While no ladyparts are haunted in the new issue of “Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose” Skeleton Man’s dreams certainly are — haunted by the influences of the films he fell asleep watching. A lighthearted done-in-one dream sequence that Jim Balent draws far more loosely, but no less buxomly, than his typical style, this issue feels like a die-hards only affair.
Skeleton Man konks out after watching some old sci-fi films and we find ourselves floating through his dreamscape with the cast living together as cavepeople, attempting to forage for food and running afowl of dinosaurs at most every turn. For a book steeped in the supernatural and dark forces, Holly Golightly fills this issue with color and light. The tone of the script is purposely playful and the beat structure for the jokes are all in place. For all of this, though, the story just didn’t feel like it needed to happen. The women mostly stand around as Jon runs from dinosaur attack to dinosaur attack, only providing a glimpse at some ladyparts when the story may have let the reader forget they were reading “Tarot.” What’s surprising to me is that this is a book where fantastical things happen on a near-regular basis and yet when Balent allows his creations to enter territory where those crazy things could be expounded upon to an infinite level, he chooses to give them an adventure that is far tamer than a typical issue of the comic. The art is very cartoony and exaggerated to match the lightness of the script, a step away from Balent’s typical hero and fantasy-inspired fare. It’s interesting to see him stretch in to another style but at points it feels sparse, with minimal background and detail.
One thing I did enjoy about this book is that at $2.95 Balent and Golightly manage to fit in a full comic and plenty of backmatter. The fans of this book are clearly engaged with the creators and the community it has created. Balent enjoys making this book and there are plenty of people out there who enjoy interacting with it. We’re in an era where 20 pages of story in a Big Two book can cost a consumer almost four dollars, and Broadsword are packing in more than that, on higher quality paper stock, for over a dollar less.
Nothing really happens in this issue, and even the characters do not act in the manner they normally do in the comic. Everything is played for comedic effect so I could only recommend this issue to people who are already familiar with the book and the characters’ points of view. Even the art is not representative of what to expect when you pick up any other issue of “Tarot.” Balent and Co. clearly just wanted to cut loose for an issue and 87 issues in to a comic that they publish and own themselves. Who can blame them?