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Finally, after five issues of setting up the story, introducing characters, emotional distress and introducing even more characters, this issue of Artifacts is jam-packed with action from start to finish. This leaves little room for the story to advance very much, but it makes enough leaps that it has kept me satisfied.
In the last issue of Artifacts Sara and her allies were confronted and attacked by Cyberforce. The team had been tricked by Aphrodite IV into believing Sara and the others were going to use the thirteen artifacts to destroy the universe. Just as the confrontation was about to begin with Sara beating Aphrodite to death to find information about her daughter, the fifth issue ended leaving a lot to be desired.
These desires, for the most part, are answered in this issue of Artifacts in the form of gruesome violence. After five issues, Ron Marz has written less story and more action. Normally, this is a bad idea, just filling an issue with action and ignoring the story almost completely. But after such a long set-up, this issue provides loads of carnage that was a nice breather from a set-up that was starting to degrade the series.
Of course, with all this violence going on who is there to root for? There is no shortage of characters in Artifacts, something I’ve often complained about. With so many characters, I often only remember two or three of their names let alone care about two or three of the characters. In this issue we are introduced to another character, but he is so mysterious and touched on so briefly that it made me look forward to seeing him again so I could find out more about this character that seemed more powerful than any of the other characters.
This issue also featured Cyberforce, and after seeing them gobble down pizza in the last issue it is nice to see them in combat here. Ripclaw is awesome (a wolverine-esque character always is) and Velocity’s light-hearted humor reminded how much I had already enjoyed the speedster in Velocity. Her sister is not half bad in this issue either. And finally, after five issues I started to really get into Aphrodite IV’s character: She goes totally out trying to defeat Sara in this issue, being reduced to her cybernetic skeleton, which really showed off something I would love that I never thought I would say: Whilce Portacio’s art.
After Michael Boussard left Artifacts I was immediately disappointed and skeptic of Whilce Portacio taking over the rest of the series. His first attempt in issue five of Artifacts met heavy criticism from me after comparing him to Michael Boussard, which is always an issue when artists change in the middle of series. This issue has almost completely redeemed my faith in Portacio. He can draw violence and gore better than pretty much anyone else I have seen. However, some of his scenes did fall short of what I expected. After seeing numerous violent scenes that got me to enjoy his artistic style, Whilce dedicated a complete two pages to crumbling buildings that looked rather sloppy. There were way too many lines that hurt the picture and made me even more skeptical that Whilce could pull of huge portaits in comics. He needs to stick to the action scenes, amazing enough in their own right.
Portacio also does not overuse blood in his art, making the art not as gruesome to look at which actually improves the quality of the art – too much blood might seem cool to the average horror fan (which I will not deny I can be myself at times) but the limited use of blood keeps the art astounding without overdoing itself in a complete gore-fest. The colors from Sunny Gho go pretty well with the art, but I still miss the contrast between panels that I will always associate with issue two of Artifacts.
With such a huge improvement in the art my skepticism has started to wear away. The characters are enjoyable. Marz knows how to have fifty characters and still keep them interesting, but I still find myself not caring about some of the characters to the extent that I do not even remember their names. I’m still concerned with the future of Artifacts, but I am glad to see Ron Marz and Whilce are capable of creating such great action. Of course now I am expecting something ten times better for the apocalyptic battle I expect at the end of the series, making me worry even more that my expectations for the future of Artifacts are way too high. For now, this issue was great mindless fun that you should pick up if looking for action and some great characters.
This series has really been a hit-or-miss with me and this one finally broke that barrier by being mostly a hit but also a miss to since it failed to expand much on the story and was just more of a senseless excuse at violence – but when has that ever been such a bad thing?
Overall Score – 8.6