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.