Updated: 6 days ago
Writer/Illustrator: Sera Swati
WHAT IS IT?
When two mages find themselves wrapped up in the seedy underground of magical fighting tournaments, they must outsmart and outfight the best of the best to survive.
Think of it as a mixture of boys love (or BL)-centered crime classics like FAKE or Banana Fish if they took place in the magical settings of Shadowhunters or The Magicians.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Markus Bone is a U.S. Marshal and a powerful mage tasked with hunting down those who use magic to break the law. After arriving in New York, he’s caught in a trap and has his prized tarot deck stolen. Without his enchanted weapon, he’s forced to break a years-long silence to get it back. Desperate, he calls up Phelix King, an old family friend and skilled tracker of magical auras. Even though Markus cut ties long ago, Phelix rushes to his aide without a second thought. Their reunion is less than joyous as the two are swept into the clutches of a wanted fugitive by the name of Finch, who uses his connection to Markus and the stolen deck to force their hands for his own ill intentions. They are given a choice; fight in an underground tournament for high-paying customers or watch the deck burn.
Phelix willingly jumps into the tournament against Markus’ orders – after all, the deck was made by his grandfather as a gift to the Bone family years ago, not to mention the fact he is still madly in love with Markus and desperate to prove himself. The two must gather their courage, their familiars, and every magical ability in their arsenals to get the deck back, all the while trying to fix their shattered relationship in the process. Years of silence, unrequited affections, and heartbreak come to a head in this magical take on the classic noir-style crime story.
Swati, who both writes and illustrates, has created an original and believable urban fantasy soaked with gritty noir and enchantment. Both traits shine through her stylistic choices and smart, quippy dialogue.
She does an incredible job depicting not only the use of magic, but how it is used in battle. The motions flow well, the colors are vivid, and it’s easy to follow along with the actions happening from panel to panel.
The writing and narrative is cohesive, easy-to-follow, and gripping. Each character, no matter how minor their role may be, holds their own unique tone which adds a realness to the speech and adds to their personalities.
Each chapter is a pleasant length, broken down into easily accessible episodes, which both casual and binge-readers alike will find enjoyable.
Unlike some comics, the character designs aren’t stagnant. Hair being pulled up, outfits being changed, and lifelike expressions add a sense of time moving onward and authenticity to the cast and situations at hand.
The illustrations of Phelix’s magical powers are particularly appealing. He is blind, so he conjures sight with the use of his abilities which are shown via vibrant colors to express seeing auras and the engagement of his powers.
The comic has a cinematic feel to it, with several panels housing effects like shallow or rack focus that create a dynamic, blockbuster aesthetic as if one were watching a film.
The queer romance adds a refreshing, softer take on the traditionally cold and aloof heteronormative protagonists that saturate genres like noir.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Contains some strong language and PG-13 situations, alongside mild violence.
There are occasional grammatical errors in the early chapters, but they are few and far between.
While the concept of the magical deck is appealing, the importance of it feels as though it could use more elaboration to really engage readers with why it is so necessary to retrieve.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
With notes of classic noir, modern fantasy, and old-fashioned boys-love romance, Bone’s Tarot is a refreshing take on crime drama that dares to step out of the norm of what has become commonplace in the genre. Inspired by a love of magic in urban settings, gritty American cowboy archetypes, and BL narratives from days gone by, Swati set out to create Bone’s Tarot with a simple goal: capture the spirit of the beloved grisly cop tale, yet subvert the expectations that come alongside those traditional stories. By tossing out the heteronormative cliches of the typical crime thriller hero and adding the enchantment aspect to the New York setting, she has opened up the doors for a broader group of readers to step into the world of police-focused thrillers.
Part One, which is comprised of chapters 1-8, is a phenomenal first step into the world and characters of Bone’s Tarot. It is a binge-worthy webcomic that would be a perfect introduction to several different genres for those who are wanting to test the waters, as well as offering a refreshing new series for veteran readers who are looking for a lengthy and exciting series by an up-and-coming webcomic creator. Each of the central characters were lovingly crafted to be unique and complementary to their counterparts, inspired by the things that have impacted Swati throughout her life and her desire to reach a broad spectrum of comic book fans.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing and art:
Swaha, written and illustrated by Sera Swati
Hyo, written and illustrated by Sera Swati
The Selkie’s Skin, written by Serena McNair, illustrated by IcarusMask
BUUZA!! written and illustrated by Shazleen Khan
Fantastic Relics written and illustrated by 15 and Comicloft
ABOUT THE CREATOR
Sera Swati (@SeraphicMayin)
Swati is an independent webcomic creator, working as a writer and artist, alongside working as an independent production manager for Studio Tapas. She has edited for Gods Reborn and acted as an art and writing assistant for VVBG’s Sharpe & Rabbit and Thick as Thieves, as well as an art assistant for The Beginning After the End, Magical Boy, and The Selkie’s Skin.
She has a completed webcomic called Swaha (a Tapas Original), which is an epic romance/fantasy inspired by Hindu stories and her own Indian heritage.
She is currently working on an untitled webnovel that will be an action-fantasy, LGBTQ+ story with a female lead.
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