"Tart: Volume 1 – Adrift" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Kechal Comics
Written by Kevin Joseph
Illustrated by Ludovic Salle
2014, 100 Pages
You know what would have made Quantum Leap a better show? If Sam Beckett was a really cute girl. I'm not saying that's the basis of indie comic Tart, as that's not doing the book justice at all, but it does give you a good starting point before diving into this world. The title character is a time-traveling demon hunter. She bounces through time and space, never sure where or when she'll end up. Her mission is always the same though. There's a demon mucking up the time stream and she's got to stop it. OK. I guess it's nothing like Quantum Leap.
Tart jumps right into the action. The first page has her waking up in a strange alley in New York City in the 1950s. You don't know how she got there or why just yet. Over the three-chapter graphic novel, writer Kevin Joseph slowly reveals bits and pieces of Tart's world. You don't get a straight up origin story, but you don't need it. Joseph hooks you with the story and artist Ludovic Salle reels you in with the beautiful artwork.
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It's hard not to instantly fall in love with Tart from the moment you first set eyes on her. She's a total girl next door and the type of girl you'd want to protect or look out for. The thing is, she doesn't need it. She's fully capable of taking care of herself and if you give her any shit, she'll cut you with her trusty blade. Her life may be full of dangers and her past is made up of tragedy, but she still jumps into this job with a smile on her face.
Each tale included in this graphic novel is widely different, providing a great showcase for the type of adventures Tart finds herself in. Of the three, the first is my favorite. The 1950s New York vibe is amplified by Salle's artwork that's modeled in a retro vibe for this issue, complete with Kirby dots and a faded background to make it look like an old comic. The story starts out as a basic demon hunt with a young boy's life hanging in the balance. Once Tart arrives on the scene, she finds that things aren't quite what they seem.
This is what sets the book apart from your stereotypical monster hunter comic. Tart could just jump in and punch things. Sure, that would be entertaining to watch, but it would be light on substance. Each story is filled with heart. The creatures aren't horrific mindless beasts. Sometimes they're just misunderstood and sometimes they've been through the same kind of heartbreak that humans go through.
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That's not to say that there's no monster fighting. Tart is a badass and throws down with all manner of creatures, including a wooly mammoth, an antlered demon, and a spider beast. This last one is a particularly creepy monster. It's not a traditional spider. Instead, it's built more like a human, with two legs and arms, but each is long and spindly. It spits gobs of webbing from its mouth that could suffocate our hero if she's not careful. Fortunately she's still got that blade with her and she's damn good at using it.
Tart: Adrift is an earnest and impressive debut. It's a great first volume, giving you just enough information to understand what's going on without boring you with long exposition explaining who everyone is and what they're doing. You find out everything organically and there's still plenty to uncover in what I hope are many more issues. The secrets behind Tart and the people she works for are still shrouded in mystery and that's part of the fun.