By: Arvid Nelson (writer), Edgar Salazar (artist), Marcelo Pinto (colorist), Joseph Rybandt (editor), Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator)

The Story: The Gods of Mars Part Two: The Black Pirates: John Carter and Tars Tarkas meet Thuvia, formerly a prisoner of the predatory Therns. They use her special talent to try to break out of the valley of death, and no sooner make a good run for it, than run into the people who prey on the Therns, the Black Pirates of Mars.

The Review: Wow! Salazar’s artwork was astonishingly fresh and vital. Just the composition of the splash page alone, complemented by fine detail, and beautiful colors, totally blew me away. Check out the way Tars tarkas is standing. This is the most realistic balancing I have seen for a Thark outside of a Michael Whelan cover. And the fine lines and detailed draftsmanship were just beautiful to pause over, throughout the book. The detail in the accoutrements of the characters were awesome, like the leather strapping of Tarkas’ wrists, the clothing and jewelry on the princess of the Therns, the expressions throughout, but especially on the Dator Xodar’s face near the end. I can and should go on about Salazar’s art, especially the banths, the Thern architecture and the external sets. The action sequences were dynamic and clear and Tars Tarkas, winded after holding off the banths was worth a thousand words. And this is all said without even mentioning the excellent color work of Marcelo Pinto, who made the red Martians closer to what I’d always pictured and who brought the banths and the Valley Dor to life, while bringing a lurid, bloody tinge to the Barsoomian twilight.

Nelson has being doing a fine job since day one and the only moments where I ever sense a bit of a struggle in the issues where exposition is so important (Act I areas like issues 2-3 and 13) where the weakness in the comic medium in terms of the amount of exposition that must be left out to make the story move along visually is quite obvious. But we’re fourteen issues in and into chapter two of the Gods of Mars, so we’ve emerged from the expository phase and we’re into the action, which gives Nelson the opportunity to show his stuff. I continue to love what he does with John Carter and especially Tars Tarkas. Great, great story.

Conclusion: I love this series. It was firing on all cylinders for me before, but the art got to a whole new level in issue 14 and the story has left the runway far behind.

Grade: A-

-DS Arsenault

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