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A slow, but adequate start
on September 11, 2011
Season 9 picks up roughly 18 months after the last episode of the television series, which puts us in the middle of the happy endings glimpsed at the end of the "Forever Charmed." During this demon-free period the sisters have all been busy leading normal lives and having babies. The comic opens with two of those babies displaying the first of her powers and the initial stirrings of demonic forces. You know, your typical beginnings for a new season.
In a lot of ways the comic retains much of the feel of the television series. He may not have been part of the show, but Ruditis shows a wonderful grasp of the show's continuity, which is saying a lot given how wacky the show was at times. There are little things such as Piper whining about how her life can't be normal, assorted jokes that attempt to be witty and are almost funny, and, of course, shots of Phoebe's assets. But what really stood out to me was that the freedom of the comic medium allows for the series to sort of get back to its roots. For instance, not only do the sisters get a boost in their active powers, but the demons actually look like, well, demons again!¹ That includes the new (several times over) Source.
Overall the story is above par for what I expect from an episode of the show, but it starts off very slowly. It's not until the fourth chapter ("Mortal Enemies") that there is any real action. That isn't completely abnormal for the show, which often kept the action limited to the third act, but I expect a bit more going on in a comic format. The first chapter ("Charmed Lives") is little more than a glimpse at the domestic lives of the sisters with some bad guys plotting stuff thrown in. I think I also have a slight problem with how easy The Source was taken out even though they've battled him numerous times before. But maybe it just feels easy since the preparation for and the actual battle are condensed into their own chapter ("Unnatural Resources"). I did like that the sisters had a few side stories of their own, like Paige's new charge, Piper's restaurant location search and Phoebe's presiding over a mass wedding ceremony that included Romeo and Juliet. These B plots are usually my least favorite parts of an hour long episode, but in the new medium they don't overtake the story to the same extent. Or maybe they're just handled better.
The design of the comic is kind of baffling to me. The characters are often very hard for me to differentiate between. Part of this is certainly due to my color blindness, but the designs themselves don't give much help. The initial artist is replaced after the third chapter ("Innocents Lost") and there is a distinct difference in the art. Most notably, the color palette changes from something out of a Berenstain Bears book to a style that's much easier on the eyes. Unfortunately, while the sisters are more recognizable, I had an extremely difficult time telling the husbands apart with this new artist. There are some wacky things that deserve mention like the random cover designs and odd posing of the Charmed Ones. The new format does allow for a distinct rise in the level of violence shown, albeit it's minimal. I'm interested to see if this will translate into more elaborate action pieces in later books. It's still very early into the comic, though so I'm happy enough to say that the art does improve with each chapter.
The comic itself is pretty accessible to those unfamiliar with the show, and the graphic novel includes pages from the Book of Shadows; this prequel chapter ("The Sourcebook") serves as a basic introduction to the Charmedverse. Though, given the slow start I don't know if I would have stuck out the waiting if I had read this issue by issue, especially if I had never seen the television series. I do think that Ruditis handles the material better than the show's writers did in many cases and he's set up an intriguing enough mystery with Neena that I'm willing to continue reading future volumes and see where he goes.