Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose #122

Here’s a comic-book series that I’ve been reading since the beginning, and I realized that I should make a point to review it because it really doesn’t get the promotion it deserves. This is an independent comic that launched in 2000 and is still being published. In this day and age, and this marketplace, that’s a pretty big accomplishment. The industry celebrated when Todd McFarlane’s SPAWN reached it’s 300th issue, and just recently Erik Larsen’s SAVAGE DRAGON reached its’s 250th issue, which are also stellar accomplishments. Bleeding Cool ran an article last week asking Whatever Happened to the Long-Running Indie Comic Book Series? and didn’t even mention this series.

Jim Balent rose to prominence in the industry drawing Catwoman for DC comics. In March 2000 he launched this creator-owned series under his own Broadsword Comics imprint. Broadsword is pretty much a two-person operation, with Jim and his wife Holly Golightly producing each issue (Jim as writer and artist, Holly as colorist and letterer, in addition to her occasionally writing and drawing short backup stories) yet they’ve managed to keep this book going on a bi-monthly schedule for 20 years now. That is amazing.

To give a brief summary of this series, the lead character is “Tarot” a voluptuous red-headed woman who is a real witch and she lives in Salem, Massachusetts. She is the chosen “Swordmaiden” of the Black Rose, which is the name of her family coven, which charges her with protecting the human world from magical threats. Or something.

Okay, so it’s not all that easy to explain. But with her magical powers and skill with a sword, she’s faced evil witches, vampires, werewolves, dragons, demons and all sorts of other supernatural beings over the course of this series.

Tarot is married to Jon, a regular human male who was almost killed in a car crash, which did kill his girlfriend at the time, and he was granted the ability to summon and speak to the spirits of the dead (including the ex, who took on the name “Crypt Chick”). Jon became caretaker of a local cemetery, to protect the final resting place of those spirits, and would occasionally dress up in a costume as “Skeleton Man” to scare off trespassers and graverobbers. He’s a skilled fighter himself and has often aided Tarot in her adventures.

It should be noted that Jim has visually based Tarot on Golightly and Jon on himself, and the two have been known to cosplay as the characters in various promotional items including variant covers.

The reason this post is in my Erotic Comic-Books category is that the book features full-frontal female nudity, and rear male nudity, along with frequent sexual situations. Tarot’s official costume is skimpy enough, but it frequently comes off while she’s in action against her various enemies. Tarot has a blase attitude towards being nude (or “skyclad” as she calls it), a lot of her private spellcasting at home also requires her to be nude. Basically Balent takes any opportunity he can to draw her and other female characters in the nude.

A recurring gag in the series is that Jon, who is much more uptight about nudity is also often involuntarily stripped nude, usually by various female characters who proceed to take advantage of him while he’s in that state. Initially, the series used to strategically cover the nudity, but by issue #14 Balent stopped censoring himself (although no male genetalie is ever shown).  I recently saw someone compare this book to Softcore films, in regards to the content, and I think that’s an apt comparison.

So, back to this current issue.

Balent takes a different turn in this issue, which is the first of a two-part out-of-continuity tale which imagines what if Tarot’s sister Raven Hex had been chosen as the Swordmaiden of the Black Rose instead of her. Raven is actually my favorite character in the book, she was originally a villain who sought to unite Witches to take over the world and punish humanity for all the crimes they’ve committed against witches over the years. So basically she was a sexy female Wiccan Magneto. She eventually reformed and moved in with Raven and their mother (who tragically passed in issue #116), and has been any ally to Tarot and regular supporting character in this series ever since.

But in this issue, “Alternate Paths” we see Raven going through the ritual (which, yes, requires nudity) necessary to become the Swordmaiden. But this is the pre-reformed Raven, so when she returns home to Tarot and their mother, she makes it clear to both of them that she intends to use her newfound position to get the revenge against humanity that she’s long-desired. Although they don’t approve, Tarot and the mother just accept that if “the Goddess” chose Raven then Raven has the right to do what she wants.

That part seems hard to believe, even in this alternate timeline I can’t imagine Tarot just sitting back and not doing anything while Raven tries to conquer humanity.

Then we see Jon, who’s back in his days as a cemetery caretaker, as he puts on his Skeleton Man costume to scare off a couple who are trying to film a ghost-hunting type of video show, and he also briefly confronts Raven. This part is a little confusing because I’d presume this was all taking place before Tarot became Swordmaiden in this continuity, which means it must be before the series began in March 2000, yet the couple has a modern-day smartphone and their show is on Youtube, neither of which should exist yet.

Raven then goes for a walk in town, where she’s immediately accosted by many of the locals who shout at her and call her a “whore.” It’s implied that Raven is deliberately attempting to provoke their abuse, which is why she’s walking around with her bare breasts sticking out of her dress, in order to justify what she does next. And what she does next is unleash extreme violence upon the townsfolk. And that’s the cliffhanger that we’re left on.

Despite the confusion about when this story is meant to take place and the reaction of Tarot, this was an entertaining and engaging story, with all the naked breasts and excessive violence that regular readers of this series have come to expect and love. I look forward to seeing the conclusion next issue.

In addition to the full-length main story, there’s a 4-page backstory featuring young Tarot frolicking in the woods with a unicorn, and this story also has a surprising ending.

If you like sexy women and action, this is the book for you. Chacebook rating: FIVE STARS


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