Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #65
"The Last Mermaid"
Posted 03 Mar 2011
Writer: Jim Balent
Artist: Jim Balent
Colors: Holly Golightly
5.00 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sara Michelle Kowalczyk
This issue is a haunting and tragic tale of what could happen if we don’t protect our planet. It begins with Tarot and her sister Raven Hex being abducted from their home, the Black Rose Mansion, by sea creatures called “caretakers” that look like “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The “caretakers” transport Tarot and Raven through a magic portal in their reflecting pool to the shores of the Gulf, the site of the BP oil spill. There, the sisters witness death all around them. Fish, birds, and plants stuck in the sticky, brown muck. The “caretakers” lead the sisters to a mermaid on the beach. She’s struggling to stay alive. The mermaid speaks to them through a silvery-white orb and tells her story.
The merfolk were a peaceful people who lived in the ocean out of sight from humans. Unfortunately, one day our world spilled into theirs when a young, curious mermaid died from venturing too close to the oil. Her lover brought her body back and told his people about the “Dead Zone,” the place where the sludge gushed from a leak in one of mankind’s underwater oil wells. Some of the merfolk go to the “Dead Zone” to investigate, but sadly they could not breathe the polluted water and many of them perished. The queen gathered the rest of her tribe and revealed to them a terrible secret weapon, an inky black orb. She did not believe the oil spill was an accident. She felt it was yet another example of humans carelessly destroying the environment. She saw it as a declaration of chemical warfare.
The merfolk armed themselves with shark-toothed spears and tried to swim up to the surface to confront the humans, but the oil spread and they all died. Before she died, the queen gave the orb to the last mermaid and advised her to find a Black Rose witch named Tarot to help them. The young mermaid swam as fast as she could, but the oil caught up to her and she had to send the “caretakers” to find Tarot. They didn’t know what Tarot looked like, so they took both her and Raven. Before breathing her final breath, the mermaid bestowed the orb upon Tarot.
The “caretakers” carried away the lifeless body of the mermaid and exhumed the dead that had washed ashore. Raven and Tarot looked to the horizon and saw the oil rigs looming in the distance. Tarot’s boot nudged something, and when she looked down, she realized it was a dead baby mermaid. In a momentary lapse of judgement, she handed the orb to Raven and held the baby in her arms. Raven’s dark powers rose to the surface in her sadness and mourning. She screamed and threw the weapon of the merfolk toward the oil rigs, reciting an incantation to help it reach its destination.
A gigantic sea creature erupted from the orb and took down the rigs in a rage of jaws, claws, and tentacles, bringing the many inhabitants to their watery graves in the depths. Tarot feels responsible for the deaths and explains the solemn moral of the story, “We, Mankind, Witchkind, or Fairykind are not the only inhabitants on this great planet, and it is only through the consideration of others that we will live in harmony or we will not survive.”
Even though this issue was very sad, I loved it! It reminded me of The Last Unicorn. Jim Balent took a horrible, ecological disaster and rewrote it into a magical story that teaches compassion for nature and others. Mermaids are my favorite fairy tale creatures. I love how Jim draws them. He renders every mermaid differently. Some have stripes (similar to the Na’vi from Avatar) or polka dots on their long fish-tail fins. Others have amphibian-like webbed fingers. He always decorates each mermaid with an accessory from the sea like a bracelet, belt, necklace, ring, bra, or crown made of shells, starfish, seaweed, crab shells, pearls, or barnacles. The mermaids are portrayed in array of ocean colors (blue, green, aqua, purple, pink, copper, or pearl-white).
I thought it was so cute that Jim included his wife Holly in the story. He drew her as a sexy version of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. She was swimming among the merfolk, playfully twirling her hair with a dinglehopper (a fork). Like Holly, I’m a huge fan of The Little Mermaid. I loved the new way Holly did the colors for this issue. It looks like she colored the issue by hand with colored pencil and marker rather than using digital or computer-enhanced coloring. The new colors blended beautifully with Jim’s pencils. I picked cover B as my visual because Raven is my favorite character. She strikes a “hexy” pose behind the mermaid queen and the black orb. It’s a gorgeous picture. Cover A is “bewitching” too. It shows Tarot carrying the last mermaid in her arms as the sunset illuminates the oil rigs in the background.