Archive for Marvel Tarot

The Marvel Tarot


This was the most remarkable comic I picked up last week.

Sure, everything else I got had more action, more plot and character development, more people in form-fitting spandex costumes. “The Marvel Tarot” is the one with no action, lots of unfamiliar characters, insanely dense and complicated faux-scholarly research into esoteric subjects, and occasionally unreadable text. And this one is still the one I keep going back to, over and over, so I can re-read it.

What is it? It’s the in-depth notes and research of Ian McNee, a minor Marvel character who used to butt heads with Dr. Strange from time to time. He gives us a quick overview of Hermetic magick, mystical correspondences, and the multiple magical planes of existence. He briefly reviews the history of magic in the Marvel Universe and lists some of the Sorcerers Supreme through the centuries.

The bulk of the comic is devoted to McNee’s study of an enchanted deck of Tarot cards that depicts various Marvel characters on the cards in the major arcana. Fer instance, Ghost Rider is on the Judgment card, Brother Voodoo is the Hanged Man, Dr. Strange is the Magician. But the deck has been broken somehow, so more than one person may show up on the cards from time to time — both Dr. Doom and Naga show up periodically as the Emperor, while the High Priestess card cycles from Agatha Harkness to the Scarlet Witch to Storm.

There’s no story to speak of, and there’s not even any traditional comic art. Every page is composed of pages from ancient grimoires, medieval artwork of angels and demons, and mystic artifacts from around the world. Scattered throughout are McNee’s notes, pastiches of old fairy tales, and the Tarot cards, which are based on the old familiar Rider-Waite Tarot deck you can find in most bookstores.

The comic is not always easy to read — some of the text is sideways, upside down, or printed in Latin or another ancient language. But it’s a beautiful book, and David Sexton, the writer/designer deserves major kudos for his work here.

I’m not sure I can vouch for the accuracy of the material about the Tarot, Hermetic magic, and all that, but in my youth, I was very much into this sort of thing, so I read lots of books on these topics. If they’re not accurate, they at least sound really accurate.

Oh, and I also like the idea that Marvel is going to make magic something other than simple hocus-pocus and big explosions. It looks like they’re going to push the idea that magic is hard, magic is strange, magic is scary. It doesn’t take very much research on the real-life Hermetic traditions to get the idea across that magic, back in the old days, required lots and lots of study of lots of weird, scary, vague books. I love the idea that Marvel may start focusing on magic as something truly and exquisitely complex and bizarre — that’s something you don’t see a lot of in fiction.

Verdict: Thumbs way up. A very challenging read, but a very rewarding one as well.

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