Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #59 by Drew Barth
Today’s Double Feature
A month ago I wrote about some of the upcoming comics this year that have me most excited. And to my excitement, one of those just released. Tartarus is a new series from Image by Johnnie Christmas and Jack T. Cole. The duo spin a new universe filled to bursting with technology bordering on magic and a family story built on deception and secrets. The first issue hits all of the marks—new worlds, interesting characters from their first panels, and a story that burns slow over its fifty-five pages. But what is most interesting is the way Christmas and Cole build their story.
The first issue of Tartarus is split in two—one story in the past, one story in the future. Both stories center around either imprisoned Surka or her daughter, Tilde. And this dual family narrative is what makes Tartarus so interesting from the beginning—namely since Tilde doesn’t know her lineage. From the first page, Surka is a figure spoken of as a hushed legend. She’s the long shadow cast over the Baxnan empire whose crimes have landed her in a deep, dank pit on a mining colony’s prison. So of course she escapes from prison in this first story. But it is in this first story that we are introduced to her infant daughter, Tilde, and it is where we see Surka die.
And so begins the second part of Tartarus. Seventeen years later, Tilde is in a Baxnan empire military academy and learns that she was lied to about her parents. As a piece of family intrigue, it’s incredibly interesting since the above-mentioned reveal is the kind of thing saved for the end of the first arc. But here, we know that Tilde is Surka’s daughter, and we know that she has been lied to most of her life. Where will the story go? If you’re a team like Christmas and Cole, you can take this story so much deeper. The questions set up in the first issue (namely how did Tilde end up in an academy for the military that killed her mom?) are the kinds of questions series are built around. And with the abundance of world-building on every page, there’s nearly another series worth of characters and story to to build off of.
I don’t know if this dual story structure will continue. The interplay of past and future allows the reader to start piecing together puzzles that characters don’t know exist and creates a different kind of reading experience, one that isn’t seen all that often in monthly comics.
Get excited. Split the story.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.
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