By: Arvid Nelson (writer), Lui Antonio (illustrator), Adriano Lucas (colors), Joseph Rybandt (editor), Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator)
The Story: John Carter has become the Warlord of Mars, by uniting the Tharks of Barsoom under Tars Tarkas, the new Jeddak, and he’s leading them against the forces of Zodanga, to stop the wedding of Dejah Thoris, the woman he loves, to the Prince of Zodanga.
The Review: This is the fast-paced conclusion to Dynamite’s adaptation of Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. The events come tumbling, with some cool, satisfying moments. The first I loved was the mass of dour-faced Thark warriors revealed on page three. Furthermore, I think that Antonio has really captured the awesome engine-of-destruction power of the Tharks, more accurately than other renditions (I’m thinking principally of Marvel’s 28-issue, 3-annual run in the late 1970s and the Whelan covers for the 1980s series of Ballantine books). Burroughs was always clear that a charging Thark warrior was a near-unstoppable force. Antonio had his Tars Tarkas dismembering six Zodangan warriors at a time, and didn’t stint on showing them at their full fourteen-foot heights, with the appropriate muscles. And Antonio’s work on Dejah Thoris remains near-flawless and pin-up worthy, which is not gratuitous, as it fits perfectly with Burroughs’ descriptions of Barsoom’s equivalent of Helen of Troy. He also drew some interesting character into Kantos Kan where Nelson had given him a nice little command role. And of course, Antonio’s airship battle was awesome, as were the last few, sad pages. This is not to say that every panel was perfect, but Antonio is gradually climbing up my scale of favorite artists and certainly justifies being among my top choices to pencil Barsoom.
Nelson had a tougher job in this issue because he had so much story to cram into the conclusion of A Princess of Mars. Not only does an emotionally-powerful race to Zodanga have to be paced out, but the race to save Helium too, along with the diplomatic denouement and the next environmental catastrophe. I don’t think Nelson’s job was made any easier by Burroughs himself. The core tension of A Princess of Mars (the romantic tension) ends with their kiss, even though this happens early in the issue, leaving the strategic tension (the survival of Helium) and the fate of Tars Tarkas to the denouement phase. And Burroughs’ true ending is very tacked on. Nelson has to deal with all of this and still make it work. He does, with effective use of text boxes in Carter’s Victorian English. It is a book of racing speed and breathless reconciliations.
Conclusion: Dynamite has sewn up a high-calibre adaptation of A Princess of Mars, just in time to set the bar for Marvel’s first issue of its own Princess of Mars limited series. Definitely buy Warolord of Mars #9 if you’ve got the rest. If you don’t have the rest, I highly recommend the trade when it’s out. Dynamite is doing some great work on Barsoom. Put on your hard hats and come on over.
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