Out of the 1572 posts I’ve done on the ISB, the one where I review the issue of the Project Fanboy Award-winning Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose where the Skeleton man does battle with a haunted vagina is far and away the most popular.
Six months later, however, and I’ve got a confession to make: As popular as that post is, it’s partially based on a lie. The line “You have to get out of here! Your vagina is haunted!”, while quite possibly the most brilliant thing to come out of Tarot, is certainly not the worst.
For that, we have to go to this one.
Yes, January 2007’s Tarot #42, which features a story called “Hex in the City,” a pun that in some countries would be punishable by law.
Instead, we’re in store for for 22 pages of a story that opens with this, a piece that art historians will someday refer to as Skeleton Man in Repose:
This is, of course, cemetery caretaker Jon Webb, alias Skeleton Man. He’s Tarot’s boyfriend, and is also The Worst Super-Hero Ever, whose powers include seeing ghosts, making them solid, and lounging around in full-blown splay. His function in Tarot generally seems to be limited to having things explained to him, comic relief, and the occasional kidnapping, which sort of gives credence to the idea that Jim Balent really is subverting the usual male and female roles in comics, and is pulling off the greatest Tony Clifton act in comics history, an interesting theory that is only contradicted by everything else about the comic. Incidentally, Jon also looks exactly like Jim Balent, who I heard used to make his living as a gravedigger before breaking into art.
Meanwhile, Tarot, the de facto star of the book, is of course naked and having trouble sleeping, due to a vision that she had of one of the tarot cards from which she takes her name. This time around, it was The Tower, and in the complex, mystical language of magick, that represents… a tower.
Like, a literal one.
In New York City.
And if you think that’s the part that’s bad, then brother, buckle up. We’re not even close yet.
Anyway, after some hemming and hawing about not wanting to take her inept boyfriend off on one of her adventures, Tarot and Jon decide to head to New York, and suit up. Jon of course is in full regalia in the space of one panel, but Tarot, as you might imagine by this point, puts on her mask, gloves, boots, and cape before the panties and bra that make up the rest of her costume. Why? Because getting dressed the way she wants to is more empowering, especially if she’s sitting with her legs spread perpendicular to her torso while she does it.
She does eventually finish getting dressed though, and before long it’s off to the source of all their trouble:
“Kitty City! The name that the Three Little Kittens call their headquarters!” Cool sentence, bro!
I’ve mentioned the 3 Little Kittens before, but for those of you just joining us, here’s a refresher:
Back in 2002, right around the time that Tarot was being moved behind the counter in a lot of stores due to adult content, Jim Balent expanded the BroadSword Comics Universe with a three-issue series starring an ersatz Charlie’s Angels trio in cat-themed fetish outfits named Catress, Jaguara, and–sigh–“Kitty Pop,” with “Mommy Cat” standing in for Bosley.
The story involved a rejected Kitten named Latex Red whose jealousy over Catress’s larger bust–breast-jealousy being the driving force in the BroadSword universe–prompted her to get implants that are ridiculously huge even by Balentine standards, put on a devil-themed fetish costume, recruit a gang of “Satanic Cheerleaders,” and seek revenge. It was, of course, promoted as “An All-Ages Adventure Comic.”
Sadly, that was their only feature, but they have made a couple of appearances in Tarot, most notably in the story where they’re transporting Saddam Hussein through Salem on Halloween.
And now you’re back up to speed, although it’s entirely possible that you wish you weren’t.
Thus, Tarot flies Jon up to the roof, and we get a good look at the very serious events that could result in disaster:
Yep. An all-out battle between the 3LK and Latex Red and her crew of flunkies, who are currently dressed in bikinis made of teddy bears and snapping taser-towels at each other in the culmination of more fetishes than I can count.
The fight–which includes both Latex Red attacking Catress’s breats with her riding crop for three panels in a row and Skeleton Man literally taking one of the bikini girls over his knee to give her a spanking–comes on the heels of the 3LK foiling a terrorist attack and taking possession of a nuclear bomb that Latex Red wants for herself, her own nuclear breast implants having been presumably removed after the events of Tarot #29–yes, really–but in the course of the fight…
…it gets activated.
Catress can’t disarm it, and Tarot, suffering from plot-induced power-loss, can’t do anything to help, which, at this point, might just be the most frustrating part of the story thus far. She has magical super-powers, but offers nothing but a lame excuse about how if she teleports the bomb, someone else’ll still have to deal with it. Which is sort of true, but seems like an odd limit on her abilities. Admittedly, teleporting it to the heart of the sun might be a bit out of her range, but if she could take it to “the Fairy Relam,” couldn’t she at least send that shit to Bikini Atoll or something? But no, she doesn’t, and it’s up to the Skeleton Man to save the day, which essentially means they’re screwed.
And then this happens.
The ghosts of the firefighters who died on 9/11 show up and defuse the bomb.
And then they make a pun about it.
The sound you just heard might’ve been the dull thud of your jaw hitting the floor.