Saturday, September 17, 2011

Comic Review: John Carter-A Princess of Mars #1

So...How is it you ask? Let me preface this with two warnings: first the standard spoiler warning and second this isn't going to be pleasant.

I'll skip rehashing the plot since I figure most of you guys and gals who come on here have either read A Princess of Mars or have been reading the Warlord of Mars comic books. Let's just say it's got the basics-John Carter arrives on Barsoom, is captured by Tharks, learns their ways and as this issue ends meets the Princess of Helium.

Beyond keeping to the basics though, writer Roger Langridge makes some subtractions starting with skipping John's time on Earth, instead opening with him already a prisoner of the Tharks and having communication problems-in this case he can read the Tharks' minds which comes out fine but the Tharks can't understand him verbally. Langridge also eliminates Sarkoja and quickly runs through John's learning of the Thark language and customs before seeing them attack the Heliumite ships and capture Dejah Thoris. Now I don't have a problem with condensing the story to fit into a 5 issue series. But some of Langridge's dialogue borders on both head scratching (would Sola and any other Thark really know the term "economy") and while I'm not a history buff I doubt Civil War era soldiers would belt out the whole "name, rank, serial number" speech that John does in the opening. But the most groan worthy line: "Get your filthy paws off me you damn dirty lizards!" I guess this series will end with John Carter discovering he's been on Earth the entire time? Why he felt the need to reference a line that has been quoted and parodied to death is beyond me (and you have to wonder considering the series is being aimed at an "all ages" audience how many of the youngsters out there will even get the reference.)

But the writing isn't the major problem. Nope it's the art. I admit I haven't seen any of the comics that artist Felipe Andrade drew before but I can't say this makes me want to run out to see any of his other work. I know some have had issues with the bulky Hulk-like Tharks from the Dynamite series, but here they look terrible. Either sporting what looks like hair or headdresses and helmets they fail to instill any fear or a sense of alien awe. They instead look like refugees from Jabba the Hutt's palace. Sola even looks like she's wearing lipstick! I also didn't care for the look of Woola who is drawn as a green brute who resembles those demon dogs from the end of Ghostbusters (or worse those Hulk dogs from the Ang Lee movie). The backgrounds are also bland and dull and don't stick out at all. And the Heliumite ships? They're flying saucers, not the air ships that Burroughs described. John Carter himself looks OK, and Dejah Thoris looks nice in the last panel but that is a small reward compared to the rest. Now I understand that an artist has the right to create his or her own vision of a world but that still doesn't excuse mediocre work. Why with all the artists out there Marvel chose Andrade or he decided to go with this style I don't know. I'm sure somebody will like it. I just don't.

I've said before it's hard and unfair to judge how a series will turn out based on just one issue. And before someone jumps up and accuses me of favoritism, I'm not bashing this just because I've liked the Dynamite series. I was willing to give this a shot and sadly it failed to impress, especially in the artwork which is what usually makes or breaks a comic book series. If anything it comes across more as something that was tossed off with little care for the final product, just to make a buck. I hope I'm wrong and that it will improve with the next issue and the bugs will be ironed out. Until next time then...

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