Writer: Johnnie Christmas
Artist: Jack T. Cole
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Editor: Stephanie Cooke
Man…...this shit was good. First off the mere size of this first issue is impressive, we get 44 pages of constant story. I’ve learned through my personal experience, double sized issues never dissapoint. They deliver on story and impeccable art and Tartarus is no exception.
The first 20 pages is an amazing prison break sequence where we meet Surka, who can only be described as a hulking, ruthless warlord. She is housed in the deepest pit of a multi-story prison outpost called Tartarus. She is the most dangerous being in the universe and she is a mother. It’s revealed to us that Surka had given birth to a child while in the pit, and the child had been sent to her compatriots on the outside. This is the reason for her prison break, that and to get out and assume back the control of her criminal empire as a Warlord of the stars, but first she has beef to settle with the warden. Unfortunately, her reign was cut short when a rogue Private is blackmailed into killing Surka and the warden of Tartarus before they can finish their fight to the death.
One thing that I noticed about this comic was the overwhelming presence of brown skinned folks which I expect nothing less from Johnnie Christmas. He’s got an amazing body of work and this one in particular gives me an Afrofuturism feel and I have been craving that for a long time in the science fiction genre. The art is, in a word, spellbinding, it fits the story so well. The colors of some of the scenes with the General are incredibly stunning.
We get a 17 year time jump and this is arguably the best part of the story. The child that Surka gave birth to is now 18, her name is Tilde and she is a cadet for the very institution that imprisoned her mother long ago. She’s brilliant and excelling in every task placed in front of her, although she doesn't know her history. She is under the impression that she has been raised by her grandmother all these years, but discovers that all of her, and her grandmother’s documents are fabricated. Tilde is sent to the General where she discovers the truth about her past. Now at this same time a character from earlier reemerges and plants a bomb in the central headquarters. We’re getting a story from multiple angles but it’s easy to discern that the culmination of these events happening at the same time will jettison us into a galaxy wide space war of epic proportions.
At the end of this issue Tilde is asked repeatedly by the general if she loves and is loyal to Baxna, the military organization that she belongs to. He is simultaneously giving her the history of her mother and the people she ruled of=ver and generally painting her the way that the rest of the galaxy sees her, a vicious warlord. She had never questioned her loyalty until The General asked her to take her own whole ass life for Baxna. At this point I was pretty hype because I saw that coming and was wondering if she actually would in some distorted way see this as her paying the ultimate sacrifice to prove her allegiance to an organization who likely only saw her as a pawn to gain a foothold in their ongoing war. WHEW I’m excited I feel like this is going to be one of those where no one is safe and we get a decent sized story every issue. I really wanna see how Tilde changes and how this moment will shape her future and if she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. I’m definitely adding this one to my pull list and I highly recommend You all do as well.