Free Comic Book Day was not too long in the past, just 3 weeks ago and just over the horizon of time on the other side of the month of May, in fact. You may have read the comicbooked.com article here in which I discussed the local artists and creators represented at one of the shops I visited. The forced exposure to local vendors via the gauntlet of tables and booths on the way to the FCBD book selection area was fantastic and filled with all manner of arts and crafts and color and creativity. One such book, one that I have the pleasure of discussing and sharing with you today, is a book called Tart.
Kevin Joseph, one half of the creative team, told me;
“I’m always excited to introduce our time traveling, demon hunter to a new reader.”
Tart is a story about a girl named – aptly – Tart Acid. Tart travels through time and between human and demon planes of existence. She utilizes beings called Trenchies, something you will have to discover for yourself when you read the story, to aide her in her travels. I had the pleasure of reading the first five issues of this on-going story (currently at its fifth issue). The first issue of this series opens with Tart Acid in the middle of 1950’s era New York City and on the hunt for a missing boy. She doesn’t know exactly when and where she is when she wakes up but one thing she is sure of, one thing that always happens is that there is a demonic presence nearby. She needs to solve the mystery and confront the demon; it is her mission, her life. Tart is adept at travelling from the desert to snowy landscapes in issue 2 to the exotic island paradise of later issues to their opposites of darkness and blood and death and despair of the demon planes and all in and out of different times.
Each of the five chapters feel congruent and seamless while at the same time remaining distinct with its look and feel and its story. The state of today’s comic books is one of inter-connectivity and crossover while the story is loomed between different titles and issues and the reader is shuttlecocked about. I remember the days when I could pick up an issue of Spider-man or X-Men and that issue would have a beginning, a middle and an all-important end. Sure there was the overarching story, the long game if you will but each book could read with clarity and end with satisfaction. Tart brings this back for me.
Tart is brought to life by the creative team of Kevin Joseph, a fellow Fort Lauderdale Floridian and Ludovic Salle, a freelance graphic designer and comic book artist from central France. Kevin’s writing style coupled with the artistry of Salle’s lines and pages come together as a perfect compliment to each other.
Kevin has a direct, straight-forward style to his writing. In a recent email he wrote the he proscribes to a writing philosophy of “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” and this is accurately conveyed through his particular style of writing. The narrator of the story is Tart herself and we are immediately thrust into the mystery and confusion of her world. Without the directness and cleanliness of the narration, the confusion might be too much but Kevin manages to present a fine balance of maintaining the mystery and representing the disorientation that she experiences with a story driven forward without getting lost in its own world. “It’s always disorienting when I wake up” Tart tells us towards the beginning, letting us know it is ok to feel disoriented and validating that that is where we should be in the story continuum.
The layout and paneling of the pages done by Ludovic Salle compliment Kevin’s writing style wonderfully. It is also simple with clean panel lines, sharp lettering and narration boxes and this allows for a deep, rich tapestry of vibrant colors and muted backgrounds that draw your eye exactly where Salle wants it to go. Not an inch of space is wasted on the page; where there is white space it is meant to be white such as with the snowscapes of issue 2. All of the colors, even the lack thereof serve a purpose. The white space – as you can see in the shot below – help to convey feelings of bleakness and isolation, of frigid cold.
All in all, I give this book a very, very sold 4 out of 5 stars! It is well done, beautifully executed both in story and in art. Each chapter feel like its own but each one drove me eagerly to read the next. I highly recommend this book to you. For those local to south Florida, Tart is available at local comic book retailers such as Tate’s Comics in Lauderhill, Florida and the newly-opened Lauderdale Comics in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The first 3 issues are available as part of a trade paperback strictly while you can pick up issues 4 and 5 in single edition, floppy books. You can also purchase Tart on Comixology, all five issues can be found there.