Artifacts #35 Review
The issue starts out with some strong, slick art and you don't need to be overly familiar with the Artifacts universe to understand the plot.
The narrative voice is sloppy and the characters' motivations are often unclear. This, in addition to a startling change in artists halfway through, make the reading experience muddled.
Artifacts #35 debuts Top Cow’s 2012 Talent Hunt winner Hannibal Tabu. You can expect a plot that will in no way effect the larger universe and a startling shift in art styles as Michael Finnegan fights to remember who he is and what exactly is the deal with these Artifacts?
Writer: Hannibal Tabu
Artists: Nelson Blake II and Mike Oeming
Colourist: Jason Lewis
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Editors: Bryan Rountree and Betsy Gonia
Publisher: Top Cow Productions, Inc
Cover Price: $3.99
I DON’T THINK I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS ISSUE
Michael Finnegan (bearer of the Glacier Stone), doesn’t know anything. The conceit from the first panels of Artisfacts #35 is that he’s merely suffering from amnesia, but over the course of the issue it’s revealed that he doesn’t know much of anything … save, perhaps, inherently how to employ sarcasm. Finnegan discovers himself selling weaponry and armour to an Islamic minister on the South Side of Chicago. We never see this referenced again. Following that he retires to a bar, picks up a foul-mouthed woman who, as it turns out, has been planning to hire out his unique services all along. Alisha, as we come to learn she is named, knows precisely three more things than Finnegan. 1. She knows how Finnegan died 2. She knows where Finnegan is about to go next. 3. She knows details of Finnegan’s relationships with other Artifact wielders.
Michael Finnegan flies to Ireland, at the behest of his newest, tough-talking (in the way a high school junior tough-talks), employer. There he retrieves his weaponry, has a sarcastic phone conversation with Alisha back in America and grudgingly wanders around Phoenix Park. Soon enough he comes upon “Sabine” – the very thing he has been tasked with finding … only … it’s not so much a thing as a dead woman. Admittedly, this would complicate anyone’s day. With a great gentlemanly flourish Finnegan prepares to whisk the damsel away with him only to be interrupted by Glorianna Silver in all her Ember Stone glory. Oh, and Sabine was a projection. Yeah.
THEN COMES THE MOST STARTLING ARTIST CHANGE IN THE HISTORY OF COMIC BOOK! (but more about that in the next part)
Glorianna taunts Finnegan. Finnegan pulls his gun. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Glorianna’s team of thugs spring from the trees and yet another sarcastic conversation ensues! Following that – and, even more suddenly – Finnegan’s team of thugs spring from the trees and a four page gun battle ensues until Glorianna loses her temper and decides to ensure her own interests by employing the power of the Ember Stone. Finnegan defeats fire with the power of water and punch to the jaw and leaves Glorianna Silver unconscious in Phoenix Park. He does, however, take the Ember Stone with him, essentially rendering Glorianna powerless. Just to add some salt to that wound he leaves a note for her when she regains consciousness full of threats, or promises, if you want to look at it like that.
… I honestly don’t know what I read in this issue. None of the events that transpire throughout Artifacts #35 feel like they will affect the greater Artifacts or Top Cow universe in any way and the motivation behind the actions of almost every character were absent. Hannibal Tabu is one of the writers that won Top Cow’s Talent Hunt last year and this is his coming-out issue. I don’t know if this is the issue he wrote to win the contest, I don’t know how much editorial had their hands in the mix and I never will, however the story of Artifacts #35 read like a jumbled mess told by characters difficult to comprehend and, therefore, empathize with lost in an indistinct narrative voice.
WHAT THE WHAT
To the art: Artifacts #35 opens with art by Nelson Blake II who puts gorgeous images on the page. His people look like they belong in a Top Cow book with the clean house style I’ve come to expect from books like Witchblade and Artifacts alike. Colourist Jason Lewis paints the world in dark tones making the reds and blues employed during the aforementioned four page gun fight really jump.
The issue moves along and the art is going great until page 12 when Mike Oeming takes over artist duties. Oeming’s style is a complete 180 away from Nelson Blake II’s. It’s rough and filled with hard angles and hard lines and stylized beyond measure. I’m not trying to intimate that it’s bad, however, the shock of moving from such a clean, organize aesthetic to video games-esque lines threw me in a big way. It deterred my enjoyment through the rest of the issue and almost made me want to stop when the shift took place.
Such a startling art change should have been addressed for the sake of the reader (i.e. it’s a dream, a jump in time, another universe), rather than just happening unwarranted and never brought up in a textual – or even meta-textual – way.
The clashing styles of Blake and Oeming took away from the strength of each man as an individual artist and, ultimately, do a disservice to the issue as a whole.
AS THE FRENCH SAY
I was just left with the feeling of “… quoi?” Unless you are a diehard fan, Artifacts #35 can safely be left alone wherever you encounter it.