Review: Voodoo #1 by Ron Marz and Sami Basri

Voodoo #1
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Sami Basri and Jessica Kholinne

Let’s get this out of the way: Back in the 90’s, Voodoo was indeed an exotic dancer before she became a WildCAT. Yes, her solo reimagining opens with her crawling along a catwalk littered with cash, and before long she takes her top off. She is, once again, a stripper. And yes, several scenes take place in the dressing room, packed with women in little to no clothing, as you’d expect in a strip club dressing room. There’s a lap dance which ends with hot body fluid being sprayed all over the room.

Oh, and the name of the club is Voodoo, so if you really want to get riled, she’s named after the club she dances for. No avoiding the sex objectification tonight, I see.

All this is courtesy of Ron Marz, of Silver Surfer and Green Lantern notoriety, and Marvel vs DC. And, this is the most important part, Witchblade.

This is important. Witchblade, if you’re not familiar, is the tale of a woman empowered by a mystical artifact, and for the most of the 90s, it was a metallic, exo-skeletal thong. There was actually some great horror and intrigue going on, esepcially when paired with The Darkness, but it was, sadly, most remembered for being 90s T&A that the 90s was famous for.

In the mid 2000s, Ron Marz came to Top Cow and redirected Witchblade into a supernatural police procedural. Heroine Sara Pezzini, always headstrong and independent, kept her clothes on and threw down with the big boys, both criminal and monstrous. It’s one of my favorite runs in any series, because Marz really made the book about a strong female lead and apocalyptic prophecy peppered with supernatural mysteries. And he didn’t need a chitinous thing to do it, in fact, her trademark look became jeans, a leather jacket, and the titular Witchblade creeping out, rather than full on 90s cheese. And Top Cow has retained this rebranding.

I wanted to bring that up because I have faith in Ron Marz. If Starfire and Catwoman drew heat, I can only imagine (well, as of this writing, I’ve seen already) the heat a book about a stripper doing stripper things in a strip club is going to fare. But I believe it was necessary, because Marz wanted to stay true to her original roots, while throwing the concept on it’s ear and giving Priscilla Kitaen her own path through the New 52 universe. It’s just not apparent until the final pages.

The book opens in the club, with two government agents, the cocky Agent Tyler Evans and hard ass Agent Jessica Fallon, staking out Voodoo. Evans is apparently putting in more time than is necessary, which upsets his partner. While he works to get information on Voodoo, Agent Fallon finds herself accosted by some general street trash. She makes short work of them, and it’s here we learn they’re from the Wildstorm agency everyone loves to hate, International Operations.Fallon’s Zippo is proudly engraved with the Black Razors logo, whom Wildstorm readers will remember are I.O.’s fighting force.

As Agent Evans gets closer to his target, he accuses her of being a shapeshifting alien spy sent to scout out Earth and it’s superheroes, which is a good time to leave the rest of the issue to you.

As an old Wildstorm fan, I’m excited by the prospect, and it certainly explains why Voodoo, of all WildCATs, gets a spin off. Is she an agent for the Daemonites? Will we see Helspont? Lord Emp? How will this tie in with Grifter and Stormwatch? The potential is massive here, especially with Marz at the helm.

As a first issue, this gets things right. Marz gives as much information as you need without being totally omniscient. The dialogue has a rhythm to it; every character, minor to major, has a voice. There are enough hooks dangled to keep you interested, and some of those questions are almost answered enough to ensure you stay on board to see why it’s so. My biggest criticism of this week’s other supernatural offering, I, Vampire, was that it seemed to end before the “episode” was truly over; Voodoo offers a satisfying chapter for your time and money.

Sami Basri’s drawing skills are great, but paired with Jessica Kholinne’s dreamy color work, Voodoo becomes something special. Basri is a master of anatomy and clothing, lending the book a much more grounded and realistic look than you might expect from a book filled with the promise of sexual objectification. These are real people, not masturbation material, and it shows in the expressions and body language. Kholinne’s color is very bright and mostly flat, with subtle weights. Again, what could have been a sleazy affair is very much a bright, dreamlike aproach. Not only do the characters pop off of the panels, but it very much looks like New Orleans. She also uses an interesting and engaging palette of purples and oranges that set the tone of the scenes quite beautifully.

As a whole, this book is just excellently rendered, and exactly the sort of art team Marz can work magic with.

Voodoo may look like yet another hot spot for DC, but if you take the time to read it, and especially if you’re familiar with Wildstorm, you’ll find that unlike other books that may have gotten attention, Voodoo is very much doing it in the name of art, for the sake of story. And while even I might have thought it was a little in your face at the start, I’m going to allow Marz a few more issues to show me he has something up his sleeve, because the plot he’s seeded so far warrants it. The sci-fi/horror tone that creeps in demands to be experienced in full before dismissing it.

Unlike other bra and panty shows, I believe Voodoo has the personality and depth to keep my interest in the long term.

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