Witchblood (#1) – Matthew Erman

3 out of 5

Witchblood has some massive pluses going for it – pluses that are hard to come by – but it’s stymied by wholly opposing factors that aren’t necessarily negatives, just shortcomings that prevent the book from taking off.

Plotwise, it’s fairly simplistic – witches and vampires and a vampire hunter of sorts – but it’s all been given a dash of modern sass and we ride in motorcycles and beefy lookin’ cars to old fashioned diners in remote, desert towns. That type of cool, retro modernization can be considered something of a trope at this point, and thus has the potential to be obnoxious, but writer Matthew Erman swings way clear of overly kitschy or cute dialogue – the first huge plus – and artist Lisa Sterle’s style finds a good middleground between BOOM Comics’ style youth-oriented stuff, and a more sketchy, indie vibe, the other huge plus. Colorist Gab Contreras also somehow renders a pink / purple color scheme to look normal – which is a good thing, as that palette is normally shorthand for a book being all hip and rad, and so it’s another plus; to just glance at Witchblood, and read a description, is to suspect something aimed for a post-Twilight crowd and probably roll your eyes, but the book absolutely paves out its own tone and vibe, and that impressed me.

Unfortunately, for as fun and rhythmic as Erman’s dialogue is – as witch Yonna runs afoul of some vamps who get into a magic battle with her, sending her on the run for issue #2 – there’s a very unclear narrative that surrounds it. Some omniscient voice pops in at points to explain events as though they’re a fairy tale of sorts, but the prose is assumptive – it makes it sound like we should already have context on the tale, and we don’t. Similarly, Yonna and her familiar are on their way to somewheres, just as the vampires were on their way to the destination at which they eventually run in to Yonna, and both have their own agendas which come across as minor details to all the fun chitter-chatter. So it’s like you’re dropping in on a conversation, and the pace and patter are amusing, but you have no idea what’s really going on; it’s not clear when the story “starts.” And Sterle, while imbuing those characters with tons of life, and capturing little emotive quirks really effectively, doesn’t choreograph action too well, choosing disruptive layouts and showcasing the wrong beats in that action such that – just as with the story – it’s not always clear, or as clear as it should be, what’s happening or why.

This results in a story that’s not really motivating me to book two, but a general vibe and look that is. Which isn’t a bad deal overall, and you could bargain is enough of a hook to keep me invested to see if Erman and Sterle can improve along the way.