In Review: Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler #1

A perfect jumping on place for anyone curious about these characters. An excellent beginning.

The covers: The artist on the Main cover, the A, is one of my favorite illustrators of Dejah Thoris, Jay Anacleto, and it’s colored by one of the best colorists in the business, Ivan Nunes. This cover is gorgeous. A fantastic Dejah stands front and center holding a massive sword as her royal purple cape winds its way under the image and reappears on the right. To the left is the surface of Barsoom. to Dejah’s left is Irene Adler, with a pistol held ready. Her London of 1894 is beside her. Both women are terrific and the colors are stellar. The only downside to this image is the huge amount of empty space at the top of the illustration. Obviously Anacleto thought that the book’s title would be going there and didn’t know about the white boarder at the top and on the side. Still, this is awesome. The B is just a bit sweeter because it’s the rare “Virgin” cover featuring all the art with no white border or title. This is the way this illustration is made to be seen. There’s a C cover exclusive for In Your Dreams Collectibles done by Fabiano Neves, also a superior illustrator of Dejah. This image has the pair perched atop a Victorian building, each bearing their swords. This cover is notable for Irene being much more clearly seen. The coloring is very sharp, with Dejah being spectacularly bright and the browns of the setting making the greens on Irene really stand out. All covers would be excellent additions to anyone’s collection. Overall grades: A A, B A+, and C A

The story: The first part of Leah Moore’s crossover begins in the royal palace of Helium on Barsoom. Dejah calls Woola to come next to her. It’s a cold night and she doesn’t want to lose him as she’s recently lost Tars Tarkas. As the universe’s ugliest but most loyal dog sits next to her, she contemplates the ebony sword that she was recently given. “A sword like this…surely brings only suffering.” Meanwhile, in the Houses of Parliament in 1894,  a session is interrupted by a beating on the door revealed to be a monstrous six legged lion, which devours everyone, including the prime minister. Such a grisly scene is noted by Sherlock Holmes who asks Miss Alder to investigate. Another individual is sparked to find the beast, but for an entirely different reason. Much of the book is set in this time period, focusing on Alders’ search for the beast. Something happens to her, and the man on the quest, that has her encountering Dejah in an unexpected environment. I was feeling a little disappointed with so much focus on Alder, as Dejah is the reason I picked up this book, though Moore brings her and her world into this setting in a very slick way. Granted, this is only the first issue of three, so Moore has to come up with a reason for the pair to meet, and she does. The last three pages have the pair meet and size each other up. This is brief, but lit the fire for me to see more of this pairing. The final page is an excellent cliffhanger which has me thinking Dejah will have a little more focus in the next installment. Overall grade: A-

The art: This is an excellent job by Francesco Manna. The layout on the book is sensational, with characters receiving strong introductions so that readers may easily identify them later. Even Woola and the lion get excellent reveals. These beasts are only seen on one page each, but they look outstanding, with the latter being absolutely ferocious and no further images necessary as its one panel is enough to demonstrate to readers its terrifying nature. Dejah’s introduction is super. She is sitting in bed, but not striking the “Come hither” look that she’s often illustrated in; she’s sitting up in bed, adorned in her usual gold bands, but she’s holding the mother of all fantasy swords. And she does not look pleased. Page 4 gives a gorgeous full body shot of Irene dressed in her Victorian best. This is an excellent way for readers to see her, because she adopts two other outfits later and they show how each is specific to a task that needs to be accomplished. The man on his lone quest is also excellent looking, dressed in the typical finery of the times and sporting a full beard. He looks like the typical male of the day. The settings are wonderful and make the book an instant epic work. The first panel is Barsoom at night, and it’s a perfect example of science fantasy. London, and all its citizens and vehicles, is stunning. The layout and the precision with which Manna does its imagery reminded me of Howard Chaykin. My favorite illustration of the book is the fifth panel on nine. I love the extreme close-up on the character and the overlay. It’s the most awesome visual since an airplane showed Indiana Jones’ movement to Nepal. This book is worth picking up for the visuals alone. Overall grade: A

The colors: Excellent work by Inlight Studio throughout. I’ve read a lot of Dynamite books set on Barsoom and this was the best coloring for a night sequence ever. This is probably the most realistic coloring I’ve seen for this fictional setting. I expected London to be drizzly and dark in Victorian times, but Inlight didn’t do that for every page; there’s a brightness to the city that allows readers to see what’s going on, yet still maintain an evening setting. I love the blue work done on Irene’s clothes when she first appears, setting her apart from the browns and whites around her. My favorite coloring is the same as the art. I loved that aged look and it’s spectacularly believable. My only nit is that Dejah is too white. I need my red men — and women — of Mars to be red. Her skin seemed to close to Irene’s when they meet. Overall grade: A- 

The letters: Erica Schultz (who’s the co-writer of Swords of Sorrow: Masquerade/Kato and the sole writer of Swords of Sorrow: Black Sparrow & Lady Zorro) does a super job in creating scene settings, dialogue, Woola speech, sounds, typed statements, and the tease for next issue. Her work is big and bold, but never overpowers the artwork. She does exceedingly well. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A perfect jumping on place for anyone curious about these characters, and no previous reading of any Swords of Sorrow books is necessary to enjoy this. An excellent beginning. Overall grade: A

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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