REVIEW: ‘Tartarus,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Tartarus #1

Tartarus #1 is published by Image Comics, written by Johnnie Christmas, with art by Jack T. Cole. With 44 pages of story, the first issue of this ongoing series kicks things off with an abundance of action, drama, and great sci-fi content. Our protagonist is a young, very promising cadet in the Baxna military academy by the name of Tilde. Her seemingly happy life comes to a screeching halt when she finds out that all she’s ever known is a lie: she has no biological relation to her grandmother. Instead, she finds out that she is the daughter of a late, ruthless warlord of the deadly, murder-prone colony Tartarus. Tartarus is a vital component in the galactic war so, when the empire finds out Tilde’s ancestry, they are quick to frame her for unknown crimes and Tilde is forced to fight back against the very system that opened up her world.

As a lover of sci-fi, this comic satisfies that part of my mind that can’t get enough of dystopian worlds and novel, dangerous technology. We get some very unique sci-fi elements from the plot and story but also some familiar ones that spark some reminiscence for other media such as Star Wars. However, this familiarity doesn’t detract from the overall story or world-building. In fact, I think it aides it by helping the reader find a familiar concept that they can use as a foundation while novel concepts are added to the story. Overall, it helps to not overwhelm the reader while building a novel world. And, may I say, that Tartarus is a crazy, beautiful, and deadly world that I can’t wait to see more of.

The very first component of Tartarus #1 that captured my attention was the artwork. The work Jack T. Cole did for The Unsound was absolutely beautiful and moving. In the same vein, the work Cole does for Tartarus #1 leaves nothing to be desired. The art style is wonderful, lending to very emotive faces and bodily expressions that the readers can key into with ease and only enhances the dialogue and story. The movements of characters are simplistic, but the art gives a sense of fluidity that enhances the fight scenes. The color palette is dynamic; the use of various colors sets the scene and mood of each panel.

Tartarus #1

The backgrounds are also stellar in and of themselves. They’re intricate and diverse and I just can’t stop looking at them. The backgrounds give a sense of a conglomeration between high-tech sci-fi structures and buildings with designs and motifs that seem to be more culturally influenced. The design of the characters themselves seems to be much the same. We see plenty of Greek motifs mixed in with futuristic technology; perhaps a play on the origins of the word Tartarus which, in Greek mythology, is a deep abyssal dungeon that only holds suffering and torment for the wicked. It’s an abyss much like the one that Surka, Tilde’s mother, climbs from. This hodgepodge between technology and culture really lends to the world-building going on in this issue and distinguishes the culture of Tartarus from the rest of the empire.

The only problem I encountered with these backgrounds is that they’re too intricate in some cases. The characters tend to be less intricate and can be lost in the backgrounds. Also, when these intricate panels are secluded to a smaller area, it can be hard to tell what’s going on in the scene. However, this was a rare problem.

We also see a wide range of diverse, colorful, characters in this comic. Every character in each panel is individualistic and interesting aesthetically, no matter if they’re at the center of the story or a character secluded only to the backgrounds. The uniqueness doesn’t stop there; the dialogue is also well-done and is distinctive enough between characters so that we get plenty of personality come through the dialogue. On top of this, although much of the comic is rather serious, we get some nuggets of humor sprinkled in that feel just right.

Tartarus #1

Personally, another important aspect of this comic is the placement of very strong, influential female characters. Surka, Tilde’s mother and the feared warlord of Tartarus, is a woman to be reckoned with. There are plenty of panels in which characters express their fear or respect for Surka, but the comic goes farther and shows the readers why she’s so dangerous instead of just stating it. From climbing out of a pit she’s been condemned to, to physically removing all persons who oppose her, she’s an unstoppable force.

Tilde is also just as strong as her mother; she seems to be quite adaptive and takes the empire’s attack on her in stride. Although it’s great to see, this turn around seems a bit too quick. In previous panels, we don’t get too much info about Tilde’s past or her personality. We learn she’s a farm girl who joined the military in order to explore the galaxy and she seems happy. But when she learns of her ancestry, she goes from being scared and overwhelmed to ready to kill the very people who opened her world up to greater possibilities. It all just seems to be a bit too quick.

Tartarus #1 sets the tone for the rest of the series and does some great world-building to introduce us to the political climate and the culture of both Tartarus and the empire. Within the first few pages, the world of Tartarus drew me in very quickly and it doesn’t seem to want to let go. Between the exciting plot and beautiful artwork, and maybe due to the cliffhanger at the end of the issue, I’m wallowing in my anticipation for the next issue.

Tartarus #1 is available wherever comic books are sold.

Tartarus #1
4

TL;DR

Tartarus #1 sets the tone for the rest of the series and does some great world-building to introduce us to the political climate and the culture of both Tartarus and the empire. Within the first few pages, the world of Tartarus drew me in very quickly and it doesn’t seem to want to let go. Between the exciting plot and beautiful artwork, and maybe due to the cliffhanger at the end of the issue, I’m wallowing in my anticipation for the next issue.