Your Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie hosts are super-excited about Top Cow’s upcoming Artifacts crossover, which began with a zero issue released on Free Comic Book Day and continues with Artifacts #1 this July!

The FCBD issue of Artifacts introduced readers to the 13 Artifacts and mythology of the Top Cow Universe, including The Witchblade and The Darkness, two of the company’s longest running titles. Still, if you’re confused after reading the FCBD issue, hankering for more information, or missed out on the book, your friends at Funnybooks and are here to help get you caught up on what is sure to be an AWESOME comic book event!

We’re going to introduce you to the 13 Artifacts, and their current bearers (what information is currently known, anyway), talk about comics that are involved in the Artifacts crossover that you may not have even known about, and go over some of the key players in the storyline.  This is going to be the best place to come to get yourself prepared for Artifacts!

Click here for our previous articles, including our interview with Artifacts writer Ron Marz and Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik!

Also, listen to this week’s Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie for a chance to win Witchblade and Darkness trade paperbacks!

This week’s Artifacts:

The Rapture!

The obviously handsome Mr. Black
The obviously handsome Mr. Black

The mysterious Mr. Black used to work for the government, as the lead of a department tasked with investigating Hell itself.  A gateway to Hell was uncovered (in the Inferno: Hellbound mini-series) and a team of soldiers attempts to enter the gateway…and die instantly.  Apparently, it’s discovered that the only way to enter Hell is if you were already destined to go there anyway.  A team of convicts is formed, and they are sent on a mission to retrieve the key to close the gateway, which has actually fallen through.  No one knows how the mission ended (the series never finished sadly…but it was damn good while it was running), but Mr. Black continued causing hassle, making deals with demons for his soul to gain power and influence.  He’s promised his soul to multiple demons, so when one of them decides to cash in on it, another demon kills it to hold on to his prize.

Tilly Grimes worked in the Pentagon, cataloging prophecies and using her mathematic-based powers to predict the future. Selected as a member of the team to monitor the Gate of hell entry in Jerusalem, she develops mistrust in Mr. Black, and works with some of her teammates to steal the G.I.M.P (Gyrostatic Internal Matrix Producer), an artificial gateway to Hell, and escape.

And that brings us to Tom Judge.

Tom Judge is dead.  And in Hell.

But, ya know, before that, he was just a priest who had lost his faith.  See, a man came to Tom for confession, and Tom told the man to “look into your heart.  You’ll know what to do.”  That man went home and killed his wife (stabbed her 97 times) and electrocuted himself, along with his two children, in a bath-tub.

Tom Judge and Tilly Grimes
Tom Judge and Tilly Grimes

Tom blamed not only himself, but God, for what happened.  After all, this man took the advice of a holy man to mean that he should commit heinous acts.  Years later, good ol’ Tom is spending his birthday night you’d expect every faithless priest to – hookers and liquor!  He discovers a loose brick in his apartment, and finds behind it the Rapture, a strange artifact that looks kinda like a cross, but just a bit different.    As he touches it, he starts to hear a strange whisper when, wham!  Tilly Grimes uses her powers to find Tom, and bursts through the door, shooting one of the hookers in the head.

Instantly, the hookers start to turn into demons, and Tilly tells Tom to put on the rapture.  He does, and is instantly transformed into a giant creature that destroys the demons.  Tilly blows up Tom’s apartment as they escape to destroy the evidence.

Tilly takes Tom to meet a man named Nick.  Nick, well, he’s the Devil.  Nick tells Tom that everyone who dies…EVERYONE…goes to Hell.  In Hell, their souls are harvested and used as currency. Then Nick sends Tom on a mission – he’s to find the recently deceased Jackie Estacado (yup…The Darkness) in Hell and read him a letter.

In Hell, Tom meets Charon the taxi driver, who takes him to second circle. He warns Tom of the seventh circle. The only access to this circle is via a train, run by The Conductor, a being that even demons fear, but not a demon himself.  In fact, no one seems to know exactly what he is.  Tom finds Jackie and reads him the letter. While reading the letter, Tom transforms into the Rapture, and sets him free from Hell and back to earth.

Tom realizes that his power, and the power of the Rapture, is hope.  The power to give hope, even in Hell.  Tom and Tilly return to her apartment, and are attacked by Pentagon troops under the orders of Mr. Black, who wants the rapture for himself.

They escape to a hidden hideout, where he meets Tilly’s gang of merry men, as it were, and where they are working on getting the G.I.M.P. working again.  Using the GIMP to get back to Hell, Tom finds himself transported onto the train, where he meets the Conductor.  Tom returns, convinced that the Conductor is God.

The train to the seventh circle of Hell, operated by the mysterious Conductor.

Tom uses the G.I.M.P. to return to Hell, and finds the man who took his words to mean that he should kill his family.  The man is a land owner in Hell, and his wife and children are his insurance. Tom releases them, using the power of the rapture, and the killer is taken to seventh circle, and Tom finally comes to peace with what made him lose faith in the first place.

Months pass, and time in the world of man has taken its toll on the Devil.  He’s locked in an asylum, where Tom visits him. Nick tells Tom about the other Artifacts.  He tells Tom that it is the end of days, all orchestrated by Mr.Black.

Black releases poison gas into the city and kills thousands of people. Tom confronts him, and Black reveals that the wielder of rapture gets to decide who rules hell…and Black wants it, before shooting himself in the head.  Now in ownership of 51% of Hell (after a coup at the Hell stock exchange), Black says Tom has no choice but to give the Rapture to him.

Instead, Tom decides to give the Rapture to the Conductor, and asks that he take Mr. Black on a ride to seventh circle.  The Conductor, who may or may not be God, accepts the deal, but at the last second, returns it to Tom and returns Tom to Earth, where everything is now back to normal, and the battle for control of Hell and the End of Days is now complete.

Months later, Tom meets up with Tilly, and they spend a night together.  They are attached by a demon named Lachryma, who kills Tom and takes the rapture.  Tilly discovers the Lachryma’s next target is the bearer of  Witchblade. Tilly gets arrested and meets detective Sara Pezzini in interrogation. Tilly tells Pezzini the story of the rapture, and they join forces to find Tilly’s friends. Sadly, when they get there, they find all of them dead.  Sara battles with and defeats Lachryma.

Currently Tom Judge is in Hell himself and wields of the Rapture.  It’s currently unknown how he obtained it back (as seen in the currently running Angelus mini-series)….

Check out more adventures of Tom Judge and The Rapture in the books below!