As Finch and Danni get intimate, the Angelus warriors are attacked by a strange demonic force.
As the Artifacts series goes, it doesn’t get much better than this issue. A luxurious installment with stunning art as we build up towards a major showdown with the rest of the artifact bearers. Written by Ron Marz and with art by Stjepan Sejic, this is one of the best Artifacts issues to date.
We open up with some stunning large panels of the Angelus’ citadel. The colours are beautiful and much brighter than what we’ve seen so far in this series. Normally, Top Cow comics favour darker tones but this is all blues and golds. Even the architecture of the Citadel is fantastic and daunting to behold, even on the page. As we see glimpses of the attack on the citadel, the captions let us listen in on Danni and Finch’s discussion as they arrive at Danni’s place for the night. As they get closer, something Darkness-esque gets closer to destroying Finch’s warriors. Little tricks like this – seeing one story and hearing another at the same time – are part of what really makes Artifacts such a clever series. There is so much going on in this project but Marz doesn’t miss a beat, carefully winding narrative threads around one another.
There is also great fun with a sort of “Morning After” scene between Finch and Danni. I know that in my Darkness #109 review, I complained about a female character just wandering about with her boobs out, but there is just something really tasteful about the bedroom scene in Artifacts #24. It’s easy for a lesbian love scene to be exploited in comic book culture but this isn’t the case here. Instead, we see a couple who are just starting out and are nervous and unsure yet affectionate and full of hope. Sejic’s images are beautifully handled and the soft edges give this scene a glow to reflect the afterglow the women are relishing in at that moment. It’s stunning and guaranteed to make you blush.
As well as the sweet romance that’s blossoming, this issue is also filled with action, too. An Angelus warrior turns up, terribly injured and interrupts the ladies’ morning activities. Danni – in spite of her previous role as Angelus in the previous universe – clearly struggles with Finch’s alter-ego and feels like she’s being dropped when the warrior arrives. Although Finch seems like an awesome person, she takes the Angelus gig pretty seriously so once she’s in armour-coating, she’s all business. Finch is still taking some getting used to with me but she is very cool in this issue.
In the Angelus’ citadel, all hell breaks loose. The kingdom is shattered and many of Finch’s warriors have been slaughtered. Worse still, the creature responsible is still sticking around. As always, the battle sequences are something to behold. There’s a particularly stunning two page spread, that’s something akin to the double page battle between Tom Judge and a demon in Artifacts issue #23. Panels are spread out and shattered, resembling the battle itself. Spreads like this make Artifacts stand out from all other dark fantasy books out there and if you haven’t already decided to buy this issue based on the lady-loving, then the fight scenes should have you rushing out right now to grab a copy. During the fight scene, there is also some really great dialogue from Marz, showing that he can focus on the non-super characters as well as those taking down the bad guys each week. As Finch tackles the monster with her spear, police officer Danni holds her gun helplessly and claims “I think I brought a knife to a gun fight”. Little touches like this are what keeps me reading this book every month. It’s just magic.
I really really don’t want to spoil the last few pages of this book. There is the appearance of another Artifacts regular and a gorgeous final page, featuring many of the big hitters from the series. Personally, I would love to see the last page on the Top Cow store as a poster. The art in this issue is that level of geek-tastic. Without spoiling anything, I do have a little complaint in that the last two pages are the kind that leave you desperate for the next issue. I guess that’s a good thing, but I think issues like this are the kind that benefit as being chapters in graphic novels rather than single issues. That way you can instantly flick to the next chapter and keep reading. So, while the ending of Artifacts #24 is a fanboy/girl’s dream, it’s a bit of a tease. Especially when you have another month to wait for the next part. It’s going to be great, but it’s still nothing short of cruel. Or maybe it’s just very, very clever writing.