One of the biggest complaints from people who don’t read comics are they’re too hard to get into. The Big Two have 75 years of history behind them and can be quite intimidating when trying to jump in for the first time. Hundreds of characters, retconned origins, multiple universes, out of continuity stories, well, it can even be confusing for lifetime fans sometimes.
That’s why it’s much easier to introduce new readers to comics by directing them to the smaller, indie publishers first. These companies haven’t been around nearly as long and, on the whole, don’t have their own interconnected universes. Titles from publishers like Archaia and IDW can easily be picked up without worrying about having to read six other titles to figure them out. One younger publisher that took its cues from the Big Two and chose to birth a brand new universe is Top Cow Productions.
Not every title from Top Cow falls under their interrelated “Top Cow Universe” but a good number do. The Darkness, Aphrodite IX, The Magdalena, Angelus, Broken Trinity are just some. Founded as partner studio of Image Comics in 1992 by Marc Silvestri, Witchblade is easily their highest profile and most recognizable title. That’s due in part to the Witchblade television show from 2000 starring Yancy Butler. Although the show wasn’t a huge hit, lasting only 23 episodes plus the pilot film, it was what introduced me to Top Cow as a publisher. But it wouldn’t be until years later I finally picked up one of their comics on the recommendation of several friends who had been reading Top Cow for years.
I had previously read Mark Millar’s Wanted but it was the Witchblade: Witch Hunt trade by Ron Marz and Mike Choi that officially introduced me to that world. I enjoyed it but wasn’t sure I was ready to jump into all those other titles to learn everything else. Then came Artifacts. Written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Michael Broussard, Artifacts is the cipher of the Top Cow Universe.
Artifacts is a 13-issue series that encompasses all you need to know about the Witchblade and her friends. There are 13 Artifacts, 12 of which are known (Witchblade, The Darkness, Angelus, Pandora’s Box etc.). Bringing together all 13 at the same time is apparently a world-ender. So of course someone is trying to do it. Act One just concluded recently with issue #4 and with only an periphery knowledge of Witchblade walking in, I already feel like a Top Cow expert.
What’s perfect about Artifacts is it explains without dumbing down. Characters are introduced and described without knocking you over the head and past events are laid out clearly as the story moves along. If you don’t get enough information in the main section, Top Cow is also including origin stories and “The Players of Artifacts” in the rear of each issue, the latter being written by Bryan Rountree. These are fantastic for understanding the universe as a whole, not just the series, and what make Artifacts the perfect jumping-on point.
Thanks to Artifacts (and again, my friends) I also recently got into a scarlet speedster of a different kind – Velocity. Part of Cyberforce (another TC title), Velocity was already a fast runner when a seedy corporation bonded her skin with a Kevlar-alloy that reduces heat from friction, enabling her to run even faster. She “runs” with Cyberforce, a group of fellow genetically enhanced test subjects looking for revenge against the company that created them. Downside? All the members were also infected with a virus before they escaped.
So I can officially say I’m a Top Cow reader and fan. I cannot recommend Artifacts more if you’ve been looking for the right moment to get into Top Cow. Even if you didn’t have any previous interest, I recommend it because it’s just a great story. If you want to go a different route, it may not be the preferred jumping on point but some of our favorite superheroes have made Top Cow cameos. Wolverine and the Punisher have appeared in Top Cow comics thanks to a deal with Marvel a few years back and Wonder Woman even wielded the Witchblade in the JLA/Witchblade crossover.
What are you waiting for? Pick up Artifacts today (the first trade and the fifth issue will be out later this month). Already a Top Cow reader? Do you agree it’s a great jumping-on point? What other titles would you suggest to Top Cow neophytes?Have you tried the Top Cow Universe yet?