When it comes to space opera action, Edgar Rice Buroughs’ John Carter of Mars series led the way for all pulp fiction to follow. Many companies have attempted to bring the series to screen, and John Carter has appeared in comics a time or two as well. Dynamite Entertainment is the latest to tackle the character, and they’re taking the story and tweaking it just a bit.

WARLORD OF MARS #1
Writer: Arvid Nelson
Illustrator: Stephen Sadowski
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Covers: Alex Ross, J. Scott Campbell, Joe Jusko, Lucio Parrillo
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

WARLORD OF MARS – THE PREQUEL!

Before going into this issue, there is one thing readers need to know – this is not an adaptation of Warlord of Mars, the third book in the Barsoom series, but rather a prequel to A Princess of Mars, the story that kicked off the 11 book series, and introduced readers to the Southern Civil War veteran John Carter. What makes this first issue unique is that instead of staring the tale from the first chapter of the ERB series, writer Arvid Nelson extrapolates backwards and gives readers a look at who John Carter and his soon to be warrior buddy Tars Tarkas were before the series began.

Nelson does a pretty good job of creating backstory to Carter’s life, and he gives readers a plausible explanation for why he was set upon by Apaches – turns out a contingent of soldiers are out causing trouble will the local Arizona tribes, and are killing women and children in the process. We only learn this after John Carter and his mining parter dispatch them in a brutal bar brawl that was brought about when the Northerns besmirch the state of Virginia. I found John’s story to be the most satisfying part of the issue, as Nelson’s explanations seem to fit with Carter’s character and the actions that will follow later.

The Tars Tarkas tale is a bit more confusing. The book is split evenly between the two lead characters, and while the fight scene between the two Thark warriors and the White Apes who want to eat the Thark young is really great, the story falls apart in how the characters interact. We know what Tars Tarkas is a Thark. His daughter Sola does appear in this sequence, but there is no, nor should there be, any recognition that Tars is her father (spoiler!). However, the other Thark who accompanies Tars is called Tarkas, which is where the confusion comes from. Tharks do not share a common last name, and those familiar with the characters are going to confused by this name exchange. To further compound the confusion, Green Martians tend to look a like in how they are drawn. The one good bit that comes from this sequence is readers discover Tars is a Martian with compassion, something that will go a long way as the story progresses.

NO NAKED PEOPLE… YET

Stephen Sadowski does an excellent job of bringing all of the characters in this book to life. He does a masterful job in facial expressions and each of the humans feel like they have been alive for a long time. Their faces reflect the joys and pains of having fought in the Civil War, and Sadowski’s eyes convey all sorts of non-verbal cues. One of the more interesting passages in the source material is that John Carter finds himself and man of the Martians nekkid as they day they were born, and while Dynamite Entertainment won’t be able to get away with a lot of nudity in the series, Sadowski does manage to pull off the clothing optional aspect of the Martians and White Apes.

As mentioned previously, the Green Martian’s look exactly alike, and save for a broken tooth of one of the Tharks, there is no way of distinguishing the martians. Adornments and regalia are going to be necessary additions in the coming chapters to keep readers from getting completely lost.

BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT

Warlord of Mars is a great start to an adaptation that many have failed at being faithful to the source material. While none of the events in this issue will ever be considered canon in the Barsoom saga, but it is believable and worth checking out. I’m also very pleased and surprised that this first issue only costs $1.00, which gives you very little reason to pass this up when it hits stores. Warlord of Mars #1 has the perfect combination of well told story, fantastic art, and price point, that earns this book 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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4 Comments

  1. TorontoFrog
    October 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm — Reply

    I’m not completely back into comics. You guys are slowly dragging me back to my teenage habits while my girlfriend is making a ”L” on her forhead with her left hand! Although, this long non-useful intro was to say that this type of book is really the reason why im interested in comics. Can’t wait to pick it up at my local comic books store.

  2. October 10, 2010 at 10:01 pm — Reply

    Again with the Alex Ross?

    Still, I’m kind of looking forward to this thing, even if it’s a shame that Deja Thoris is going to have to be much more modest than in the stories. It’d have been kinda funny to see them working around full frontal female nudity in every issue. Word balloon placement would be fun…

    • October 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm — Reply

      If they did it in Power Girl, they could do it in this series… oh well…

  3. Damascus
    November 4, 2010 at 3:37 am — Reply

    I’d heard the name Tars Tarkas bandied about here and there, but I didn’t know where it came from nor did I know anything about Princess/Warlord of Mars, but I check out this issue, and actually kinda loved it. I’m usually a tights and capes kinda guy when it comes to my comic reading, with a few exceptions here and there for Loveless (a 24 issue western series from Brian Azzarello) and a few other things.

    I loved, I mean LOOOOOVED the art in this book, the close up in the beginning of the book of John and his partner looked like real people. The one guys’ beard actually looked natural. It’s little things like that that make me enjoy a book that much more. I liked the split between the two main (I guess?) characters and their respective tales. I liked how the one’s tusk was broken fairly quickly, it helped to tell them apart. I have to agree that I was thouroughly confused during the Mars scenes because of the Tars and Tarkas thing, it just seemed really odd to me. I even liked the little letter in the back of the book from E.R. Bourroughs too. If you notice, the letter said that he wasn’t to open an envelope that was with his will until 21 years after his death. His death was in 1886 and the letter was postmarked 1907. Means nothing I suppose, but cool nevertheless.

    Great book for a great price, I’m probably going to start picking this up on a regular basis now, so it can go with my copies of The Boys, it’ll be a little carpool of Dynamite books.

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