By: Arvid Nelson (writer), Carlos Rafael (illustrations), Carlos Lopez (colors), Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator), Joseph Rybandt (editor)
The Story: The Pirate Queen of Mars, Part 2: Dejah Thoris, on a mission of mercy to the south pole, has been captured by the Phondari, a dark-skinned pirate captain, supposedly from one of Mars’ moons. It turns out that Phondari’s impressive ship is much, much smaller than the one chasing her, and now Dejah Thoris is caught in the middle.
The Review: Nelson’s exploration of Barsoom’s different races, their politics, culture and mores, is a ton of fun. And while the setting and characters are fresh to modern eyes, he’s following one of the classic pulp structures of being captured by unkown pirates. It doesn’t matter that here, the seas happen to be the skies above dusty Mars. Nelson is channeling the sense of adventure and excitement the pulps did so well. I enjoyed the careless, ne’er do well character of Phondari and the rising tension as the pirate ship is attacked. I also enjoyed the no-nonsense, take-charge attitude of Dejah Thoris. In Warlord of Mars #10, I had noticed that she was a bit passive, which is closer to the role Burroughs had envisioned for her (damsel in distress, face that launched a thousand ships), but I have to say, after seven issues of watching her in her own title, I now prefer this handy-with-a-sword, young go-getter. I liked Xen Brega, the big pirate captain, and will only note that, with so many writers in so many books striving to rapidly characterize their villains as the most heinous monsters in history, cannibalism is eventually going to lose its impact and become part of the splatterporn background of every villain. And although Dynamite (pulp adventure) and Image (psychological horror) are going for different effects, it’s worth comparing the execution of cannibalism in Dejah Thoris #7 to the cannibalism in Severed #3.
Artwise, Rafael and Lopez continue to lay down beautiful visuals. Dejah Thoris, Phondari, Xen Brega, and the secondary cast were all attractive, with clean lines and subtle coloring. For a while, I was a bit disoriented with the colors used on Phondari, because first I thought she was of a new Martian race (from one of the moons), but the dialogue had suggested she was of the black race of Barsoom, so then I had to revisit and compare colors and see where the range of the palette might be for that race on Mars that Burroughs introduced in his second Martian book, The Gods of Mars. None of this is bad. I don’t mind when the reader has to do more work. The most impressive visuals for me though, were the two pirate ships. I loved the designs and their similarities, and especially of the shot of Phondari’s ship being brought into Xen Brega’s. Impressive demonstration of scale.
Conclusion: Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris is exploring Barsoom in Burroughs’ classic style. Well, well worth checking out.
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