Surka and Hisa must achieve the impossible, getting along, to perform a literal miracle: a return to Tartarus.
In Tartarus #10, past finally meets present as Surka and Hisa arrive at Tartarus. Tartarus, the comic, however, is headed for an indefinite hiatus, hopefully, its writer says, to return in the form of graphic novels.
The easiest way to describe Johnnie Christmas’ writing on this issue (and Tartarus in general) is ambitious. Tartarus’ world always feels substantive, its characters and plots complex. With lives hanging in the balance, and the rules of reality being broken, it’s a riveting read. The plot is easy to get lost in and moves at an alarming pace.
However, even by Tartarus’ standards, this issue feels text heavy. Certain plot beats at the issue’s climax and finale deserved breathing room that the issue didn’t have space to offer. Like its first issue, Tartarus #10 might easily have been twice the length of a standard issue. Hopefully, if Tartarus returns in graphic novel form, this won’t be as difficult a balance to maintain.
That said, many components of this stuffed tenth issue are satisfying, particularly the returning role of the inter-mutual locks, a.k.a. spiritually-mediated full-body handcuffs. The form of restraint and trust they represent between Hisa and Surka in issue #10 is far removed from the carceral relationship they represented in issues 6 & 7. Of course, in some ways both Surka and Hisa remain the same, or find themselves turning back to old habits and roles.
The art from Andrew Krahnke and colorist Hilary Jenkins is first-rate. While Jack T. Cole’s work on Tartarus’ first arc placed more emphasis on environments, Krahnke’s compositions place far more emphasis on the characters who inhabit them. His knack for facial expressions — some frenzied, others sentimental — is particularly memorable. Jenkins’ gouache, meanwhile, feels more substantive and less ethereal when compared to Cole’s watercolors on Tartarus’ first arc.
However, she retains the acidic, surreal colors of those earlier issues, and her substantive coloring style adds mass to Krahnke’s craggy-faced women. Together, Krahnke and Jenkins offer a visual feast that always feels high-impact and rises to meet an issue that is equally high-octane. That said, the final page is the issue’s sole splash page, and feels somehow less significant than the reality-breaking scenes mid-issue.
The cover, also by Krahnke and Jenkins, is a composition wonderfully at odds with Cole’s cover for Tartarus’ first issue. That first issue depicted a fight between Surka and Hisa, with the former far from the viewer and the other close but turned away, the pair separated by a cavernous space. Now, they return as a united front, Hisa stood grimly over a reclining Surka and both dressed in black against the vibrant tones of a battle and Tartarus beyond. While this image is a very direct callback to the final moments of Tartarus #5, it still does an effective job of cementing the changed status of their relationship. It’s unlikely to pull in new viewers, gives essentially nothing away, and isn’t particularly dynamic. However, it’s nonetheless a satisfying composition.
Whatever its flaws, Tartarus has been one of the best science fiction comics of the last year, and worth every minute of its audience’s time. It’s hard to say goodbye to this book, its cast of characters, and its creative team, but we can only hope it returns sooner rather than later.
In Tartarus #10, the past hurtles into the present with an ambitious, action-packed conclusion. As Tartarus goes on an indefinite hiatus, readers are left to hope for its future.
Tartarus #10: World Enough and Time
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
User Review( votes)