Opening "Pandora's Box" With Levin & Hill

In the Top Cow Universe, there are thirteen dangerous Artifacts that offer their wielders incredible power. Three of these Artifacts are already widely known to comic book fans: Jackie Estacado currently holds the Darkness, while the Angelus belongs to Danielle Baptiste. The balance between the two - the Witchblade - is once again in the hands of longtime wielder Sara Pezzini after a lengthy battle to reclaim the title.

But what of the other Artifacts?

The topic is guaranteed to be explored further in Ron Marz's 13-issue maxi-series "Artifacts," which kicks off in July, but two of the lesser known Artifacts are getting their time in the spotlight a bit earlier thanks to "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box," February's new Top Cow miniseries written by Rob Levin and Bryan Edward Hill with art from Alessandro Vitti. CBR News spoke with Levin and Hill to learn more.

"Pandora's Box" will tell the tale of two characters introduced in Marz's previous "Broken Trinity" event, Michael Finnigan and Glorianna Silver, better known as the wielders of the Ember Stone and the Glacier Stone, two of the fabled thirteen artifacts that are, like the Darkness and the Angelus, diametrically opposed. "As far back as anyone can remember, the wielders of these Stones have been going at it; mortal enemies who want nothing more than to destroy the other," Levin told CBR. "The Glacier Stone is a force of destruction, and the Ember Stone, one of creation."

"The obvious point is that one is born of fire and one is born of ice," added Hill. "Historically, there have been bearers of these stones and they've fought each other for dominance. They manage to destroy each other, the stones find other bearers and the battle continues. What's really interesting here is that we're living in a very secular and grounded time. This is the age of technology, not magic. Superstitions are killed every day by Google and Wikipedia. For Finn and Glori, they both have to look at not only the history of the stones, but the age they're living in and how that affects the conflict."

Just as the two stones are in direct opposition, so too are their respective wielders, who couldn't possibly be any more different. "Finn's a Northern Irish gunner, exiled to America, whose life was always very grounded in that world. When the Curator bestowed the Glacier Stone upon him in the original ['Broken Trinity'] miniseries, it really changed everything he knew and opened his eyes to a totally different world. He's out of his element," described Levin. "Glori is a woman bred to wield the Ember Stone, so she's following the path she's been trained for. She's closing in on her purpose, as she believes it to be. Unlike Finn, she's known about the stones and the other Artifacts, and she's much more worldly. She has money, power and influence. He's small potatoes, she's big fish, to toss some strange metaphors out there."

As is often said, however, opposites attract, which is the case with Finn and Glori...at least to a degree. "In terms of commonalities, even though Finnegan and Glorianna are destined to be enemies, they also understand each other in a way no one else can," said Hill. "Their relationship isn't just that they fight each other because they're supposed to - fans are too smart for that. Readers can expect Glorianna and Finnegan's relationship across the course of this series to continually get redefined by the events they suffer, the things they learn about themselves and the nature of the prophecy that drives them both."

One thing that the writers are actively planning to avoid is a relationship between Finn and Glori that is even remotely similar to the one shared by Sara Pezzini and Jackie Estacado, who themselves oscillate between friend and foe with some frequency. "We didn't want to give readers a lesser version of Sara and Jackie, so we did a lot fleshing out of Glori and Finn in our notes to make them interesting and original on their own," said Hill. "If you're Glori, you've been filled with stories about the bearers of the Ember and Glacier stones waging epic battles and destroying each other, neither one claiming the world. She's not eager to be another tale in the legend of the stone. She wants to win. She wants Finn's stone. She wants to unify the power and have the legend end with her victory. What Finn will learn from Glori is that there are many ways to defeat someone, and fighting is only one of them. Finn isn't a student of this history. He's not even sure he wants the power and the responsibility that comes with it. How would you feel if suddenly you're given something, and now you're told that you have to wage a war against a woman you've barely met? Finn's struggling to decide how to think about all of it, even though every day he's forced to make a life-changing decision based on this new power."

For the writers of "Pandora's Box," working on Finn and Glori provides a unique opportunity to delve deeply into two characters that, despite their previous appearances, are still largely unknown to the Top Cow readership. "Coming onto characters with only a handful of appearances lets us do more with them," said Levin. "They're like unfired clay. We can still shape them a bit before we put them in the oven, and this series is going to be that oven. Ron did his thing tapping into what could be quickly communicated about each character in limited space, but this series gives us a chance to really put our stamp on them and make them real people as opposed to just interesting guest stars."

While Finn and Glori are at the center of "Pandora's Box," they're certainly not alone. Glori is aided by Wulgar, a guide of sorts, previously introduced by Hill in the "Broken Trinity: Aftermath" one-shot, while Finn will interact with a character called Kenshin Kawakami, a former Japanese military man with some ties to the Artifacts and the mysterious Curator. "He's like this burrito filled with all things awesome and cool - part samurai, part student of the mystic, part philosopher," described Hill. "We meet him while he's in seclusion in Japan, and the interplay between Kenshin and Finn gets more and more rewarding across the series. Swords, guns, magic - the only thing missing is Kate Moss."

"Speaking of Kate Moss, since she's clearly the arch-nemesis of all things pop-culture, let's talk villains for a second," Hill continued. "We did a lot of very disturbing research to make our villains not only a danger to Glori and Finn, but to the narrative world overall. One of the themes that readers will see us engage is the danger of belief - when it's placed in the wrong cause or the wrong leader. Looking into the eyes of zealotry is a terrifying experience, and through our villains, we're going to subject Glori and Finn to the rancid heart of that fear."

As dangerous and powerful as the cast of "Pandora's Box" might be, there's no telling just how dangerous the other Artifacts are, as well. While Hill and Levin were cautious not to comment on the exploration of the rest of the Artifacts in the pages of "Pandora's Box," they hinted that there could well be a balance between the Ember and Glacier Stones, much like the Witchblade is between the Darkness and the Angelus. Whether or not further Artifacts are uncovered in this miniseries, however, the topic will be explored further in Ron Marz's upcoming series. While "Pandora's Box" will certainly have ties to "Artifacts," the writers promised that the enjoyment of their miniseries won't hinge upon the continuation of the next Top Cow event - though, if they are successful, Hill and Levin's work should leave readers craving more.

"It's bad form to tell a story that doesn't finish properly on its own," said Levin. "I'm not talking about ambiguous endings or leaving a door open for more, but specifically when your enjoyment of a story is put on hold or dependent upon another. This is going to be a complete story whether you've read every Top Cow book ever or if this is your first taste. You'd be foolish not to pick up 'Artifacts' if you like how we're putting it down here, but this could easily be its own thing. It's tight and contained, but it's absolutely tied into everything that Ron and the gang at Top Cow are planning."

"Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box" #1, written by Rob Levin and Bryan Edward Hill and illustrated by Alessandro Vitti, arrives in stores on February 17, 2010.

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