Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Book Review: Vertigo Tarot

Decided I would try and do a few reviews in my spare time...

The Vertigo Tarot
Art: Dave McKean
Words: Rachel Pollack

Book and Tarot card box set.

  • Page Count: 128 pages, 78 cards
  • Publisher: Vertigo; Pap/Crds edition (2 Dec 2008)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1401220428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401220426
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.6 x 22.5 cm 
The Vertigo Tarot is a unique collection of items, comprised of one tarot book and the collection of 78 tarot cards.

To be clear, I will break this review in to two parts - firstly a review of the cards, secondly a review of the book.

Tarot Cards
The deck provided is a full tarot deck with art by the famous illustrator/comic book artist Dave McKean (Of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Mr Punch fame). Each cards face is unique, whilst the back of each glossy card is the same throughout (see: picture ten, first card on the right).

Tarot Decks are divided in to two halves - the 22-card Major Arcana and the 56-card Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are the trump cards, each one with a unique character and symbolism (As you can see in the pictures, Zero is the Fool, Eighteen is the Moon etc), whilst the Minor Arcana are more similar to a traditional deck of cards, divided in to four 'suits' of Wands, Pentacles, Cups and Swords, and are numbered Ace-Ten, then a Page, Knight, Queen and King.

Being a Dave McKean fan I can say this is a beautiful collection of his art, and it is through the Major Arcana that we really get to see McKean's genius. Sadly for the Minor Arcana, you merely get pictures of Three Wands and then Four Wands and then Five Wands etc. - still, whilst the imagery is very similar, at least McKean kept the quality of each Minor Arcana design high.

As said though, the Major Arcana is where the real beauty lies. Many cards make use of DC Vertigo characters (such as John Constantine as the Fool, Death (from Sandman) as Death etc) and each Major design is unique and exciting.

The Book
The first part of the book has an introduction by author Neil Gaiman, whilst throughout the book there are black and white pictures from the deck partnered with a card description by Rachel Pollack.

Gaiman's introduction gives an interesting history on the Vertigo Tarot project, and Rachel Pollacks description of each card is two fold - firstly, the cards actual meaning, secondly, the character-specific meaning. Whilst I have not read the whole book, I have no reason to doubt that Pollack gave each card's description the same care and attention.

Final Thought
Overall a very nice piece for £22-ish. Whilst I was slightly disappointed that the cards are a little thin and have dinks from where they were cut at the printers, thus making them pretty useless as a working tarot deck, the art is still fantastic and if viewed as a piece of art, stands up against similar 'Themed' art books by other artists.



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