The Top Cow Universe is a mess, and it's all Jackie Estacado's fault. The Darkness-bearer severely disturbed the cosmic balance when he overhauled all of reality -- with a few changes specifically designed to benefit himself -- at the end of publisher's first major "Artifacts" storyline.
David Hine and Jeremy Haun have been writing and drawing Estacado's adventures in "The Darkness" since Jackie's reality-altering escapades, kicking off his place in the new reality by giving the one-time mob hitman the ideal life: a wife who loved him (and used to be dead in the old universe), an older version of his daughter Hope and a doppleganger to house the Darkness in. But as you might expect from the a book about the personification of blackness and evil, happiness will never last. Jackie's tampering with cosmic forces woke up some very angry, very old gods who made themselves known in the recent Progeny crossover.
All of this comes to a head in July's surprise finale of "The Darkness." Top Cow told CBR News exclusively that with the release of "Darkness" #116, the long-running series will be no more. In its place will rise "Darkness Falls," a three-issue series written by Hine, drawn by Stjepan Sejic ("Witchblade," "Artifacts") and designed to wrap the story of the Darkness and change Top Cow forever.
CBR News: Jackie and his clone have become the center of the Top Cow Universe after the events of the original "Artifacts" and Rebirth. What's it been like, kind of steering the ship?
David Hine: It has been very smooth sailing. Since Rebirth we've seen that the universe that Jackie made is identical to the world as we knew it, except for a couple of changes that Jackie considered minor from a global perspective. He brought back his dead girlfriend and made her the mother of his child. What could possibly go wrong?
What has become clear is that bringing Jenny Romano back to life has created a catastrophic anomaly. She is the flawed center of the new world, and her existence has opened up breaches into an underworld where an ancient race have been exiled for millennia. Now they are slipping back through these portals in different guises.
The big revelation is that most of the forces of evil that have been appearing in "Witchblade" and "Artifacts" over the past 18 months have been Ancient Ones in some form. The premise is actually very open to interpretation, so that has left the creative teams on the other books very free to introduce whatever concepts they want.
How does the conclusion of the recent "Progeny" crossover roll into the end of "Darkness" and into "Darkness Falls?"
At the end of "Progeny," Tom Judge and the other Artifact bearers are aware of the danger posed by Jenny Romano. Tom's solution was to eliminate Jenny. Her existence is paradoxical. Get rid of her, and the flaws will repair themselves, the portals will close -- problem solved.
Sara Pezzini is the one who has suffered more than anyone from Jackie's actions. In the previous world, she was Hope's mother and Jackie had effectively taken her child away from her, but as she recovered some of her memories from her previous life, she inevitably recalled that she had been willing to kill Hope to save the rest of humanity. Sara has become weighed down by a burden of guilt and no longer even considers herself worthy to be Hope's mother. She's the one who convinces the rest of the Artifacts that there can never be a justification for taking an innocent life. The Artifacts now have to accept that the Ancient Ones will continue to plague our world and they will have to stay on their guard, confronting the threats as they arise.
That means that it's down to Jackie to solve the problem of the Ancient Ones. What the Artifacts don't know is that Jackie is no longer in control of the Darkness. He's currently a prisoner in his own home, while his doppelganger is in full possession of the Darkness and is planning an alliance with the Ancient Ones to unleash their combined forces and make the entire world the realm of the Darkness. The final arc of "The Darkness" monthly tells the story of Jackie's battle to take back the Darkness and restore the balance between the forces of Light and Darkness.
Was it the plan from the beginning to end with "Darkness" #116?
No, the plan was to keep the story rolling, but over the past few months it has become obvious that we are headed for some extreme events that demand a conclusion to Jackie's story. We are heading for a powerful climax that can't simply end with "Continued next month…" Issue #116 is the end of the monthly series, but not quite the end of the story.
I'm sure you want to keep a lot of the details under wraps, but what can you tell us about the "Darkness Falls" miniseries?
Immediately following "Darkness" #116, we are going into the three-part "Darkness Falls." Basically, Jackie dies. I think that's all you need to know about the plot. Jackie has walked a long and hazardous road and he has come to the end. His death has become inevitable. The more compelling question is how and why he dies.
You're working with Stjepan Sejic on "Darkness Falls." While he's done runs on "Witchblade" and "Artifacts," what new elements does he bring to this final Darkness tale?
Stjepan has a totally different approach to art than Jeremy Haun, so I'll be adapting my own style of storytelling to Stjepan's strengths. Jeremy is all about characterization and mood while Stjepan is a very powerful fantasy artist. His work is digitally based, very three-dimensional and textural. His action scenes are like watching a video-game come to life.
And finally, will you be hanging around the Top Cow Universe post-"Darkness Falls?"
Yes -- I guess I've dropped a couple of bombshells in this interview: ending the monthly series, killing our lead character. What I'm keeping under wraps is what happens next!
The beginning of the end for Jackie Estacado kicks off in "Darkness" #112, on April 24, leading up to the series finale in July.