Walking The Road To Top Cow's "Artifacts"

In the Top Cow Universe, there are thirteen different Artifacts that hold significant power over the fate of mankind, and it is prophesized that bringing all thirteen together would instigate an event so catastrophic as to literally herald the end of the world. Unfortunately for the denizens of this universe, that's exactly what is happening in the pages of "Artifacts," the publisher's upcoming 13-issue maxi-series written by Ron Marz that's set to launch this summer. While the potential apocalypse is still quite a ways from being realized, Top Cow has no shortage of plans to prepare their readership for the events of "Artifacts." CBR News spoke with Marz and Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik about the company's plans for the build-up to "Artifacts" and beyond.

"The basic premise of the series is the basic premise of the Top Cow Universe," Marz told CBR of the plot for "Artifacts." "We've had this ongoing background story that there are thirteen Artifacts of power in the Top Cow Universe. The Witchblade is an Artifact and the Darkness is an Artifact, the Spear of Destiny that Magdalena has is an Artifact. It's been this background mythology, so 'Artifacts' is thirteen issues that bring all of it to the front. We'll reveal all of the Artifacts - two are still unrevealed - and one of the background elements is that if all thirteen Artifacts are brought together, it means the end of the world. So, what we're going to do is bring all of them together."

"It's a pretty organic outgrowth of the stories we've been telling for a number of years," added Sablik. "Internally, we've had the idea of the thirteen Artifacts established for a number of years, so it was always something in the back of our heads. After 'Broken Trinity,' [Top Cow's President] Matt Hawkins suggested we finally lay our cards on the table and give fans the fully monty, so to speak. Ron was the natural and only choice to write the series."

As an all-expansive crossover project, fans can expect appearances from most of the major Top Cow players, but there are two in particular taking center stage. "It's very much a story about the two main characters in the Top Cow Universe, Sara Pezzini and Jackie Estacado," said Marz. "I'm all for big, epic sweeping stories, and right now, comics is rife with these huge multi-part crossovers. But if there isn't an emotional content and some real character stuff at the center of that story, I think it all becomes like a Michael Bay movie, all blood and thunder that doesn't amount to anything. The emotional core of the story is Sara and Jackie, who are the parents of Sara's daughter Hope. Without giving too much away, a fair portion of the story is focused on who or what Hope really is and what she means to the Top Cow Universe."

Seeing as Jackie, Sara and their daughter have such prominent roles in "Artifacts," it's reasonable to expect some build-up to the maxi-series to occur in both "Witchblade" and "The Darkness," though that might not begin immediately. "For the next few months, 'Witchblade' and 'Darkness' will continue as they are," said Marz. "As 'Artifacts' gets ramped up, it'll be a fairly long series because we're going for thirteen issues, and as things play out in 'Artifacts,' they'll be reflected in the main books, but not in such a way that one doesn't make sense without the other."

But the story extends beyond just Sara, Jackie and Hope. According to Sablik, readers can walk the road to "Artifacts" by reading two of the company's latest miniseries. "Obviously there will be elements seeded in 'Witchblade' and 'The Darkness,' but we're also laying the groundwork in 'Angelus' and 'Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box,'" he said. "'Angelus' will do a lot to make [Danielle Baptiste] feel more like a fully fleshed out, three dimensional character, rather than just a foil for the Darkness or the Witchblade bearers. We'll also be lifting the veil back on what the Angelus means in the Top Cow Universe and why it does the things it does. And lastly, we'll be giving readers a peak at another lesser-known Artifact and a new Artifact bearer.

"In 'Pandora's Box,' we'll be getting more into what makes Finn and Glori [the respective Glacier Stone and Ember Stone bearers] tick both as people and as Artifact bearers," Sablik continued. "At the end of 'Broken Trinity,' both characters were basically tasked with tracking down and gathering the other Artifacts, so you'll see them coming to terms with that charge. Again, we'll be unveiling a new Artifact and establishing its place in the universe. I'm very excited about both series and the opportunity to build this wider, more cohesive world."

While "Angelus" and "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box" both lay groundwork towards "Artifacts," Marz insisted that they stand alone from the upcoming maxi-series. "I don't want to give the impression that this is going to turn into a 40-issue mega event like some of what Marvel and DC are doing, because that's not how we're approaching it," he said. "The 'Angelus' series is very much a standalone series. Its main purpose is to establish Dani as the Angelus, but there will be threads through the series that will come to fruition or appear again in 'Artifacts.' It's the same situation with 'Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box,' which is designed to flesh out Finn and Glori, so first and foremost, that's what it'll do. But there will be an element or two that crop up again in 'Artifacts.' Those series stand on their own and will have a beginning, middle and end, but for somebody who is reading everything, it will form a bigger tapestry if you pay attention to the details. They'll funnel some plot threads into 'Artifacts,' but they certainly stand on their own."

"Let me be perfectly clear, these series were in the plans before we even decided to do 'Artifacts,'" Sablik agreed. "They stand on their own and should be great reading experiences on their own, even for fans that don't end up reading 'Artifacts.' But as we started putting these projects together, we saw natural places where they could interconnect and build towards 'Artifacts,' so we seized the opportunity. Readers who pick up both of these series and then read 'Artifacts' will have a richer and deeper reading experience because of it. And conversely, readers interested in picking up 'Artifacts' should not feel like reading either 'Angelus' or 'Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box' are necessary to enjoy 'Artifacts,' but it will be better. It's kind of like a good cocktail before a fantastic meal. Sure, it isn't necessary, but isn't your meal better with one?"

Sticking with the meal metaphor, die-hard Top Cow fans might want to pick up "Angelus," "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box" and other "Artifacts" tie-ins so they can savor their memories of the publisher's universe as it stands - because according to Marz, the Top Cow Universe's landscape is going to change forever after the events of "Artifacts."

"I know that bit of ad copy appears on everybody's crossovers, but in this case, it's very true," teased the writer. "The plan is fairly dramatic. If we're going to tell a big world-changing story, it's going to be a world-changing story. We're going to do this and do this once - it won't be an ongoing series of earth-shattering events that each has 37 parts. I know that's a viable publishing plan for Marvel or DC with an ongoing series of shocking events, but in terms of what you're giving to the audience, it ultimately becomes the boy who cried wolf. You can only say, 'Holy shit, this is the most exciting and astounding earth-shaking event we've ever done...except for the one a few months from now' [so many times], so our thinking going into this was to not hold anything back. If we're going to do something that makes people's jaws drop, let's do it. Let's not parcel it out."

"This isn't a story we are doing because we were looking for the next big event or to correct some continuity problems, but because organically, this is where the story had to go naturally," added Sablik. "This is the next logical step in the evolution of the Top Cow Universe. This isn't a story that could be told in 'Witchblade' or 'The Darkness.' It's not a Sara or a Jackie story, or even a Dani or Finn or Glori story. This is a Top Cow Universe story, and it's the biggest one yet."

"Artifacts" kicks off during the summer of 2010. The road to "Artifacts" can currently be traveled in the pages of "Witchblade," "The Darkness," "Angelus" and "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box."

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