In Review: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #9

A decent conclusion to this mini-adventure, though there are moments it could have been better.

The covers: Four different covers are can be yours to possess, should you feel the need to search all of Barsoom. The first cover, the A, is a strong one from Ed Benes and Dinei Ribeiro. A hulking man begins to make his way into the forest, holding a distraught Dejah Thoris, who’s waiting for her husband John Carter to save her. I like that the focus is on the monster of a man, more so than Dejah’s famous cleavage, though she’s got that on display. The setting is really well done, with hints of the woodlands and John in the distance. The coloring is spectacular. The light coming through the trees is beautiful. I’m a big John Carter fan, but when the art and colors are this good, I don’t care that he’s so distant. The B comes courtesy of Bart Sears. This has a very muscled, but trim, John turning to see the monstrosity behind him, which is a tall, muscular elongated man bellowing. The background is a broken city of domes. John looks like Prince Namor and the beast like something Kelley Jones would create. It looks okay, but not in a style I’ve seen for Mr. Carter. The colors are too similar, making much of the imagery blob up. Emanuela Lupacchino, Mary Sanapo, and Ivan Nunes do the C which features another cover that emulates the look of a Marvel comic. It’s an amazing image of Dejah turning behind her to look at something startling. John is shown just behind her with his blade ready to defend the one he loves. There’s also a really nice staircase and ruined city behind the pair. This threesome can do no wrong: Dejah is gorgeous, John strong, the inks perfect, and the coloring outstanding. This is one to chase down. The D is a real eye opener from Jonathan Lau and Ivan Nunes: John has run past the monster, severing its right arm and in the process sending it and Dejah flying toward the reader. Great idea that’s a very active cover. Dejah looks sensational as she’s sent spinning off, the arm is a sickly red, and John and the creature are colored lightly to imply some distance between them and Dejah. Really slick. Overall grades: A A+, B C, C A+, and D A

The story: Dejah regains consciousness to find herself in a cell, imprisoned with several other women, some are children. Kallah, who is there with her two daughters (they were the ones whose fate were unknown at the start of the previous issue), tells the princess that they are in the creature’s lair and that any men who were taken have been “butchered, boiled down and rendered like so much throat tallow…” Suddenly the monster enters and lumbers over to the purple liquid that used to be other Barsoomians. He pours a healthy dose into a mold and he pops out a new right arm. He cuts off his own and replaces it with the new one. That’s certainly an attention getter! Dejah realizes they’ve been captured by a hormad, an artificial being. The final chapter of “Man-Made Monster” by Ron Marz and Ian Edginton has the ladies doing the hard work, with John coming in to bad clean up for five pages. The outcome is never really in doubt and though the action sequences are good, there wasn’t any tension in this story. The final page is very quick, unnecessary summary to show that everyone’s going to be okay after their contact with the creature. The highlight is having Dejah take the lead on this book, and it would have been better for her to have taken out the hormad without her husband’s help. Overall grade: B-

The art: Ariel Medel does a good job on this issue. Dejah looks attractive in a believable way, rather than a super model–gravity defying woman. I like the shock she gives on Pages 5 and 6 — her reactions give the reader a terror they can relate to. She looks even better on 11, pleased with her handiwork. Page 15 has a good heroic reveal for her, and friends, that could have been the final shot of the issue. John is also well drawn, though he evolves into slight variations as the issue progresses: he starts fairly rugged looking on 8 and 9, but becomes a pretty boy 10. He maintains this GQ look until the fighting begins for him on 19. The monster is a fantastic looking character. His entrance on 3 is a perfect, horrific reveal. He also emotes really well, such as on 5 and 6. When he storms down a corridor to attack the heroes, he’s aces. His dreadlock hair creates an excellent feel of motion as it bats around his head. The strike against him 20 looks really good, as his reaction at the bottom of the page, and the blow on 21 is excellent. There’s a flashback page that’s the highpoint of the book’s art; it’s incredibly detailed and I’d love to see Medel illustrate a story more in this vein, than the “big monster attacks hero” story that this is. The book hits a speed bump just before the fight begins: that bottom panel on 16 has an odd layout for the heroes, with John obstructing a decent view of Dejah, who’s striking a pose that seems incredibly awkward. Things continue to be a bit difficult to make out in the third panel on Page 18, one character goes into silhouette mode on 19 (which seems like a cheat–there’s no reason for it to be there since the character is in the foreground), and they continue onto 20. These slight miscalculations in choices drops the book’s appeal slightly. Overall grade: B+  

The colors: The coloring on this book is better. Nanjan Jamberi does a good job with the red skin of the native red people of Barsoom, though I prefer them to be even darker (and it seems that the man that’s accompanying John is much darker than any of the women). There’s some really nice coloring on the stone floor at the bottom of Page 1, with the panel just before it colored yellow to make a dramatic moment even stronger. The top of the second page has outstanding colors really well done to make the atmosphere of the location creepy — and that purple smoke is excellent! The monster’s got a lot of muscle and Jamberi does a smooth job in shading him, as is also done with Dejah and John. John’s armor is spectacular in yellow, which makes him seem like a god. Jamberi should be invited back to color more books for Dynamite. Overall grade: A

The letters: Rob Steen provides dialogue, story’s title, monstrous grunts, sounds, yells of rage, hormad speech, narration, and the tease for next issue. The sounds when the beast is preparing his ghastly replacement are outstanding! Overall grade: A

The final line: A decent conclusion to this mini-adventure, though there are moments it could have been better. Overall grade: B+

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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