Artifacts is a major crossover event in the Top Cow universe, featuring characters like The Darkness, Witchblade, and the team Hunter-Killer. As a crossover, I was very impressed; the stakes were high and I felt like there could be real consequences. The only downside to the story was that I was about as unfamiliar as I could be. I have read the first Darkness trade and knew a little about Witchblade, but I knew next to nothing about the other characters and effectively nothing at all about the back story. So, when I say that I enjoyed this book, I want you to remember that in this case, I am not a raving Fanboy. (Ed. So far, only in this case.)
Unfortunately, I can’t give a thoughtful review that evaluates this book in the context of the fiction and judges whether the story and characters were consistent with canon, but I can give you the newcomer’s perspective. First, the included Issue #0 was crucial. It gave just enough backstory for me to be able to keep up, without bogging me down in the minutiae of the universe. After that issue, I had a nice understanding of who the protagonists and antagonists were, their motivations, and their capabilities. There were a few curveballs thrown my way, including an entire freaking super-team and the Top Cow version of UNIT or SHEILD, both of which were easy enough to grasp as the story progressed. I still have no idea what a single member of that team’s name is or what powers they have. I also don’t need to know to enjoy myself.
So, the plot is fairly standard superhero crossover stuff. Bad guys want something bad, but think they are the good guys. Good guys want to stop bad guys. Things go bad, and then they turn out mostly good. What really work here are the stakes. This isn’t just about saving the world; the daughter of two of the good guys is kidnapped and much of the story revolves around their reaction to the loss of their child. This ties in neatly with the rest of the story about saving the world and works pretty well. The plot moved at a nice pace and there were real consequences for the characters.
I wasn’t crazy about the art in this book. It is technically sound and shows a real talent for perspective, comic storytelling, and drama. The problem that I had with it was that it felt straight out of 1998. The women are just ridiculously buxom, with strategic armor placement that highlights and exposes much of their breasts. We didn’t hit Star Sapphire levels of silliness, but some of it was freaking close. There were a few shots up skirts, as well, which just leaves me feeling icky. With the exception of a few confusing action scenes and those boobs, the art was good. I wasn’t blown away, but there were some really good pages in there.
The book as a whole really worked for me, though, with all the stuff you love in a superhero crossover and an interestingly antihero and especially anti-superhero tone throughout. I liked seeing other characters in a universe I keep meaning to get into. I loved the group dynamics on display here. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and could recommend this for somebody who has given up on superheroes but misses those big yearly events.
Three and a half demonic corsets out of five.