One has to be careful when tinkering with legends. After all, legends are often called a part of our cultural consciousness, our modern mythology. There’s something wrapped up – an idea, a concept, or a theme – that’s very much a part of who we are or how we’ve defined our existence. Legends are not subject to review; rather, they’re granted a timeless reprieve from historical revision. True, they may be used for any number of didactic purposes with each successive generation, but the substance – the who, the what, the when – those things are largely etched in stone. And tinkering with them? That’s something that isn’t to be taken lightly, nor to be even considered casually.
That’s why I was a bit surprised to learn that Dynamite Entertainment decided to ‘fiddle’ in the richly envisioned world of John Carter as they were originally conceived by the equally legendary Edgar Rice Burroughs. Still, I found much of WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS a pleasant li’l surprise.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The tale that unspools in the DEJAH THORIS book takes place centuries before John Carter’s arrival on Barsoom (aka the planet Mars). As such, the writers and artists who are playing with Burroughs’ creations do have a gracious amount of wiggle room. What they’ve conceived here – in this first issue – shapes up to be a tale heavily sprinkled with what one might expect: there’s war, there’s peace, there’s palace intrigue, and there are hints of significant duplicitousness.
Apparently tired of war, the Jeddak of Yorn sends an envoy onto the battlefield to demand a cessation of all hostilities. His reasoning is simple: he will not the announcement of his royal son’s betrothal to be overshadowing by the conflict. And just who is the prince wedding? Why, who else … but Dejah Thoris herself! While the news comes as a surprise to her, the princess inevitably concedes; Arvid Nelson’s story doesn’t exactly expound on the warrior’s logic behind agreeing to serve as bride, but he does give her a note of regal acknowledgement. She is, above all else, a princess.
As the plot unfolds, it would appear that Yorn has ulterior motives behind his grand scheme; yet audiences are only granted insight as to what that may be in the issue’s final panel. (I won’t spoil it, partly because I’ve no idea of what it may mean: some secrets are best kept for Issue #2!) But, as an inaugural issue, DEJAH THORIS does hit most of the right notes – it gives a proper time and a proper context, as well as proper introductions to all of these players. Sadly, there’s no real depth of characterization here – everyone is, mostly, one-dimensional. You’ve got a princess behaving princess-ish and a villain who even looks villainous, so the people hit their marks and then get out of the way so that the story can progress. Hopefully, that will get more attention from Nelson and his crew as the tale unfolds.
Still – as I’ve always remarked – there’s something to be said for a book that knows what it wants to be and delivers on that premise. In that estimation, DEJAH THORIS clearly establishes a foundation of big action, big promises, and even bigger boobs. (Seriously, how can that woman not have back problems?)
WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS #1 [Ongoing] is published by Dynamite Entertainment. The story is written by Arvid Nelson; the artwork is drawn by Carlos Rafael; with coloring provided by Carlos Lopez; and the lettering is done by Marshall Dillon.
RECOMMENDED. The negatives? Well, there’s very little characterization in any of this. The artwork is surprisingly clean and almost obligatory, though Dejah Thoris’s ample assets are given titillating display. And there’s very little depth of storytelling going on at any level. The positives? What? Are you kidding me? It’s the world of John Carter centuries before John Carter was there, not exactly as envisioned by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself but with enough hint and nuance that it looks like WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS might defy expectations and turn into a wonderful if not mildly cheesy sci-fi throwback to the days of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and … well … John Carter … but without John Carter. Let the legends begin!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that I’ve repeatedly contacted the fine folks at Dynamite Comics in hopes to arrange for reader copies of WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS; however, the company apparently does not recognize nor cooperate with requests from new media outlets.
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