With the big production film covering A Princess of Mars that is due out sometime in 2012 (a hundred years after the first pulp story was published), it only stands to reason that John Carter of Mars become a comics series again. And Dynamite Entertainment has him.
Writer Arvid Nelson and artist Stephen Sadowski have teamed up to deliver the new take on this ageless hero. A handful of other artists, including Joe Jusko who has drawn John Carter several times before, contributed different cover treatments for the first issue. All of them are beautiful, exotic and sexy.
As always, the story begins shortly after the end of the Civil War. Lately come from Virginia, Captain John Carter no longer has a war to fight and doesn’t know what to do with himself. For the moment, he is in America’s southwest doing prospecting with a fellow ex-soldier, James Powell. In the original novel, readers ever got to see much of Powell because he was killed early on. We only know that John Carter had a great deal of respect for the man.
In this comic, we get to see more of that relationship. The bar sequence featuring the fight with the Union soldiers seems almost straight out of a Western comic but goes a long way to defining John Carter’s character and motivation. He’s a man of action and defends his homeland, something that he is forced to do again and again in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novels.
I really enjoyed seeing those pages because this is very much something that Burroughs would have written. This is pure pulp, pure adventure, and larger-than-life characters. Anyone who has read the book knows that John Carter and Powell are going to have a serious run of bad luck out in the desert, probably in the very next issue.
Tars Tarkas, the green-skinned Thark that becomes John Carter’s greatest friend on Mars, shows up in the back pages of this issue. It’s part of the same story, but the two are not yet together. I’m enjoying how Nelson is weaving strands of old stories that were never elaborated in the books into new tales of action and adventure. In these pages, we meet the white apes of Mars at their most savage and ferocious. We also get to see Tars Tarkas at his best.
Longtime readers of Burroughs’s fiction already know the story of Sola, the young Thark girl that is among those rescued by Tars Tarkas. But we never really got to see much of that relationship before John Carter arrived on the scene. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the tension building within the Thark hordes.
I have to admit that I was surprised Dejah Thoris didn’t put in an appearance. However, I’m willing to bet that is quickly rectified in the next few issues. I want to see some of her story before John Carter first sees her. She is, after all, one of the most independent princesses of Mars.
The series is off to a rollicking start. Longtime fans can rest easy knowing that the series is in good hands. Newcomers will enjoy this story as it unfolds. All of us will be waiting restlessly for the next issue.