One of the approaches for Free Comic Book Day issues in recent years has been to use the free comic as a launching point for a big event or story. DC did that last year with “Blackest Night” #0, offering a recap of what led to the event and some new material for fans, and Top Cow does the same thing this year with “Artifacts” #0. Acting as a recap/launch for the upcoming event, it provides the information necessary for new readers to jump aboard, while offering some new tidbits for hardcore fans. Even with that approach, though, it’s a little light on content and lacks strong art.
Framed by a mysterious figure reawakening the artificial assassin Aphrodite and reprogramming her to suit his needs, most of this comic is taken up with one-page descriptions of 13 artifacts that the mysterious figure wants collected. Each of the 13 pages use the same design, which is a sleek one, and some older art where applicable to show off the artifacts like the Witchblade, the Darkness, and a host of other objects from the Top Cow universe. It reads like less of a story and more of a compendium of these artifacts, some of which are barely known aside from a name. But, that does make this issue a handy reference guide for anyone reading the main book, which launches in July.
The amount of information given by Marz is enough to catch a reader up on the broad strokes of the Top Cow universe. We learn briefly what each artifact is (unless the mysterious man doesn’t know himself) and what their relationships to one another are, but not much else. If you’re looking for any clues about who Sara Pezzini or Jackie Estacado, the current possessors of the Witchblade and the Darkness, are beyond one-line descriptions, you’re out of luck. It’s hard to tell how much this book is aimed at complete newcomers to Top Cow since the emphasis is on the artifacts and not the characters.
From what little we see, Stjepan Sejic’s art is competent and bold. He colors his own work, giving is a painterly look with the focus on Aphrodite on every page. On the third page, he gets a chance to show her in a position other than floating in a tank of liquid by having her use her combat skills, and he demonstrates some solid skill at depicting action. His page layouts are interesting, usually consisting of tall, thin panels, particularly at the end when Aphrodite is released from the tank, ready to gather the artifacts at her new master’s bidding. He makes her stand out amongst the cold machinery surrounding her.
It may not be a strong story, but “Artifacts” #0 does introduce the centerpieces of the upcoming Top Cow event and gives readers the necessary information to pick up the first issue. As well, by giving information on all 13 artifacts, there is a mix of known objects and new ones for Top Cow fans to learn about here. All in all, a solid issue to lead into the event.