Surka and Hisa continue their fight to the death in an action-packed return you don’t want to miss! Guest artist Andrew Krahnke pulls out all the stops as we uncover clues to Surka and Hisa’s past and what it might mean for the future of Tartarus.
As Tartarus starts its second arc, Johnnie Christmas catapults readers into the past, back to the confrontation between Surka and Hisa that began the very first issue. Tartarus #6 is more textually light than some of its predecessors, but nonetheless retains the quirk of diagrams throughout which add an element of grounding to what is often a fantastical book. The issue never gets too heavy on lore or world-building, with Christmas instead putting a firm focus on the relationship between prisoner and guard. On the downside, the issue can occasionally feel cliché, as the bitter rivals are chained together and temporarily forced to work together to survive. That said, these tropes allow Christmas to offer provoking glimpses into questions of state-enforced violence, such as to what degree law enforcers are to blame for the behavior of the incarcerated and how far the legal system is willing to go to sustain itself. It’s a shame that these questions aren’t given greater attention, though the action sequences are nonetheless satisfying due to the new artistic team.
Tartarus #6 brings a change to the book’s lineup with the replacement of Jack T. Cole by artist Andrew Krahnke and colorist Hilary Jenkins. The art of Tartarus remains incredibly strong, though in some ways the book suffers from Cole’s (hopefully short-term) exit. For example, environments feel a bit lackluster, if only because of Cole’s maximalist approach to backgrounds, which added a sense of depth to the world even if characters had a way of getting lost in scenes. Luckily, this is less of a problem in this issue due to the prevalence of desert scenery, and Krahnke often lets characters dominate panels.
Krahnke’s talent for fight sequences is certainly one of the strengths he brings to Tartarus. While he sustains the energy of Cole’s artwork on previous issues, Krahnke shows a greater understanding of human anatomy and his use of foreshortening feels more accurate. Thus, while nonetheless stylized, characters feel more substantive and fights more visceral and satisfying.
While readers may be more familiar with colorist Hilary Jenkins from her watercolor work on other books, her choice to use gouache for Tartarus — a painting medium which is much more opaque — results in pages that pack a punch in a way Cole’s more ethereal art style didn’t. Nonetheless, Jenkins’ vibrant color palette offers a sense of continuity in relation to previous issues and a sense that the world has remained the same, even if the people portraying it have changed.
The cover depicts a dynamic close-up of Surka and Hisa’s fight to the death, and is a tonal fit to Christmas’ story without spoiling too much of the issue. One of the losses with Cole’s departure — or perhaps simply a casualty of this narrative interlude — is the back cover. While it may seem strange to take beef with a back cover, Tartarus’ tarot deck covers were part of what set the book apart from other comics on the shelf, and echoed each issue’s themes beautifully while tying them all together. This back cover mimics the back of tarot cards, but isn’t anything to write home about. That said, the front cover is nonetheless compelling enough to draw in new readers, and generally excite readers about the story they’re about to dive into.
Tartarus #6 is a compelling start to the book’s second arc. Though bordering on cliché, the narrative is still well-paced and thought-provoking. Tartarus loses something without Jack T. Cole, but the dynamic and vibrant art from the new artistic team is nonetheless a delight. Tartarus #6 is a compelling start to the book’s second arc. Though bordering on cliché, the narrative is still well-paced and thought-provoking. The dynamic, vibrant art from the new artistic team is a delight.
Tartarus #6: A Blast From the Past
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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