Mary isn’t a popular girl. A high school outcast, she has only one friend, dresses plainly, and has an obsession with aliens that raises a few eyebrows. Who would think she would be chosen to wield the Witchblade, a powerful weapon passed down to strong women throughout the dawn of humankind? Mary now has super strength, super agility, and the ability to create weapons. Unfortunately, she also gets caught in the middle of a war between the Darkness and the Angelus, the forces of light and dark warring for domination of the earth. In Switch #1, Mary will have to choose a side in this conflict while dealing with the pains of growing up and finding her inner courage.
Stjepan Sejic is quite the big name in comics; he and his wife, Linda Sejic, first gained popularity via a series of webcomics. Recently, Top Cow has started printing physical copies of Stjepan’s hugely popular Sunstone. Switch, a reimagining of the Witchblade and The Darkness series, is the latest webcomic to be published.
Stjepan Sejic does everything in Switch: story, pencils, color, and lettering. Like anything by him, the comic is absolutely gorgeous. Characters are uniquely designed from crazy suits of armors to casual modern fashion. There are regular people, but also demons, angels, and creepy gods straight out of Lovecraft. They look animated and express a wide range of emotions. A common criticism of Sejic’s work is that many characters, especially the women, seem to have similar faces. Aside from Mary, who looks like a young Ally from Sunstone, recycled faces are either absent or hard to spot. Backgrounds are not spectacular, but they do have a cool painted style to them. Panels are numerous, chaotic, and jam packed with action and dialogue. This might seem like it would make a cluttered mess, but it actually reads smoothly. Sejic is awesome, period.
The story opens up with a quick explanation of the Witchblade’s origins, how it is the spawn of the Darkness and Angelus, and how it fused with the first wielder Una. Along with Una, the reader is also shown the previous wielders, all women from powerful positions such as queens, warriors, scholars, and adventurers. The story then switches to the present day with Mary, who looks plain and awkward. It is hard to imagine she is the next wielder.
It is important to take note of Switch’s representation of women. The Witchblade series is known for featuring strong women, but are undercut by intentionally scanty outfits to appeal to fanservice. Stejpan Sejic is no stranger to drawing sexually appealing women, but there is always more to them and their sexuality comes up in appropriate situations, not just to appeal to the male gaze. In Switch, the women are drawn beautifully without being sexualized. They carry an air of wisdom, courage, and confidence that matters more than their looks. Mary feels weak, plain and cowardly. When she fuses with the Witchblade, the spirits of the previous wielders give her strength. This gives Switch a feminist tone. At its core, the comic is about a timid teenage girl finding her inner courage, strength, and confidence with the help of a legacy of powerful women. It is touching, empowering, and a progressive move for the franchise.
The only problem is the convoluted plot. There are a lot of plotlines with important characters that need fleshing out. In Sunstone, Sejic introduces its many characters and plotlines slowly. Switch crams all of them into one issue. The reader experiences whiplash when they go from Una discovering the Witchblade to Mary at school to Tony Estacado, the next champion of the Darkness, being attacked by an Angelus assassin to his caretaker, Sonatine, revealing his tie to the Estacados and making a deal with Kenneth Irons to take possession of the Witchblade, to the Angelus sending an agent to intercept the delivery to Mary getting in the middle of the robbery and attaining control of the Witchblade instead (phew). It is a lot too absorb and leaves one feeling confused. Fortunately, it is an interesting, morally gray plot. It is apparent both the Darkness and Angelus are tyrannical in nature. They do not feel like good vs. evil but two tyrants at war. Even the Witchblade has a dark personality, Zala the Twilight Empress. Does she want to help Mary, or does she have ulterior motives?
With gorgeous art, an interesting plot, and woman-empowering message, Stjepan Sejic’s Switch is off to a good if convoluted start.