Over the course of sixteen years and countless issues, Top Cow’s mystical Artifacts have fueled the publisher’s comic line in titles like Witchblade, The Darkness and others. But with this year’s event series Artifacts just passed the halfway mark, secrets have been revealed and new threats uncovered – and it’s all boiling down to the October series finale in Artifacts #13.
Titled “The Decision”, Artifacts #13 takes the recently unveiled antagonist the Survivor and takes his finely orchestrated plan to unite the 13 Artifacts and bring Armageddon into place. Standing against him are Top Cow’s two flagship characters the Darkness and the Witchblade, along with standouts including Aphrodite IV, Tom Judge and the recently introduced final Artifact bearer Ji Xi.
As series writer Ron Marz unites with featured artist Dale Keown for this final issue, Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik broke down for us what to expect as Artifacts heads to the finish line.
Newsarama: Filip, readers got their first glimpse of the final issue of Artifacts in this month’s advance solicitations. It’s still four months away, but what can you tell us about the finale we’re heading towards?
Filip Sablik: Without giving away too much, what I can say is that we set the expectations in Artifacts #1 and #2 for the series and we're going to be paying everything off in issue 13. A mysterious antagonist, whose identity was revealed in issue 7, has orchestrated an elaborate plan to bring together the 13 mystical Artifacts of the Top Cow Universe. He kicked things off by having Aphrodite IV kidnap Sara Pezzini and Jackie Estacado's daughter Hope and things have been going a mile a minute since then. Legends say that individually these Artifacts can guide and influence humanity for good or ill, but bringing them together will bring about the end of the world. The antagonist, who we've referred to as The Survivor, wants to end our world and remake it. The whys and hows will be revealed in the final act of Artifacts. Early in the series Sara and Jackie were also told that one of them could very well doom the world and that will come into play as well in issue 13.
Newsarama: Without spoiling it for those who haven’t read Artifacts #7 yet…the Survivor is cloaked in shadow -- but what is he after?
Sablik: The Survivor's identity was revealed at the end of issue 7 and we'll delve further into it in issue 8. In issue 9, we reveal his origin, so I'm hesitant to give too much away. What I can say is that the identity of the character is someone that is a long time Top Cow character, but we are only now revealing his true identity and intentions. So it's both a payoff for long time readers and an introduction of a "new" character for first time readers. One of my favorite components of the story is how different this character's actions will appear from previous encounters once you know his true identity and motivations.
Nrama: You’ve given us a rundown of what we’re up against in the end run of the series, but who are the final heroes standing tall?
Sablik: All of the players are on the board, so to speak, at this point. The heart of our story has always been Sara, Jackie, and Hope. It's the story of a family torn apart and trying to reunite. The Survivor is obviously a major player in the story and he has a really interesting origin and motivations. Characters like Tom Judge and Aphrodite IV will have major roles as will the other Artifact bearers like Dani Baptiste, Abby von Alstine, Michael Finnegan, Glorianna Silver, Ian Nottingham, Mali, Patience, Sabine, and Alina Enstrom. And then of course, there's Ji Xi, the mysterious 13th Artifact bearer, who seems pretty darn powerful and no one is quite sure where he's going to fall. If you'll notice, the sides are fairly evenly divided between those siding with the Survivor and those siding with Sara and Jackie so Ji has a pivotal role to play.
Nrama Although you see everything coming in and out as the editor of the books, have there been any surprises for you on how things have developed from the initial plan for Artifacts to the final pages?
Sablik: Absolutely. And that's one of the things I love about the process and in particular the way Ron Marz works. We spent over a year developing and planning this event, but even then, once you get into individual issues and arcs things begin to evolve and change organically. None of the major story beats have changed from what we originally conceived, but some characters have taken on bigger roles then we originally expected.
Nrama: Can you give us a specific example there?
Sablik: A key example is Tom Judge, who was featured much more prominently partially because artist Michael Broussard really loved the character. And Cyberforce took on a larger role in the second act because Whilce Portacio really wanted to play with the juxtaposition of faith versus science. These little collaborative details shape the story for the better and it's part of what makes comics such a wonderful medium.
Nrama: On the artist side you managed a real coup here getting Dale Keown, who rarely does interiors. How'd you settle on him, and what were the selling points for him that got him onboard?
Sablik: It's definitely a coup and we feel incredibly lucky to have Dale contributing to Artifacts. Top Cow has a long running and really great relationship with Dale, initially from his run on The Darkness with Paul Jenkins, and then doing covers. Dale loves working with us so much, he's entrusted us to help him bring back his classic character Pitt in the next year in a big way, which is something I'm incredibly excited about.
I think what Dale likes about working with Top Cow is that because we were founded by an artist, we have an incredible respect for the contribution of the artist and a dedication to working with him to get the best work out possible.
As for why we decided to go with Dale, I think his amazing body of work speaks for itself. Dale's art is incredibly dynamic, expressive, and exciting. He's the perfect artist to illustrate the epic conclusion of Artifacts. We're talking about the end of the world here, so we needed someone who can sell the scope and grandeur of the event, but make you feel something for what the characters are going through.
Nrama: I've really dug the origin stories in the back of each issue -- can you give us details on who'll be the focus of this final one, and who will be drawing it?
Sablik: Thanks, it's been incredibly fun to put those together. Michael Broussard started off Artifacts, so it seemed appropriate that he would come back to help finish the event. He will be illustrating the origin of the 13th Artifact and its current bearer, Ji Xi with colors by Sunny Gho.
Nrama: Although this is the end of the series, it seems like the beginning of a new chapter for the Top Cow U titles. How will this affect Witchblade, The Darkness, Magdalenaand others going forward?
Sablik:I can't talk too much about the effects of the end of Artifacts, other than to say that the end of Artifacts will have a meaningful and long lasting effect on the Top Cow Universe and all of the titles. We won't be re-booting with new number ones, but it will definitely be a new chapter in the Top Cow Universe. One thing I love about the Top Cow Universe, particularly since Ron Marz started writing for Top Cow, is that things are constantly moving FORWARD and we are able to create real change. Starting in October, readers will see big changes and we'll also be creating new jumping on points for new readers. Witchblade #151 will have a new creative team picking up from the end of Artifacts as will The Darkness #96 that month. Magdalena will also reflect the changes and there's still the yet-to-be-announced new series from Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic. It's an exciting time!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!