Friday, April 22, 2011

Warlord of Mars - Dejah Thoris #1

reviewed by guest contributor Simon Breeze

You may remember back in November of last year I reviewed a new comic title from Dynamite Entertainment called Warlord of Mars. If you do, you may also remember that I really enjoyed this comic and I still continue to do so. The Warlord of Mars follows John Carter, a human who is magically transported to Mars where he becomes involved in an epic sci-fi adventure along with a beautiful Martian Princess called, Dejah Thoris.

Dynamite have now produced a five issue spin-off mini series called Warlord of Mars – Dejah Thoris. This new series follows the Martian Princess and her role in the conflict between the twin Martian cities of Helium, her home on Mars, in events set 437 years before the arrival of John Carter and the current events of the Warlord of Mars ongoing comic series.

Dejah Thoris, despite being set in the same 'world' as Warlord of Mars is a very different story to the classic Sci-Fi that is John Carter's tale. If John Carter's tale is Star Wars, then Dejah Thoris is the Sci-Fi version of Game of Thrones with a wardrobe inspired by the film 300: so I'd describe it as being more about politics than the adventure. That's not to say that there isn't any action, far from it, just there is a lot of political manoeuvring involved too, and there-in lies the hub that the story telling revolves around - political manoeuvering.

This isn't a bad thing, as I said, in fact it is really quite a good thing. I am finding all the back stabbing and alliance-building and double-crossing fun and interesting, yet it is at a level to not have me scratching my chin in bewilderment. I guess what I'm saying (and hoping not to come across sounding like I'm an idiot and I need things spelt out to me with a green crayon!) is that the story is not overly complicated: in a good way. You can sit down, read, enjoy and get caught up in the whose-doing-what-to-who - and why - and what their end game might be and you don't feel like you're getting lost anywhere. It is like eating a really well prepared and beautiful looking meal: you know it looks good, it tastes good, it smells good and only the chef knows how it all goes together. But that's okay, you know what you've got and it's all good!

Some of this comfort comes from the knowledge that most of the characters are based on classic archetypes: the beautiful princess; the evil lord; the evil lords bumbling son who is going to come good at the end; the honourable father and his heroic son who are at the mercy of the evil lord ... they are all there. Again, this is all good and very enjoyable. The moment you see these characters you know who they are and their role, which gives a story of this type some speed to its telling. You don't need to say 'this guy here is the evil lord of Mars and he is going to do bad things' over three pages! You know that is his role the moment you see him in the first panel he puts in an appearance. Just like that moment in Star Wars when you see Luke Skywalker for the first time: you know he is the hero just as you know Darth Vader is the villain when he strolls through that blasted, smoky doorway flanked by Stormtroopers.

Arvid Nelson's writing is spot on for this comic book. Welled paced with good understanding of the characters and where he needs to take them in this five-issue story-arc. Okay, so the writing is good, but what about the art? What can I say, Dejah Thoris, has there ever been a Sci-Fi Princess that wore less clothing? I think Princess Leia from 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi' comes a distant second in that poll, and Carlos Rafael renders Dejah Thoris very nicely indeed. Though I must add that in some panels I do have the passing thought that she has the expression of an actress in the 'adult entertainment' industry when the pizza delivery boy has arrived on her doorstep!

The art has a simple look to it, more lines than shading with bold and bright colouring giving the pages a fantastic eye-popping reading experience. This first issue has a five cover variations by Arthur Adams, Joe Jusko, Sean Chen, Paul Renaud, and Ale Garza, there is also much to my surprise a 'Risque, Nude Art' cover by Arthur Adams too: my mind boggles! The poor girl wears so little clothing in the first place, I'm sure she's risking a cold at the very least, so why take that little bit of clothing away and escalate that risk further? Maybe it's my age talking there?

Any-who. A fun bit of Sci-Fi adventuring and political manoeuvring with some awesome artwork. I give Warlord of Mars – Dejah Thoris #1 a 4 out of 5 bikini clad space princesses.

Warlord of Mars – Dejah Thoris #1
Written by Arvid Nelson, illustrated by Carlos Rafael, coloured by Carlos Lopez, lettered by Marshall Dillion
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

I say this every time Simon sends us a contribution and I genuinely mean it - massive thanks for another enjoyable review. Don't forget you can check out Simon's writing and art over at his blog and his excellent weekly webcomic - JesseKane.

Find out more about all of Dynamite Entertainment's publications, including Warlord of Mars – Dejah Thoris, over at the excellent Dynamite Entertainment website.