Earlier in the week, I agreed to read and review two comics that were kindly (and not so kindly) recommended to me. During the first half of my review, I discussed what I expected from each book and the role I felt that each book had in the marketplace. Next up? It’s time to crack open some comics!
I’m not sure how to judge the artwork in Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #58. There are two goals that Balent seems to have in mind when drawing—and those goals occasionally compete with one another. One goal is to service the story; the other goal is to service the sexual desires of his readers. The second goal clearly takes precedence over the first. Though I am not sexually attracted to women, I do believe that Balent achieves his secondary objective of titillation. Balent’s female characters possess the same characteristics of mainstream celebrities in the adult entertainment industry. Tarot and her sister Raven have large, disproportionate breasts similar to those found on modern pinup girls or video vixens. Couple that with long flowing hair and pseudo-gothic outfits that barely cover their plump nether regions, and Tarot and Raven would fit right in at a strip club, the Rock of Love bus, or on the set of a pornography film. Distasteful? Not according to the many men who spend their hard earned money to look at women of this…caliber? Yeah, we’ll go with caliber.
While the art doesn’t arouse me, one can’t deny the sheer joy that leaps off each page. Balent and Golightly simply seem enthralled by what they do. And while what they do is rather amusing at first, one must give credit to an artistic team willing to take such time and care in depicting something as mundane as a breast or vulva. When it comes to titillation? It’s all in the details.
However, when it comes to telling the story, those details make the art look amateurish and can confuse the reader. For example, I had no clue what was taking place on the final page of the comic until the last sentence of the third panel. Balent is more intent on depicting a sexy scene instead of one that makes sense. And that’s detrimental to the tale. The art in an action scene should be able to explain what is going on without the need for words. And it doesn’t. And the final page was not the only point where I had to sift through exposition to figure out what was taking place on the page. What would be delightful to any straight man or lesbian picking up a pin-up book was completely frustrating to a straight woman who just wanted to read a story.
Also, while I’m sure the creative team saves money by having Balent and Golightly take on multiple jobs, the book could really use the touch of a professional letterer. The lovely care that Golightly puts into coloring the series is not seen at all in her lettering. Sentences are often off-center and crammed into balloons that are too small. Then again, I’m sure that anyone picking up this book doesn’t give a damn about the lettering. It’s clearly legible, which is what matters most. My OCD is probably just kicking in!
The story was simple, fairly straightforward, self-contained, and gave a few hints as to possible plotlines to come. The issue would be a good jumping on point for individuals charmed by the art. It pretty much reads like any mid-tier action series. Sans cheesecake, it could easily be a one-shot or filler issue featuring Raven or Magik. The writing is serviceable.
What impressed me was the sense of community that Balent and Golightly manage to build within the pages of the book. Features such as the BroadSword Girl page, which shows a photo of a fan in a cosplay costume, allow the reader to actually become a part of each issue. And no, delightfully enough, arousal is not the objective of the feature. The woman shown in the issue reviewed was covered in cloth and chainmail from head to toe. The book also provides a page for Wiccans to share spells with one another. And again we are presented with another page that is titillation-free. Balent and Golightly seem to treat their fans with a great deal of respect and attention, which probably helps when building a loyal base. While I haven’t become a Tarot fan, I can definitely see that there is an audience for this material.