As I wrote over at GeekMom, I’ve been immersed in the new Conan the Barbarian comic series for the last few weeks. So when I went into my local comic shop last Saturday, I was instantly drawn to another comic based on one of my pulp favorites as a kid, the John Carter of Mars series from Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The shop only had issue #2 of the Warlord of Mars series on the shelf but I thought my memory of the books would fill me in, so I picked it up. Even more so than Tarzan, this Burroughs series is suited to comic book form, especially given all the incredible visuals described in the book that started it all, Princess of Mars.
We’re still early in the story of John Carter’s trip to Mars. In fact, he’s not gotten there as yet. For those not familiar with the series, it’s set in the days of the American West. The book begins with John Carter guarding a valuable stake in a mine which quickly turns to tragedy as his partner is captured by a gang of outlaws. John rushes to the rescue, he’s chased by the bad guys into a mysterious cave and seems to..die? The reader knows he’s headed to Mars but John has no idea what’s going on.
There’s a second short story in this issue featuring Martian Tars Tarkas, a native whose story becomes entwined with John’s tale. It introduces the reader to Martian culture, features a terrific swordfight, and foreshadows all kinds of trouble for Tars Tarkas and John.
What Kids Will Like About It:
Burroughs storytelling holds up, though the writers of this issue have tweaked things to include as much action as possible. The art is terrific and especially good in the sword fight between Tarkas and his rival. It’s odd to see four-armed men fighting this way. It comes across as intense and scary when it could have looked silly.
What Parents Will Like About It:
If you’ve ever read the books, you’ll enjoy the series. In a message to readers at the back of the issue, the creators say they are going to deviate a bit from Burroughs’ narrative to cover up some inconsistencies, so not every action will happen the same way as in the books. Also, if you’re a fan of scantily clad people of both genders, this is the book for you. I expected the women to have very little clothing (this is Dynamite Entertainment after all, the home of Vampirella, and, hey, it’s the Princess of Mars, the original scantily clad cover girl.) But the nudity is equal opportunity, as John is completely naked in this issue, though the private parts are tastefully covered by smoke.
There are a lot to choose from but the sequence in which John attacks the outlaws camp on horseback has such a sense of motion that it’s my favorite.
About the Creators:
There’s a short interview with writer Arvid Nelson over at ComicBookResources. Stephen Sadowski is the penciller and inker credited with this issue and he’s outdone himself. I first was impressed with his art on DC’s Justice Society of America and he also worked on the Avengers/Invaders miniseries for Marvel. Samples of his artwork are listed for sale on this page but it appears to need updating. Still, it’s a good place to look at his past work.