Tartarus Volume 1 is the collection of the space opera series from Image Comics releasing September 30. From the minds of writer Johnnie Christmas, artist Jack T. Cole, and letterer Jim Campbell comes a grey vs. gray morality story.
Tartarus Volume 1 Story
Tartarus Volume 1 focuses on Tilde, a military cadet on the run from the life she knew. In the universe of Tartarus are factions of people who follow very extreme ideologies. Tilde runs from the military dictatorship she served Baxna. The reader sees that years of service don’t matter to the leaders, not even the general who saw her as a daughter. The fact her mother is a dangerous warlord who risked everything to get a better life on the mining colony Tartarus is too great a risk for a Galactic War they’re fighting. Because to them, any reminder of Surka is a threat to them. After this disheartening revelation, Tilde flees to her mother’s home.
Johnnie Christmas has the main conflict of Tartarus Volume 1 revolve around a web of actions that tie together. Everything from Tilde’s academy friend Klinzu and his attempt to get a date and an engineer’s attempt to better himself comes together. Unfortunately, with so many plot points, there is barely enough time to show character. Tilde is rather reactionary to everything around her, doing whatever the plot demands. But it’s only because most of her actions are about taking care of family and friends, including her twin Mogen, she meets on Tartarus. Again though, readers would benefit from seeing more of Tilde’s interactions with these people. Otherwise, it’s mostly just tidbits like with the high-strung Chief Ilzn who treats her well.
What really attracts readers to Tartarus Volume 1 is the immersive and vibrant world the characters live in. Jack T. Cole decorates this world with images resembling middle ages illustrations. Not least of which are the tarot cards that serve as introductions to the chapters. When looking through the issues, a reader can easily reread the material to understand what takes place fully. On a side note, there are pieces of exposition on one page that describe pieces of the world. Each has a sense of identity where Baxan origins look like military reports; others include simple hazard warnings. This, along with 80’s era sci-fi designs, provides the series’ backgrounds with a sense of culture. Despite the name Tartarus, there seems to be a sense of living and thriving in this world.
Jim Campbell provides plenty of opportunities to communicate how people interact with everything in Tartarus Volume 1. Most word balloons float around to display activity. Even side characters feel like they actually live in these worlds rather than float in them. As for captions, blue captions are usually inner monologues from Tilde, unlike yellow captions for locations. This provides plenty of opportunities for people to see what she’s thinking and how it can differ from her actions. One time, Tilde even speaks out loud because keeping it in her head would blend with the cool colors.
Tartarus Volume 1 Is Only The Beginning
Tartarus is like movies such as Valerian and Mortal Engines, full of world and in-universe culture. Yet it’s storytelling potential feels limited in comparison. Because with so much going on, it’s hard to get a lock on the side plots. Hopefully, the issues following Tartarus Volume 1 can deliver more on character interaction than just the plot.