Welcome to the D-List: Tarot

I don’t believe psychics, fortune-tellers, mediums, or others who work within occult occupations truly have special powers. However, just because I’m not convinced doesn’t mean that I belittle anyone who is (except for the Long Island Medium – your hair is awful). Besides, there are some intriguing aspects of fortune-telling that can lead to interesting stories.

Um…how about “A Taste of Italy?” Go halves on a pie? (Art by Mark Bagley)
Um…how about “A Taste of Italy?” Go halves on a pie? (Art by Mark Bagley)

Marie-Ange Colbert is a French mutant with limited precognition and the ability to animate the two-dimensional images from her tarot cards into three-dimensional beings who obey her command. Though she first appeared in comics more than 33 years ago, she has only been granted a spotlight twice and has definitely lacked in the characterization department. This month, I predict wealth, love, and Tarot on the D-List.

Created by Chris Claremont and Sal Buscema, Tarot first appeared in New Mutants #16 in June 1984. Emma Frost recruited a team of teenaged mutants for her Massachusetts Academy to rival Xavier’s Westchester Academy students. Tarot appeared with Frost’s team, dubbed the Hellions, when the New Mutants arrived in Massachusetts to rescue some friends. Looking for a fight, Tarot materialized the Devil from her tarot deck and commanded it to attack Danielle Moonstar. When Magik tried to defend her friend and fight the demon, Tarot commanded the Knight of Swords to attack, so the two heroes fled.

Outside of battle, Tarot was relatively timid and quiet, sometimes to a fault. Marie had a crush on her teammate, Empath, even though the boy antagonized and manipulated her. When the New Mutants and Hellions attended the same party, Tarot asked Cypher to dance, but Doug called her a tramp (wait, that’s not how flirting works?). Evidently, the poor girl had bad taste in men. Nonetheless, Tarot was an asset to the Hellions, and projected a Winged Goddess to transport the entire team to a mission. She was able to animate multiple images from her cards at the same time, which added to her potential deadliness.

Unfortunately, the Hellions never fared very well against the New Mutants, and the young upstarts were primarily featured only in that title. Even more unfortunately, Trevor Fitzroy, with the help of Sentinels, killed most of the Hellions. Fitzroy restrained Tarot and told the girl that he would use her as his personal energy source. Although it wasn’t explicitly shown, it was implied that she died as a result (Tarot was dealt a bad hand).

Geez, that was abrupt. Although this event would encourage Emma Frost to eventually join the X-Men, it was still sad to see this group of teenagers slaughtered by villains (mutant teenagers – human teenagers are expendable). Sure, the Hellions were jerks, but I don’t believe that they were all inherently evil. Thankfully, Tarot appeared a few years later within issues of X-Force, and this particular story arc gave readers a small glimpse into Marie’s history.

I wonder if she has a 1st edition Charizard… (Art by Clayton Crain)
I wonder if she has a 1st edition Charizard… (Art by Clayton Crain)

In the past, Emma Frost tried to recruit a young mutant named Christopher Aaronson into the Hellions, but he refused, and invited Marie to run away with him (he sounds like a real wild card). She stated, however, that she was unable to do so because her destiny was with the team. In the then-present day, Tarot informed a surprised former Hellion, James Proudstar, that he and X-Force were in danger because of Aaronson. While it was never officially explained, Tarot was somehow tethered to Christopher, and he had recruited her onto his team of mutants. Apparently, he and Marie were in love. However, Tarot seemed fearful of Christopher rather than in love with him. When X-Force visited the antagonistic Aaronson and his team, Tarot confided in James that she would be forced to live again until she atoned for all of her past sins.

Though very morbidly interesting, of what sins was she speaking? How exactly was she resurrected? Furthermore, Tarot was shown with the ability to assume the characteristics of the images on her cards, but that particular power was never shown outside of this one story. While this arc laid exceptional groundwork for a more detailed origin and characterization of Tarot, no writer ever followed through. X-Force fought Aaronson’s team and won, but then both Christopher and Tarot disappeared. At least this story showed delightful interactions between Marie and James; Marie commented that she was happy to see Warpath let go of the anger that once consumed him when they were members of the Hellions (of course they were angry, the team wasn’t called the Smiley-ons).

To my knowledge, Christopher Aaronson never appeared again, and both he and Tarot apparently lost their powers due to the events of “M-Day.” It’s possible that Aaronson died, and his death was connected to the loss of his powers. Tarot passed away as well, possibly as a result of the link she and Aaronson shared (either way, they got lost in the shuffle). Regardless of the reason, Marie returned to comics a few years later during the “Necrosha” crossover.

Selene and Eli Bard resurrected the Hellions and many other dead mutants via the techno-organic virus and commanded them to attack the X-Men. Throughout these appearances, Tarot made no mention of Aaronson, how she lost her powers, or how those powers returned. Also, I believe Tarot only attacked the X-Men because of Selene’s mind-control; even deceased X-Men attacked their former teammates. I’m certain that Tarot wouldn’t have fought her former rivals if she was able to resist Selene.

While I loved “Necrosha,” certain characters deserved more of a spotlight than they received, including Tarot. An extended conversation between the Hellions and Frost would have been interesting, but instead, there was only one very brief interaction between the students and their former mentor. With one minor exception, Tarot did not appear again until 2016, when she was the antagonist in an issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool, written by Penn Jilette…and it was bad.

Hopefully better writing. (Art by Scott Koblish)
Hopefully better writing. (Art by Scott Koblish)

Unbeknownst to Spider-Man, Teller took Deadpool’s costume and pretended to be the anti-hero when he and Spidey patrolled New York City. The two stumbled upon a psychic fair and noticed people were fleeing in terror. Tarot scared the crowd away because she wanted money from the cash registers, but Spidey and Teller-Pool battled her. Tarot engaged in an exceptional fight against Spidey, but Teller switched her tarot cards with ordinary playing cards, so Spider-Man defeated her (sounds like Tarot didn’t play her cards right).

While I was happy to see Tarot return, both the premise of and dialogue in this issue were absolutely terrible. However, I’ll limit my critique to just Tarot’s role in the comic. Historically, Marie was granted no more than a hint of a French accent, and used well-known French words sparingly. In this issue, she spoke like a terrible caricature of a French stereotype. It wasn’t just unfunny, but it made no sense. Also, why was she stealing money from cash registers? Tarot never acted like a conventional criminal, so this was inconsistent with her history. I think that Jilette wanted to utilize a French villain so he could add campy humor to this comic, but unfortunately, he wasn’t playing with a full deck. Complaints and puns aside, the color scheme of her hair and outfit were similar to the Hellions’ outfits, so that was a nice nod, and overall, the art was quite good!

While I may sound like a crazy fanboy who just wants to complain, Tarot really deserves better treatment than she’s received over the years (also, don’t call me crazy, jerk). Her history has been teased but never fleshed out, and there are unanswered questions regarding her powers. I was excited to see her return recently, but she was treated as little more than a bad joke. Tarot has plenty of potential waiting to be properly utilized.

Tarot appeared very briefly in one alternate universe timeline, but other than that single issue, I don’t believe that she has appeared outside of the Marvel 616 Universe. The New Mutants movie will be released next year, however, so if that becomes a new franchise, perhaps the Hellions will appear in a future film. For now, I’ll just have to hope that a proper return to and regular utilization within the comics are in the cards for Tarot.

Jonathan Fugger

Jonathan loves comics and he loves coffee. Jonathan’s mother gave him his first taste of coffee at the tender age of 3 and it was love at first sip. He now needs to wheel around an IV drip of caffeine at all times or else he turns into a dark, monstrous creature that feeds on despair and makes babies cry. The local village-folk have kept him locked away ever since the “decaf catastrophe of ‘06.” When allowed out of his dungeon, he writes “Welcome to the D-List,” which examines various obscure comic book characters, because obscure characters need love too. And if Jonathan knows anything, he knows about loving obscure characters. And loving coffee. For the love of God someone make sure he has enough coffee…

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