And now, the thrilling conclusion.
For those of you who don’t recall where we left off last night, take heart: Repressed memories, no matter how painful, can often be recovered through years of intense therapy. But just to make the process go a little smoother, I’ll recap. Keep in mind, however, that this issue promises to be even more horrifying than what we’ve already seen in the first part, and if that possibility strikes you as too fearsome to even contemplate, feel free to follow this link to a “Safety Blog” where you can calm yourself with memories of how hilarious bad comics were in the ’90s. No one here will judge you.
Except me, I mean. And probably everyone else. Chicken.
Still here? All right then. Let’s get on with it:
When we last left our alleged heroine in the pages of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #28, things were looking pretty dire. On a mission to transport Saddam Hussein through Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween–the reasons for which science may never be able to provide–a trio of government agent/fetish models called the Three Little Kittens were attacked by their nemesis, Latex Red, who then frees Hussein and gives chase through the crowded and famously witchity streets, where she’s headed off by the almost-as-busty Raven Hex, Tarot’s sister.
Interestingly enough–and again, I’m using the term loosely here–Raven Hex and Latex Red are both villains who were motivated to a life of super-villainy by the curse of being ridiculously well-endowed.
No, seriously. Raven Hex was teased as a girl and reacted by slapping a pair of giant metal spikes onto her rack and attempting to take over the world, while Latex, in a fit of jealousy over being rejected in favor of Catress, responded with what could charitably be called “overkill.”
And that, I regret to inform you, will be a plot point later.
Meanwhile, mistaking Tarot for a member of Red’s gang when she attempts to rescue them from their crashed ferrari, 3LK members Catress and… (sigh) Kitty Pop knock out the title character of the book with the absolute bare minimum of effort.
While all that’s going down, of course, Tarot’s utterly useless boyfriend Jon–better known to some as (actually a) Skeleton Man–has run afoul of Latex Red’s Satanic Schoolgirls, and seems dead set on proving that he is, in fact, the Worst Super-Hero Ever:
Incidentally, the sequence with John and the Schoolgirls is about the part where Balent suddenly realizes that he managed to get through the entirety of #28 without a single instance of nudity and decides to remedy that little oversight with gusto.
Needless to say, Tarot doesn’t stay knocked out for too long–she is after all the story’s protagonist, if only by default–and after paying back the 3LK (minus one) for their earlier attack…
…they decide that they’ve come to the latter portion of the “fight-then-team-up” plotline, and jiggle off to rescue Jon from one of the many, many humiliating defeats he’s been handed over the course of the last seven years or so. Except that this time, he helps by punching two naked women in the face with his crazy arm spikes.
So there’s that.
By the time they finally catch up to Latex Red, however, she’s given Raven Hex the slip (figuratively speaking; undergarments are rarely exchanged in the pages of Tarot) and re-captured Saddam, just in time to reveal her sinister master plan in what can only becalled The Worst / Best / Worst Again Dialogue Balloons In Comics History:
And you guys thought I was kidding about the explosive breast implants.
Of course, the trigger for Latex Red’s nuclear bosom is in her costume, so in typical Tarot fashion, the problem’s solved in about two panels when Raven Hex magically removes said outfit.
Oh casual nudity… is there any problem you cannot solve?
Thus, the Halloween plot to kidnap Saddam Hussein is foiled, and Salem is spared from being the first American city to be eradicated by rack-based warfare. Sadly, however, that all happens with eight pages left in the story.
It might be hard to believe, but it’s at this point–and not a moment before–that this story goes completely off the rails. Despite the pretty dismal lack of quality and a bat-shit crazy plot featuring Saddam Hussein, the whole thing’s been pretty normal fare for the pages of Tarot up to now. In fact, with this issue leading off with a gang of Satanic Schoolgirls distracting the notoriously lecherous Skeleton Man with their ladybits and a villain who can blow up the world by pinching her nipples, it’s a lot easier to chuckle at its sheer, unrepentant goofiness than actively despise it.
But then it hangs a hard left into Crazytown.
See, Jon’s nominal super-power is that he can see and talk to ghosts (hence his role as a super-hero who fights off Salem’s thriving grave-robbing industry), and while he’s congratulating the 3LK for a jorb well done, he suddenly realizes that Jaguara’s being haunted…
..by Jaguara herself.
Okay, time for Flashback Part Deux: Remember how Latex Red’s intervention in the last issue kept the 3LK from escaping from Baghdad before the bombs started dropping? Well, as it turns out, not everyone made it out.
What follows surpasses even the blood-soaked cannibal cookie monster masturbation scene from #16 in terms of all-out mind-shattering awfulness. I’m linking to it here solely for the sake of completeness, but I implore you not to click. With all this talking about it, you might think you want to see it, but trust me: You don’t. And really, if you’re going to use the Coward’s Exit, now’s probably the time.
Then agian, you might be better prepared for it than I was, since there was nobody around to tell me that fifteen pages of madcap witchity sex romp were about to turn into an exceptionally violent snuff film.
I’m a fan of the Punisher who likes Garth Ennis an awful lot, so I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen worse, but when you line up Jim Balent’s exploitative, top-heavy sex objects and then suddenly throw in a cheerful round of dismemberment and massive skull trauma, the net result is something that’s, well… a lot like this actually:
And here’s the craziest thing about it: After that and the next few pages–which explain that the remaining Kittens decided to stick around Iraq and fight alongside the troops until they found Saddam and that the new Jaguara is actually the old Jaguara’s sister who joined up and is now engaged in a complex masquerade so that the news of Jaguara’s death won’t hurt Troop Morale–things go right back to normal.
Seriously: Five pages after Jaguara gets a brick through her left eye, we’ve got a double-page spread of goofy-ass Jon walking in on the 3LK as they get undressed in a hilarious attempt to get his comics signed. It’s like he doesn’t even realize what he just drew.
And that, I think… is the scariest part of all.
On the bright side, though, you do get a last panel that pretty much encapsulates the exact opposite of how I felt once I made it through the story:
The only similarity? We both feel a little worse for the wear. In my case, though, I think the scars were all mental.