In the Top Cow Universe, Detective Sara Pezzini is the bearer of the Witchblade, an Artifact that balances two opposing forces: the Darkness and the Angelus. Former mobster Jackie Estacado has long served as host to the Darkness, but the Angelus force's latest host is a somewhat newer addition to Top Cow - a recent college graduate and aspiring dancer named Danielle Baptiste.
While Dani is flying high in her very own "Angelus" miniseries from Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic, she's also slated to soar in another major event this summer with "Artifacts," the upcoming 13-issue series from Marz and a rotating team of artists including Michael Broussard. CBR News spoke with Marz and Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik to learn more about Danielle, the Angelus and how they both factor into "Artifacts."
After graduating college, Dani moved to New York City to pursue a career as a ballet dancer. Her plans were quickly derailed when she agreed to take over the Witchblade from a very pregnant Sara Pezzini, whose police captain just so happens to be Danielle's mother. "It appeared that Dani was going to be the next Witchblade bearer, but ultimately, the Witchblade split into its component halves: the dark half and the light half," explained Marz. "Dani got the light half and Sara got the dark half, and they went to war."
The dual ownership over the Witchblade did not last long. During a violent conflict between the two former friends, a vengeful Sara impaled Dani and reclaimed the entirety of the Witchblade. It was at that moment that the Angelus force, unclaimed at the time, selected Dani as its new host. Using her newfound powers of light, Dani was able to bring Sara back to her senses.
With Sara in full possession of the Witchblade, Dani was left to find her own new purpose as the host of the Angelus. This time, there was a very important distinction between Dani and previous Angelus hosts. "All the previous Angelus bearers have been little more than puppets for the Angelus force, which is probably why the Angelus force has always gotten its ass kicked by the Darkness," said Marz. "Dani is a different breed of Angelus host in that she has much more self-determination and free will about how she's going about this task."
But even though the Angelus force is affording Dani more control than previous hosts, the job isn't any easier for the new Artifact bearer. "Unlike Sara and Jackie, Dani's not only a relatively new character, but she's a relatively novice character in the scheme of the Artifacts," said Sablik. "Her entire world has been turned upside down, like somebody pulling back the curtain and saying: 'Hey, you know this world you thought was true? It's actually just a façade. There's this whole other reality that exists beyond the knowledge of most people.' She's still trying to figure it out. She has a lot of information that she's been given. Sara has told her things, Jackie has told her things, characters like the Curator have told her things, and even her Angelus warriors, the people who are supposed to serve her, are telling her things. But it's like in real life - people tell you things primarily to serve their own purposes. Dani has to figure out what the right thing for her to do is."
One reality that both Danielle and Top Cow readers must face is that just because the Angelus represents light, it doesn't make the Angelus inherently good. "Historically, the Angelus has done as many evil things as good things," said Sablik. "In a way, the Angelus kind of represents that person who is, pardon the pun, blinded by the light. The agents of the light have been so obsessed with trying to create order in this perfect world, trying to get rid of the Darkness, that the force has kind of lost sight of the forest through the trees."
"The Angelus doesn't equate to good, and the Darkness doesn't equate to evil," Marz agreed. "It's nowhere near that simple a definition. Just because she looks like an angel on the surface doesn't mean there are any angelic qualities to her individually."
In fact, the Angelus force marks yet another entity that falls firmly between black and white, good and evil, light and dark. "That's something we've always been careful about and something that Marc Silvestri was very careful to do when he set up these characters," Sablik said of the Top Cow Universe. "I think all of us aren't fans of black and white characters. We like our characters with gray and we like playing with running counter to expectations. The Angelus is very much that character that's very gray and contradictory to what it might be in another world."
For now, Danielle Baptiste has a lot to learn about the Angelus force. But as "Artifacts" comes to a head, Dani's inexperience with the various Artifacts could yield deadly consequences. "As we're currently seeing in the 'Angelus' miniseries, she's still very much learning about this job. She's learning what being the Angelus actually entails," said Marz. "We're dealing with someone who is a relative novice to this role. That might be someone who is more easily influenced or used as a pawn - he said full of portent!"
"Artifacts" #1, written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Michael Broussard, launches on July 21, 2010. Tune into CBR every week leading up to the issue's release for further insight from Marz and Sablik.