more complex than simply putting things back the way they were. She has been having flashbacks to her previous life. The maternal bonds with Hope are still there and once she finds out that she was Hope's mother all the memories come flooding back. The knowledge that she was willing to sacrifice Hope's life has a terrible psychological impact on her leaving her feeling unworthy and inadequate as a mother.
An interesting aspect of this story is that the heroes are facing an enemy in Jackie who literally built the world and knows where all the old gods are. How can the heroes hope to defeat him?
In the "Darkness" segment of the story we see Tom Judge and Tilly Grimes taking advantage of Jackie's absence to enter the Estacado estate, where Tilly discovers just how screwed up everything is. If they don't fix things the entire fabric of the universe will unravel, the fractures will continue to grow and all manner of dark forces will make their way through to our world. She also discovers that, although it was Jackie who instigated Rebirth, the key to the problem lies elsewhere. Her sense of logic leads her to an inevitable and horrifying conclusion. It's the point this story has been leading to and there will be drastic consequences that resonate far beyond the end of this crossover.
When the Doppelganger makes his appearance the ensuing battle demonstrates that the power of the Darkness has been radically enhanced. It is virtually unstoppable and if Jackie (or the Doppelganger) joins forces with the Ancient Ones then we're all doomed. The Darkness will reign over the Earth forever. That's going to give Tom Judge a hell of an incentive to get the Artifacts together to defeat the Darkness while they still can.
Is it difficult keeping such a powerful character grounded?
Not really. As the power of the Darkness has grown, Jackie has become more susceptible to his human weaknesses. He's separated from the Darkness and has become a progressively flawed character, but more interesting for that. He's losing his charisma, his control of his gang and his relationship with Hope and Jenny, and he's turning to the bottle to escape his problems. It's like "The Picture of Dorian Gray" in reverse. To begin with, the Darkness was the ugly, diseased evil that had been ejected from Jackie and resided in the basement. But the Doppelganger reversed the roles so that it's Jackie who is trapped in the basement now, wasting away, while the Doppelganger is gradually taking over his life. Equally, although Jenny is the force that is tearing the world apart, her humanity is becoming increasingly fragile as she loses her faculties in a form of dementia. So with every step towards unearthly power, the characters become correspondingly more human with all the frailties that entails.
Without giving away too much of the "Progeny" ending, how will the events of the crossover play out in the pages of "Darkness" moving forward?
I've pushed all the characters almost as far as they can go in the sense of psychological torment -- to the point of complete breakdown. After "Progeny," we have a two-part story exploring the origins of Hope's own Darkness power, called "Hope's Adventure Underground" which will be a playful, surreal and very scary take on children's fairy tales, then the next arc is "The Age of Reason" in which I'm going to give all the characters a final nudge, which will send them literally over the edge. I think some readers have been waiting to see if Jackie will finally start to really kick back and the answer is "Yes. With a vengeance!" There are going to be some heavy casualties at the end of all this.
"The Darkness" #111, the third chapter of "Progeny," is on sale now. "Progeny" concludes in "Artifacts" #26, on sale March 20.