Saturday, April 30, 2011

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #2


Well I promised a review and it's finally here. There will be spoilers so consider yourself warned.

When we last left off, the war between Greater and Lesser Helium seem resolved when the Jeddak of Yorn had offered a way to bring peace-have Dejah Thoris marry his son Vallin. But it was a trick to capture the leaders of both sides in order to get to something buried beneath Helium-a giant war machine created by a Barsoomian inventor named Voormenihees. While the Jeddak and his men begin examining the machine, a group of Yorn warriors are ambushed by Green Men who have decided to invade Helium. Meanwhile Dejah escapes with the help of Vallin, who reveals it was he who cracked Voormenihees' code to find and activate the machine. Dejah quickly springs into action and rescues her father and grandfather but fails to find the Jeddak of Greater Helium who she feels can help. Oh and the Green Men want Dejah-well for reasons you can figure out. And the Jeddak of Yorn may have gotten more than he bargained for...

OK, after the first issue I was a little concerned where this series was heading in terms of story and the characters-especially Dejah Thoris. Well I guess we'll get the good stuff out first-the artwork by Carlos Rafael is really good. The characters are well drawn-especially Dejah, who manages to be attractive but real, even in her lack of clothing-and the action scenes are handled with a certain style that makes it clear what's going on.

Where I'm having problems is with the story. First I admit the "colossus" seems a little out there but in some ways it does fit the pulp stories of old, even it brings to mind Joog the Giant. So what's the major issue? Midway through after escaping Dejah slams a sword while leaping into the air through a guy's head before slashing another guy to pieces like she was trained by a ninja. Yep, it's the "Dejah Thoris-Warrior Princess" problem. Now there is some dialogue early in the story where she says "we women of Helium can defend ourselves just as ably as men!" But I don't even remember John Carter being able to slam a sword into a guy's head through the top of his skull while leaping over him. The thing is it brings up something of a divide I've seen among some fans of John Carter of Mars concerning the portrayal of Dejah, especially with the upcoming movie. Some have argued that the "warrior princess" thing is necessary to make the character more pro-active in the story, that modern audiences won't accept the damsel in distress version from Burroughs' time. But is turning her into a sword wielding warrior who can mow down heavily trained soldiers more believable? I guess I can understand the motivation to make it more appealing to modern readers used to Ellen Ripley or Xena but in some ways I'm having a hard time believing this is the solution for every character. Making her a smart, resourceful heroine is something I can get behind and at least until she went Xena, the character in these two issues had those traits. Let's hope the next few issues she still has them and puts the warrior attitude away.

So in closing the artwork maybe the main reason to get this series, both the covers and the interior. But I would like to see more smart Dejah and less sword through skulls Dejah in the future. (A quick note-I hit the comic payload, so I'll have reviews of issue 6 of Warlord of Mars and more of the Marvel series this week.)

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