Again a clever opening eludes me so let's just jump in to John Carter's return to the four color format. A quick warning-spoilers abound.
As this issue-titled "A Tale of Two Planets, Part 1" opens we meet John Carter not out prospecting but at a local saloon having a quiet drink with friend James Powell before they ride out to find their fortune. But things take a downward turn when the two have an altercation with some Union soldiers who taunt them that results in unforeseen events. The second part of the issue takes place on Barsoom where we meet Thark warriors Tars and Tarkas (and that's not a typo) as they attempt to rescue some young Tharks kidnapped by white apes for dinner time. A dispute over one of those rescued-a female Thark named Sola-leaves the two warriors split and opens the door for a future conflict between them and Sola's fate in the hands of the Jed of the Tharks...
It's been a good 15 years since John Carter's last comic book adventure (in Dark Horse' Tarzan/John Carter-Warlords of Mars mini-series) and I didn't know what to expect here. I have to admit from a story telling side I was surprised by this opening. Writer Arvid Nelson's decision to show both John and Tars in conflict on both planets is a clever way to show how both characters mirror each other in their actions and their respect for life. On the other hand seeing John and Powell in a gun battle with Union soldiers seems really out of left field and out of character, even though I'm wondering if this hasn't been done to provide the reason for John's retreat into the cave and his trip to Barsoom. It just doesn't feel like the John Carter established by Burroughs or even the character from the Marvel series. I was also surprised by the Tars and Tarkas section. I don't remember Edgar Rice Burroughs ever suggesting that Tars earned the name Tarkas from another Thark but in some ways it makes sense considering that except for Tal Hajus and Lourquas Ptomel none of the other Tharks mentioned have first and last names.
On the art front though the look of it is book unique. Artist Stephen Sandowski brings a nice realism to the human characters and an insectoid look to the Tharks that helps make them look different from previous comic interpretations. And Barsoom looks like the Red planet, not some just the normal Earth-like deserts that many comic versions have shown.
On the whole the series has begun with an interesting opening but I'm not sure if I can call it a winner just yet. And where is Dejah Thoris? It seems funny that she is present on all four variant covers yet nowhere to be seen. Oh well at least she's scantly clad and that sells. In the end we'll just have to wait and see where it goes from here.