Emotional Lightweight: “Witchblade #172”

[11 February 2014]

By Jack Fisher

As kids, it’s normal form attachments to toys, blankets, and stuffed animals. And it really doesn’t take much for that attachment to become really strong. It need only be soft, fuzzy, and warm. Sometimes that attachment is so strong that losing for a child is akin to losing a finger for an adult. It may seem petty to adults, but it’s these sorts of emotional attachments that help kids develop. Their attachments help drive who they are. And in Witchblade, this is taken to a supernatural extreme.

A big part of the appeal of Witchblade and the growth of Sara Pezzini is built largely around her attachment to this ancient weapon. The fact that wielding the Witchblade often renders her half-naked is probably part of the appeal as well, but the main story is built around how she deals with this attachment. There are times when she’s not very fond of the Witchblade. There are also times when she embraces her role as the balance between the Darkness and the Angelus. And in either case, it fueled by strong emotions that often complicate her life. However, those emotions are either lacking or absent in Witchblade #172.

Throughout the history of the Witchblade, Sara has given up the Witchblade or passed it to someone else. In most cases there were emotional circumstances surrounding this decision. There was some emotion behind her latest decision. The responsibilities as the bearer of the Witchblade cost Sara her daughter. That’s what led her to seek help from Magdalena in helping her remove it. The Witchblade fought this effort in a way no stuffed animal ever would for a child. But the process itself, which took place in a flashback, really didn’t strike any emotional chords. It was a hassle to get off, but Sara treated it like the way most people would treat getting a tooth pulled. She had it done and then left with little regard for how this would change her life.

Flash forward to the present and her life is now hanging in the balance. Without the Witchblade, she was vulnerable to an agent of the Angelus and got shot. Because giving up the Witchblade isn’t like throwing away a stuffed animal. It’s supposed to act as the balance between the Darkness and the Angelus. Sara knows this better than anyone. Yet she gave it up anyways and didn’t seem too surprised when it made her a target. And unlike previous occasions, she didn’t pass it off to someone else. It’s like one of those scenes from a horror movie where everyone sees a pretty girl entering a dark room with a masked killer on the loose. She’s clearly a target. She knows on some levels that she’s a target. But she goes into the dark room anyways. Sara Pezzini has distinguished herself over the years for having a toughness and bravado that would intimidate an entire football team. And while she has been reckless at times, she has never been this foolish.

That’s what takes away from the emotion of her giving up the Witchblade this time. It doesn’t come off as an emotionally charged decision. It comes off as an act of stupidity that is sure to come back to haunt her. And in the same way it’s never surprising to see the cutest girl die first in a slasher movie, it’s not surprising in the slightest when Sara is forced to wield the Witchblade again. That’s not to say it’s unappealing. It’s yet another testament to Sara’s toughness. Despite being shot and in a hospital bed, she manages to wake up and fight back against the Angelus warrior that shot her.

But that warrior was foolish in the same way the killer in a slasher movie is foolish to follow the last surviving teenager into a shooting range. He actually tried to use the Witchblade against her. This is like leaving a spare M60 machine gun lying around for John Rambo. Sara easily takes back the Witchblade without much struggle or emotional upheaval. This weapon that she was so intent on getting rid of just comes back to her and she shrugs it off as if it were a traffic detour. There’s no reservation or musing over letting this weapon back into her life. There’s no exploration of how she feels about dealing with this weapon again. She just takes it back, kills the Angelus warrior, and taunts the Angelus for trying to kill her. It gives the impression that this sort of thing happens to her every other month, which undermines the emotional weight of the story.

So now Sara has the Witchblade again. Like the ending of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, it should surprise no one. Now the comfortable life she built as the Sheriff of a small town is over, but it doesn’t seem to upset or annoy her. She just deals with it. There’s being tough and then there’s just being flat. And flat emotional reactions are like reading the instruction manual to a new computer. It doesn’t resonate on the necessary levels.

That’s not to say Witchblade #172 didn’t strike a number of chords. It was able to put Sara Pezzini in some grim circumstances. The concept of her wanting to give up the Witchblade and build a different life has been done before, but these circumstances felt raw and unique. They just didn’t have the emotional weight to make those circumstances compelling. Witchblade #172 still promises to start another chapter in Sara Pezzini’s life, which also involves a new conflict with the Angelus. It would just help if that conflict had some emotional ramifications so that it felt more dire than a trip to the dentist.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/178981-witchblade-172/