In Review: Dejah Thoris #0

A good taste of what's to come when the series begins.

The covers: Ten covers to seek out if one is a fan of the princess of Barsoom. The A cover is by Jay Anacleto, with colors by Rain Beredo. Dejah meditates while holding two swords behind her back. Her sash flails behind her like a creature untamed. She is remarkably beautiful. Her weapons and ornate headdress, full of points, show that she is not a stranger to battle. The artwork on this is great and the colors capture the warm environment of Barsoom flawlessly. The B is a B/W Incentive by Anacleto and is the same as the A cover, just without any of Beredo’s work. I like this cover as well, though I do prefer it with the colors. There’s a Sneak Peek cover by Sergio Davila with colors by Ivan Nunes. This features a close up of an image that will appear on the Number One Issue. Dejah is in battle dress, swords in each hand, staring at the reader in poised fury. Behind her the massive arm of a Green Man can be seen. She looks stunning and the colors are spot on, with her having the perfect shade of red for her skin. This has me looking forward to the full cover next month. The second Sneak Peek cover features art by J. Scott Campbell with colors by Sabine Rich. This, too, is also a close up of Number One, showing Dejah from the waist up. She is gorgeous, as all of Campbell’s ladies are, with the gold in her headdress and (barely there) garb shining against a bright yellow sun. I’m all for seeing more of this cover!The first Comics Elite Exclusive cover is by Stuart Sayger and features a close-up image of Dejah on a pink background looking at a butterfly in her hands. This reminds me of artwork from classic issues of Heavy Metal or work from the 1960’s. She looks great and is wearing next to nothing. The second Comics Elite Exclusive is also by Sayger and features the same artwork, now pulled back to show the title character in her entirety. This is colored in black and white, and all their shades, with a planet now visible behind her back. Additionally, at her waist her legs disappear, revealing the lower half of her clothes resembling circuitry (though the next cover reveals what she’s actually wearing). And instead of a butterfly capturing her eye, she’s looking at a sparse necklace she dangles from her hand. Very nice. The third, and final, Comics Elite Exclusive is again by Sayger. This is the same as the second Exclusive, though the coloring has changed. Dejah is set against a night sky of stars, with her outlined in violet. She wears a black skirt which is clearly revealed. In her palm she looks upon some stardust that’s floating away. This is my favorite of the three. The first Comicxposure Exclusive is limited to 500 copies and is by Elias Chatzoudis. Dejah is reclining on some pillows, wearing next to nothing, holding a glass of wine. Behind her the skyline of Barsoom is seen. Great illustartion with excellent coloring. The second Comicxposure Exclusive is limited to 200 copies and also by Chatzoudis. This has no text and has the princess in the same pose and setting, though she’s wearing a different next to nothing, with her long hair covering her naked breasts. Wow! The third, and final, Comicxposure Exclusive is limited to 100 copies, with it, again, by Chatzoudis. This is the same illustration as the first, though the coloring has completely changed, with it being night. The moons are now shown in the sky. Extremely well done. Overall grades: A A+, B A-, Sneak Peek Davila A+, Sneak Peek Campbell A+, Comic Elite Exclusive 1 A, Comic Elite Exclusive 2 A, Comic Elite Exclusive 3 A+. Comicxposure Exclusive (limited to 500) A+, Comicxposure Exclusive (limited to 250) A, and Comicxposure Exclusive (limited to 100) A. 

The story: Amy Chu is one of my favorite writers due to her sensational work on Dynamite’s current Red Sonja series. I was ecstatic to see that she would be tackling the Princess of Mars. The book opens with an unknown speaker telling speaking on the current state of Barsoom: dried up and dying. But it wasn’t always this way. In the past there was clean air, oceans, forests, an abundance of species. The oceans dried up and the Red Men arose. Additionally, “Scientists and architects worked together to build Ephysium to hold on to the old world. The old ways. We still don’t know what happened to Ephysium. Perhaps it never existed. Bedtime stories upon bedtime stories. Our planet is old, full of secrets.” These words are said by Dejah’s grandfather with the title character promising to find the city one day. The story transitions to the present, with Dejah in a dry lonely area of the planet. She finds a green shoot coming out of the ground and says, “This planet isn’t dead. Just, old and tired. I will bring it back to life.” Back at the palace, her father has returned from an outing, bringing something with him that will change Dejah’s direction. This large individual is always neat to see in Barsoom’s tales, as was the shorter, but more vocal, character. Chu is establishing young Dejah’s character, her motivations, and ends with her in a world of trouble. This issue sets up things nicely, with more to explored in the monthly exploits. This is a taste of what’s to come. I’m definitely on board for more, especially if Chu is writing the adventures. Overall grade: B+

The art: The visuals on this book are okay. There are panels and pages that are very strong from Pasquale Qualano and there are others where a little more detail would have made the visuals better. The opening page establishes the current state of Barsoom: the first panel is terrific with the ruins of the city and the statue in the sand; the second panel is okay, but a simplistic mountain range; the final panel is a nice image of the planet and its moons. The second page is tops as it shows the past life of the planet, full of life, water, and glorious cities. Qualano excels here. The third page is also well done, showing the collapse of the ecosystem and an excellent introduction of Dejah and her grandfather — the exterior behind the characters is simple, but wonderful. The mountain range atop Page 4 is not great; were it not for the coloring I wouldn’t be able to understand how it is composed. However, Dejah looks fantastic. Qualano has got a solid handle on the characters from a variety of angles. This is something absolutely deserving of praise. The full page splash on 6 has the two speaking characters too far from the reader; the focus of the image is on the ship and the character in the foreground. The large individual on 7 is fierce, but smoother than I’m used to seeing. The top of Page 9 seems to be using photo insertion/manipulation to create the walls. I really don’t like when this is done in comics as it stands out like poor green screen from films and television. Thankfully, Qualano doesn’t use this technique again until the final page’s final panel: it really sticks out negatively. The character introduced on 11 is creepy and absolutely appropriate. Pages 12 and 13 focus exclusively on the characters and they’re good, but a turn of the page returns to the large character who’s still very smooth. This is followed by a page that has too much of a focus on a vehicle than the characters. The final page shows the vehicle again and this panel has it drawn with the right amount of focus, though the perspective on the character is a little off. The visuals clearly communicate the story and have the humanoid characters looking great, but one character is off and the settings don’t gel in two panels. Overall grade: B-

The colors: Through every version of Dejah’s adventures, by several publishers, coloring has really made the character stand out. That’s because she’s the leader of the Red Men of Mars eventually, so she should have skin that’s red, but not over the top crimson. In this series she and her people are too pale for me. She needs to be darker. Aside from this grouse, colorist Valentina Pinto does a good job on this issue. The opening page sets the ruin of the planet well with oranges and yellows used perfectly. These colors make the second page shine even stronger with all the colors of a healthy world, such as blue and green. The top panels on 3 are nicely tinted to look like a flashback, which they are, while the final panel on the page has brighter colors when the characters are introduced. In the present, yellows, oranges, and tans dominate, creating the perfect tone for a dying world. The narration for Dejah, however, is difficult to read because it’s colored in a light blue upon a dark violet box; it doesn’t appear often, but it needs to be changed. Several panels are set in an underground location and Pinto creates a dark setting without snuffing out the bright colors of the characters, and I’m glad she did so. The colors on the final page are spectacular in the penultimate panel, giving the action a spectacular send off for the finale. I’m nitpicking with the colors I want my Martians, but am loving what Pinto is doing. Overall grade: B

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue and narration (the same font), sounds, a yell, and whispers are brought to life by Thomas Napolitano for this book. The script work done for the scene settings is very regal and resembles a fairy tale’s transitions, which is perfect for this adventurous princess. The sounds for the largest character of the book are perfect, with its smallest utterance looking particularly neat on Page 11. The whispers are also very cool for being smaller and printed in a lighter font than the dialogue: they’re easily read, but obviously meant to be “heard” in a lesser tone. Overall grade: A

Extras: There are eight pages that follow the sixteen paged story and they feature inked character images by Qualano, character designs by Mike McKone, and five pages of black and white sneak peeks from Issue 1. These are neat to see. Overall grade: A

The final line: A good taste of what’s to come when the series begins. The story is good and the art is serviceable. I’m a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s science fiction characters and with Chu charting Dejah’s path I’m on board for this ride. Overall grade: B

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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