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‘Tartarus #2:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Chaos on Olympus Station gives Tilde the chance to run. Stowing away on a transport vessel, she escapes one threat, only to plunge headfirst into another. Writer Johnnie Christmas and artist Jack T. Cole build off the momentum of their explosive premiere issue with an ominous return to the titular Tartarus colony.

Tilde became an instant enemy of the Imperium Baxna when she learned the truth about her mother Surka, a vicious warlord of Tartarus. In issue two, the shock waves of that revelation hit Tilde's friends on Olympus. And to make matters worse, Tilde is being framed for assassinating a general. To get off the station, Tilde must permanently sever ties with one fellow cadet while ostensibly binding herself to another. Also, in brief flashbacks to Baxna, we're reintroduced to Tilde's adopted grandmother, and we learn why she is so adamant to return to the farm.

Tartarus was billed by its creators and publisher as "Star Wars meets Breaking Bad," but it's so much more than that. It has the makings of a sprawling science fiction epic, with a diversity of influences that run the gamut from Afrofuturism and cyberpunk to Greek Mythology and Shakespearean family drama, just to mention a few. Speaking of Star Wars, so far in the story, Tilde's motivation can best be characterized as a reverse-Skywalker; she wants to leave her military academy and return to her family farm. Even as she crosses another threshold in the story, we don't learn much more about mild-mannered Tilde or her friends, and no more family secrets are revealed. In that way, issue two has a fast tempo, but does not overwhelm the reader with new information.

As the narrative of Tartarus continues to expand, Cole's illustrations keep pace. His characters are rendered with a dynamic intensity, and his colors buzz with an electric incandescence. One sequence in particular stands out to me: an elaborate Djinn funeral rite where Cole's imaginative style is on full display. The art is both precise and painterly, similar to masters like Moebius, but intentionally more fluid. And in my opinion, one of the most enjoyable things about Tartarus is witnessing these extraterrestrial cultures being created from whole cloth by both Cole and Christmas.

The second issue also includes a backup story titled "Life" that was written by Stephanie Cook with art and letters by Megan Huang. It's a beautiful depiction of an alien life cycle, but it remains to be seen if this will relate back to the main story.


Creative Team: Johnnie Christmas (writer), Jack Cole (artist/cover artist), Stephanie Cook (contributing writer), Megan Huang (contributing artist/letterer)
Publisher: Image Comics
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Last modified on Tuesday, 17 March 2020 15:40

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