It feels like we have travelled a long road in trying to deliver the Tart comic into the homes of every comic reader out there. Two Kickstarters in and another well past the finish line and it is hard to imagine that Tart is a stranger to anyone. But there is still work to be done as Kevin Joseph and Ludovic Sallé work tirelessly to tell their story of a character, a caring and honest adventurer of fantastical locations. Issue five continues the Submerged arc of Tart and friends being sent to investigate the seemingly haunted waters of the Truk lagoon. We have seen her delve into the fires of hell, deliver a baby in the snow of the French Riveria and hunt spiders in an ice castle. As Tart, Lemon La Morgue and Gloom Tangerine learn to breath underwater, a sinister underwater ghost hunt is also underway.
Joseph and Ludo have a specific desire to travel the world and present all types of monsters and creatures. The buccaneering exploits of Tart Acid are echoed in the minds of her creators as not a single comic in the run has repeated locales. Ludo dedicates a significant amount of time drawing Tart in a variety of outfits and environments; you only have to look at the Kickstarter pledges to appreciate this. The opening page sees the three characters in vastly divergent seafaring outfits; even the three ladies all have individual looks. The Truk lagoon is an interesting location to host a ghost hunt because it contains varying amounts of Japanese military wreckage from the Second World War. These make for nice scenic touches such as a sunken tank and wrecked ships in the blurring aquamarine colours of the deep sea. It also allows a place for the action to take place in, and I am sure it is not a spoiler that there are more than just sharks lurking in these waters.
The story reads as a first person narrative and Tart herself is providing insight into her current predicaments. Her actual character is one of a calm and reassured woman, dealing with each event with poise and direction. It is when you read her thoughts that you realise she is genuinely kind and stoic but also a little on the cynical side resulting on some very dry humour. She gives the impression she has weathered all sorts of storms and escaped many a trial. This is certainly the case with her current situation where she is trapped and has to use her ingenuity to find an escape. The fantasy elements come into play here too as who has ever heard of creating an air hose for breathing underwater?! Ludovic has really developed over the issues and his art has become much more consistent and stable. It has always looks beautiful because his flair for drawing the female form has always been impressive and far from gratuitous. The style and appearances of his characters always looks varied and unique, even the antagonists of this particular issue. His use of colouring has always been an important feature of his art, and there are moments where the light blue green hue of the ocean is interspersed with flashes of orange from the sky above. This becomes even more prominent when during the battle sequences where the blood spilt tarnishes the colours around the scene. There is a lovely touch where the blood droplets actually float off of Tart’s face.
What is even more impressive is how the story flows from panel to panel. This is where Ludo has excelled, whether it is to depict movement from one place to another or the development of a close up. He uses long vertical panels for perspective, combined with circular close ups, or a whole page of rhomboid shaped boxes to position a scene. He does use sequential rectangular panels often but they often lie within a splash page or panel. I often think that he would love to just have a comic of giant single panel pages because they are poignant and breathtaking. But you have to pick your moments and he certainly knows how to build to a surprise or a strong action. Ultimately his dynamic use of panels has the most important result, flow and clarity.
It is hard to imagine for me personally, that this book is only five issues long because I have been intimately involved in it’s creation for a couple of years now. However I long for Tart Acid to find some rest and resolution. Over the bonus material you might have read, it is clear she is atoning for past sins or trying to shake the ghosts of her past. Even though I cannot image she has committed any serious transgressions, her path seems to not just be one of adventure, but one of redemption. I feel for her as a heroine because she does not get a chance to rest, but is constantly fighting one foe or another or even trying to resolve more petty domestic disputes. So no matter how many fundraiser projects that are needed, it is important that these two imaginative fellows get to finish their stories of perilous crusades and find Tart Acid some peace and quiet.
Even though the deadline approaches fast, if you enjoyed the previous issues, or even if this review has piqued an interest then check out the Tart Kickstarter page! Even though the project is funded, the rewards for donation are just amazing works of imagination from a beautifully creative partnership. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/323223050/tart-issue-5-submerged-part-2