Note: there are three intertwined stories going on in this issue, spliced into each other. I'll give a quick summary of each one, rather than try and match the narrative flow of the pages.
The A-story: Piper is about to spill the beans to Phoebe about Cole when Paige orbs in to tell them about a fire at her house. Everyone is safe, but they're not sure what started the fire. Phoebe gets a premonition off something stuck in the door, which leads them to Tyler, who tells the sisters about a school that was recruiting him. Paige orbs the sisters into the office of Knox Academy, where the headmaster explains that they're a neutral alternative to Magic School. Paige gets a phone call, and they head back to Magic School, where it turns out Tamora has developed molecular acceleration powers that create fires (a low-level version of Piper's blowing stuff up power), while Kat is able to slow things down, but not quite freeze them. Henry wants them to bind the twins' powers, but Paige doesn't.
The B-story: Cole continues his quest to find Prue by visiting a seer named Alexi. Both of them proceed to try and keep secrets from each other and share cryptic revelations. Alexi tells Cole that what he seeks can be found in the place of her namesake. As Cole leaves, less than satisfied with Alexi's help, Rennek emerges from the shadows with something called "The Jewel of Orthon". He says there's one more person he needs to use it on, to force the Charmed Ones to tear themselves apart, with an ominous image of the Knox headmaster creating fire with his hand.
The C-story: This one appears for the first time as Cole asks Alexi to find Prue. We see two women in Pilgrim-era garb. One of them, Sarah, levitates a rock with her mind. She quickly grabs it and hides it in her pocket, but the other woman notices and says Sarah can trust her. The blonde woman places the rock on the table and asks Sarah to move it. She's reluctant, but the women says she's not the first woman in their town to be a witch. Sarah says she needs time, and the other woman is understanding. Sarah thanks her, calls her "Patience", and says she won't leave during tourist season. Cue Sarah walking outside with modern cars. She leaves the door open, and Patience appears to close it with a wave of her hand, and we see the sign outside the door: "Salem Witch House."
There's only one cover for this issue, the David Seidman art cover, and it's so good that it makes up for the lack of a second cover. The detail on Rose McGowan's face is incredible. My only problem with the cover is that it didn't come out two weeks ago, because I would have loved to have gotten this signed by McGowan (as it was, I settled for getting the photo cover from Issue #12 signed).
Score: 4 out of 5
Normally I'm not a fan of overlapping narratives, because they can make a story harder to read, but in this case it actually worked. And, to be fair to Paul Ruditis, the B and C stories aren't overlapping narratives, but directly connected, only you don't find that out until the twist at the end.
And as for that twist? Well, it can only be described as "delicious." Look, we know that Zenescope has already confirmed they can't use Shannen Doherty's likeness in the comic, and having Prue be reincarnated into another witch would tie into Grams' original explanation for Prue's absence, while also allowing for Patty's follow up to still be true. In all honesty, I was... "bored" isn't the word, but maybe "indifferent" to the C story until the twist, where it finally all made sense. I also might have let out a "squee" at the sight of a P-named witch using telekinesis to close a door.
The A story was the most "arc" heavy we've gotten in a few issues, with multiple threads clearly left hanging to be resolved later. That's a good thing, after getting multiple one-shot style issues in a row. Plus, the Henry/Paige argument about whether or not to bind the girls powers calls back not only to the series, but to previous issues as well, which shows an attention to detail that comes from having a steady, dedicated writer.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
Dean Kotz has admitted that likeness work isn't his strong suit, but he's getting better, and it shows in this issue, which is a step up from his previous efforts (which were a step up from his initial appearance on the series). It's obvious from looking at the various panels that he's at his strongest when working in wide shot or extreme close up views. The mid-range perspective -- essentially when you can see a person's head and torso, sized to about a third of a page -- is his weak spot.
Sadly, this issue minimizes what has proven to be Kotz's true strength: action scenes. The majority of the issue features characters standing or sitting around and not really doing much of anything aside from talking, so it's impressive that Kotz has improved as much as he has, given that he didn't even have his bread and butter to fall back on. Still, the likenesses of the sisters shift a little too much for my liking, particularly in Paige's case.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
On the whole, this issue is probably best described as "solid", but the hints with the Patience character really push it up a notch. I know lots of "Charmed" fans will be all about Kat and Tam finally having powers, but I'm not reading this series for "Charmed Babies" and I'd be fine if we saw less of them and more of The Charmed Ones, Cole and Possible Prue in the future.
Score: 4 out of 5
Previous Issue#14, Cupid's Harrow
Where There's Smoke, There's A Firestarter
#16, The Heavens Can Wait