By: Arvid Nelson (writer), Carlos Rafael (artist), Carlos Lopez (colorist), Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator)
The Story: The Colossus of Mars, Chapter Two of Five: Dejah Thoris, Princess of Lesser Helium, along with her father and grandfather (the Jeddak of Lesser Helium) are in the clutches of the Jeddak of Yorn. Help comes from an unexpected quarter, while more dire danger comes from another.
The Review: I’m following both this series and Warlord of Mars. While WoM is a close adaptation of Burroughs’ original novel, Nelson in Dejah Thoris is able to strike in new and unexpected directions. I love the whole vassalage of Helium to Yorn, and the Colossus built by the long dead Barsoomian scientist. Tone-wise, it feels like Burroughs and fits the canon. Nelson has given us palace intrigue, a mysterious artifact, a colorful cast of characters in deep danger and a heroine we can root for.
Rafael and Lopez on art are a great combination. Their green Martians were menacing, their flying ships cool, and their action scenes dynamic. I continue to appreciate their excellent depictions of the Prince of Yorn and the Jeddak’s chief advisor. Their huffing, jiggling faces were both ironic comic relief and dashes of realistic characterization. The Colossus itself, with its rough finish and hollow eyes, was way cool. And of course, our heroine was her usual stunning self.
On Dejah Thoris the character, I wasn’t completely sold, but I haven’t refused to buy, either. Burroughs’ original conception of her was very much the classic, honorable damsel in distress of the pulp tradition of early 1900s. So she needed a bit of modernizing in a way that none of the other Barsoomian characters did, given how much gender roles have changed (when Burroughs wrote Princess of Mars, women couldn’t vote in Canada). Nelson is modernizing her, but her quick and proficient hand with the cool double-bladed sword made me wonder why more women aren’t in the navies of Barsoom, especially considering Martian women are oviparous and don’t have to deal with pregnancies. I guess it’s a question of world-building consistency for me. As a modern reader, I’m quite prepared to have a Barsoom with modern gender sensibilities, but I guess it would be harder for me to buy that only the princess can defend herself while the other red women can’t. However, this is a small point and doesn’t at all detract from the story.
Conclusion: Dynamite has a winner with a great setting, a strong female lead, an unlimited storehouse of adventures and the creative team to make it happen. You should be reading the series.
Follow DS on Twitter.