The dust has settled on "War of the Witchblades" with Sara Pezzini emerging as the sole Witchblade bearer, but that's not the only major development to come from Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic's recently concluded "Witchblade" story-arc. Danielle Baptiste, who previously held the light portion of the Witchblade, will now embark on a new chapter as the host of the Angelus, the third portion of Top Cow's Trinity that includes both the Witchblade and the Darkness. Dani's newfound status will be further explored in "Angelus," a six issue miniseries written by Marz and illustrated by Sejic that brings the beloved "Witchblade" heroine to her hometown of New Orleans.
When CBR News caught up with Marz to talk about his plans for the "Angelus" miniseries, the writer said that he'd been planning to take Dani down this path ever since introducing her in the main "Witchblade" series. In Marz's eyes, the Angelus has historically gotten the short shrift in comparison to the Darkness and Witchblade, but Dani's recent acquisition of the powerful mantel should hopefully mend that unbalance.
"The idea was to make [the Angelus] a more integral part of the Top Cow Universe, instead of being a bit of a one-note character," Marz told CBR. "A large part of [the miniseries] is continued character building for Dani. It's about building what the Angelus is and why it does what it does. A lot of the background and mechanics of the Angelus have never been revealed, so we're going to get into that stuff. We're going to get into why the Angelus and her warriors end up looking like angels, and does that have anything to do with where the legends of angels and Heaven comes from. In a more specific sense, Dani moves back to New Orleans. I didn't want her to be in New York, since that's Sara's setting to me. She's moving back to New Orleans, which is where she's originally from. It's obviously a very spooky, unique kind of setting, and that allows us to get some more supernatural stuff generating with Dani."
While Dani's new role as the Angelus isn't completely out of left field, it's certainly a change from her previous status as a Witchblade bearer. For a time, Dani owned the entire artifact while Sara Pezzini was unable to, which eventually led to the Witchblade being split into dark and light halves held by Sara and Dani, respectively. That mutual ownership over the Balance brought the two friends to near-fatal blows in the recently concluded "War of the Witchblades" story-arc, which ended with Sara once again holding the entire Witchblade while Dani moved on to become the Angelus. Marz admitted that it wasn't easy keeping Dani's transformation from Witchblade-bearer to Angelus host a secret from readers, mainly due to a variety of factors.
"For quite a while, it was just the creative team on the book and the people in the office that knew what we were doing," he said. "We tried to plan everything that we could in terms of not revealing covers and not revealing information through solicitations, to do as much as we could to keep a lid on everything. Even the last time we talked, I couldn't say shit, even though I was actually done writing ['War of the Witchblades'] at the time. It's a relief now to have it out there, in two ways. It's a relief to be able to discuss where things are headed, but it's also kind of nice to have Sara back in her book and be able to start the building blocks with Dani to establish her as a separate character in a separate setting. That's one of the things I enjoy most about writing comics. In the right situations, you can lay a foundation and start building from the ground floor. I've tried to do that with Sara as much as possible, even though I took over 'Witchblade' with issue #80, and now I get to start a new one with Dani in the 'Angelus' mini."
Part of Dani's world is already established, of course. Aside from moving to New Orleans, the new 'Angelus' miniseries has at least one familiar cast member in the form of Finch, Dani's friend and possible romantic interest. "Dani and Finch sort of have to figure out where exactly their relationship is headed," said Marz. "Finch is obviously bisexual; she had a boyfriend when she was initially introduced into ['Witchblade'], and now she's made her feelings for Dani very well known. Dani is dealing with this kind of stuff and is confronting her own sexuality in a different way for the first time, so that will be an aspect of the series."
But romance could take a backseat to another familiar face, none other than Angelus warrior Sabine. The events of "War of the Witchblades" clearly illustrated Sabine's own assumptions that she'd be the next Angelus host, so the ultimate selection of Dani is something that's likely to ruffle her feathers. "Sabine has been the lieutenant for the Angelus for some time," said Marz. "She thought she was in line for the throne, so to speak, and it didn't work out that way. Obviously, that's a situation that's going to come to a boil sooner or later. Because Dani doesn't really know quite what she's getting into, or really the mechanics of being the Angelus, some of this stuff will blindside her. She won't see a lot of it coming."
Dani isn't the only one who doesn't fully understand the ways of the Angelus - perhaps the mystical force doesn't even understand itself, as Marz admitted that Angelus's previous attempts to thwart Jackie Estacado and Sara Pezzini have mostly ended in failure. "Every time she shows up to attack Jackie, or puts some plan into motion, she fails, and she's either a wretched horrible loser or there was something wrong about how she went about her business," he explained. "My take is that, whereas the Darkness has always been, at most, a co-pilot for its hosts - the hosts have more free will and are more in control of themselves and their power - the Angelus has always treated their hosts as puppets. To me, the Angelus has finally learned a lesson that maybe you're more successful by giving your host more of a free will. That's what makes Dani different than any Angelus host of the past. She's the one driving the bus, and the Angelus is a passenger rather than the driver."
In Marz's estimation, it's Dani's past experience as a Witchblade bearer that made her a ripe candidate to host the Angelus. "Part of it is that Dani had the Witchblade, and part of it is that she's a character that's grown in her possession of the Witchblade into someone more able to handle this burden, or at least that's what we think so far," he said. "A large part of the 'Angelus' miniseries is Dani coming to grips with this new burden that she has, and deciding whether or not it's one that she actually wants."
Whatever Dani decides, her continued role as the new Angelus will be explored well beyond the upcoming miniseries. "I know that Phil Hester has some plans for her [in 'The Darkness'], and certainly the 'Magdalena' book that we're doing would be an appropriate spot for her," said Marz. "I like the fact that the Top Cow Universe is cohesive in terms of these characters having natural connections to each other. Jackie is the father of Sara's baby, and Dani is the daughter of Sara's police captain as well as one of Sara's best friends. I want this stuff to evolve organically, and I think so far that's how everything has played out - it makes sense for the characters to do these things. These are story decisions rather than commercial decisions."
While Dani could live on in other Top Cow titles, it's also possible that the upcoming "Angelus" miniseries could evolve into a full-fledged ongoing series. "If the audience really responds, and we have reason to continue the story, I'd like nothing better," said Marz. "I think it would be absolutely fitting that this third part of the Trinity, aside from Witchblade and the Darkness, also gets its own book and can stand on its own. That's really what the whole point was about from day one: just making the Angelus a viable character and concept. There's no better proof of that than advancing it to an ongoing."
"Angelus" #1 of 6, written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Stjepan Sejic, hits comic book stores on December 2, 2009.