Still catching up with reviews. This time Tars Tarkas takes center stage for this giant size annual.
After a friendly sparing match, Tars and John Carter sit down to enjoy a drink when John notes the strange cups Tars is using which leads the Thark to relate the tale of how he got them. Flashing back to mere days before he met John at the Thark incubator, Tars is leading a group of Tharks when he finds an incubator destroyed. Fearing the worse, the group rides on and discovers another, leading a Thark named Hok to blame the Zodangans. However after finding a small band of Zodangans led by Zat Arras, Tars begins to suspect someone else is causing the destruction...someone making a play for his title and his head.
Written by Mark Rahner, this annual-called "Shell Shock" is a pretty good stand alone story centering on Tars Tarkas and the Thark code. Set prior the events of A Princess of Mars it shows us the Tharks' bloody and savage side but also presents Tars' increasing dissatisfaction with the Thark way of life. Admittedly there isn't much I can reveal without giving away most of the plot or the big reveal (even though given how long this annual has been available I'm sure most of you have already read it) it's still a well written story so give it a try.
I also have to give high praise for the artwork, here done by Stephen Sandowski-who has been my favorite interior artist on the major Warlord of Mars series. Here he captures the characters well-even the bulky Tharks-and draws the major action scenes-from a bloody panel showing Tars Tarkas at his pre-Carter savage best to the final confrontation-with a sure hand. He's also helped with some vibrant color courtesy of colorist Adriano Lucas that helps bring the story to life.
So if you missed this annual pick it up. If you've enjoyed most of Dynamite's other Warlord of Mars comics this one will be right up your alley.