Monday, November 14, 2011

Review of John Carter: World of Mars, book 2.

Marvel has two distinct and very stylistically different comic books in production at the moment based around the forthcoming John Carter (of Mars) movie. A Princess of Mars is a straight up adaptation of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, while World of Mars is a prequel of sorts to the Andrew Stanton movie. While Princess of Mars is much more cartoonish in terms of art, World of Mars opts for a far more lifelike approach to its depiction of the characters and terrain of the red planet.

At the end of issue 1 of World of Mars, the villainous and vainglorious Sab Than had penetrated the defences of the city of Helium, intent of kidnapping the Princess Dejah Thoris and thus bringing an end to the war with his city of Zodanga. As Issue 2 opens, we see him carry out the first stage of his plan, stealing the Princess away but inadvertently plunging both into mortal peril when a Martian sand storm engulfs them. Meanwhile, the Tharks Tal Hajus and Tars Tarkas are on a quest to find the Gothan, a legendary Thark warrior undefeated in battle. Tal Hajus believes that if he can defeat the Gothan, then this will give him the mandate to unseat the leader of his hoard, who has become a bloated and twisted shadow of a true Martian warrior Thark.

The cover of issue 2 of World of Mars depicts a stunning encounter between Martian warrior Tharks and a White Ape, demonstrating that artist Luke Ross has a real affinity for the Tharks and other exotic fauna of Mars, but I feel his work on the more humanoid Red Martians seems less assured, or perhaps it’s just that this strand of the story is not as well written. I complained in my last review of Princess of Mars that the dialogue had been overly modernised for my tastes, but the converse is perhaps true of World of Mars; it really could do with loosening up a bit, it’s just too formal for my tastes. There’s also an awful lot of exposition that seems to drag the story down, largely in the strand of the story featuring Sab Than and Dejah Thoris. The two strands of the story are of course surely destined to meet, but at present I don’t feel they have much hope of connecting in any meaningful way.

One of the centrepieces of this issue is the fight trailered on the cover, though unfortunately something seems to have been forgotten here. It is I would suggest reasonably well established that the Tharks live in fear of the White Apes and that John Carter gains respect in the Thark hoard by completing the seemingly impossible task of killing one of these brutes, an outcome only possible because of his superior strength in comparison to the Martians. Yet in this issue, Tar Tarkas defeats a White Ape by leaping onto its back (surely only Carter should be able to leap like this) and strangling it to death with his bare hands. I was also vaguely perturbed to have his fighting move described as a Full Neslon! Surely that’s a rather human term; why not at least make up a Martian fighting move?

I’m really sorry to say that I’m just not feeling any great affinity for this series. Princess of Mars has rapidly become a favourite of mine, but this World of Mars seems a rather dull place. I’ve started, so I’ll finish, but I’m not holding out much hope that things will improve.