Friday, October 14, 2011

Comic Review: John Carter-World of Mars #1

OK here it is! The question is how good is it? Well read on to see...

We open with John Carter recounting his life and his arrival on Barsoom and learning about the planet's past from both the Princess Dejah Thoris and the Thark warrior Tars Tarkas who relate their separate, yet interwoven tales. As the real story opens the city states of Helium and Zodanga are at war. So are Zodanga's ruler Than Kosis and his son and successor Sab Than, who feels that his father is unfairly treating him. But after thrashing a few soldiers, Sab is banished for a week and sets upon a quest to prove his right to rule and to upstage his father. Meanwhile in the Thark territory we meet Tars and Tal Hajus-here friends under an aging Jeddak. Tal Hajus feels that the Jeddak is growing old, weak and overweight and reveals his strategy to win the throne-by going after the rumored Gothan, a vicious Warhoon who has reputedly survived for centuries by feasting on those he kills. And he wants Tars to help him in his quest. Finally we remeet Dejah, this time playing scientist when she receives an unwelcome visitor...

I have to admit I was weary when this series was first announced. Maybe it was the fact that it seemed like another cash-in by Marvel and Disney to tie-in to the upcoming John Carter movie. Or maybe it was the fact that I was growing cynical after hearing so much about the movie that wasn't encouraging. And following the lackluster first issue of John Carter-A Princess of Mars I figured this one would be another tossed off comic. Well surprise: This one actually rocks! First up the smartest thing was hiring Peter David. Having enjoyed his past work, he manages to keep the story moving while easily cutting between stories. I especially loved the section on Tars Tarkas and Tal Hajus and establishing a friendship that we know is doomed to failure. Also David throws in little touches from the novel-like John Carter referring to himself as Captain Jack Carter and the presence of Than Kosis-that I'm sure fans will get a kick out of. I admit that the change of Than Kosis and Sab Than's relationship might put off some fans, but I actually like that there is tension between them and Sab Than's attempts to prove his worth. The only negative I can think of is the last page and well let's just say blitzing. Even with that misstep David gets an A plus on the writing side.

On the art side, well this is where I'm torn. Not because of Luke Ross' work though. In fact it's pretty nice. He captures the Tharks well and thankfully makes them look alien and unique-not the "Hulks" of the Dynamite version nor the silly looking ones of the Princess comic. He also captures the likenesses of the characters well-John Carter does look like Taylor Kitsch. And the brief shots of Zodanga and Helium are cool. Where I'm torn is well what I've been snarking about for a while now-those damn tattoos. And yes they still look awful, even in comic book form. Especially the one slapped on Sab Than's face. I also have to ask-is that supposed to be a thoat we see John and Tars riding on the third page? It looks awfully bulky. Also the Heliumites most love those feather things on their air craft since this one we get a one man flier with things on it-it resembles a spider creature crossed with the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi. Still Ross manages to make it colorful and appealing to the eye which is the important thing.

I guess to wrap up, it's best to approach this series for what it is: a prequel to a movie. I admit that I have my issues with what I've seen and heard about the movie but to my surprise that didn't stop me from enjoying this issue. I hope the remaining issues (and I guess Marvel decided to cut it short, the front mentions that this is a four issue series, not the five originally announced) prove just as fun.

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