Saturday, September 24, 2011

John Carter: A Princess of Mars #1 -- A Review

John Carter Warlord of Mars: A Princess of Mars #1 (of 5)
Script: Roger Langridge

Art: Filipe Andrade

Colors: Sunny Gho

Letterers: VC’s Cory Petit

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $2.99
Based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

In order to avoid Thomm’s cross-dressing comment again, I ended up going to the publishing blurb on the last page to get the “official” title. Interestingly to this native of the area, the book was manufactured in Richmond, Virginia by Cadmus Communications. (I wonder if they do tours?) I’ve got to say it’s nice to see a comic printed in the USA for once (good for the economy). However, that doesn’t stop me from getting my Omnibuses, which are printed in China (If it keeps the price down). I can barely afford them as it is and even then it needs to be at a substantial discount (usually 40 to 50 percent off). Just so that comment has any relevance at all, Marvel is putting out an Omni for its 70’s John Carter series. I have all the original issues, but it just might be worth it. The Alan Davis cover is sweet.

The problem is I never seem to be able to finish A Princess of Mars. I have a great fondness for the John Carter character and went to the effort of getting all the Burroughs’ Mars novels back in the mid-80’s, but I don’t think I ever finished reading a single one. I tried reading Princess to my oldest daughter a few years ago based on Jim and Gwen’s example, but we didn’t get very far – maybe she was too old for it already. (She has too much homework now anyway and turns in later than I do.) : (

There are some great creators involved with this series. Roger Langridge of course is from the excellent and now defunct Thor: Mighty Avenger. The cover artist, Skottie Young, is from Marvel’s critically acclaimed OZ books. And while I wasn’t familiar with Filipe Andrade before, his stylistic art is interesting and energetic, and seems very reminiscent of Disney’s Hercules movie. What’s not to like, right?

Sigh…I so wanted and expected to love this book, but in the end it was only “okay”.

Even though I noticed this last, let’s start with the cover. Despite the weird prostrate position of Tars Tarkas, see anything else? C’mon, I’ll give you a few seconds. Does each character look properly? Okay, John’s missing his Gil Kane shoulder fins outfit, but that’s my own hang-up. Give up? Dejah Thoris is NOT RED!!! She’s as “white” as John is. I can understand how it was missed, because it took me awhile to see it myself, but man, what a blunder! I hope they correct it in the trade editions. Oh, and the logo is boring (you have to look at it on the real book). Contrast this cover with my rave of Dynamite’s version from last year. Well, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, whether good or flawed. Don’t worry, I’ve got some more issues.

I had trouble with the scripting too. I found the dialogue to be too modern. John’s from around the turn of the last century and I wouldn’t expect him to paraphrase a line from the Planet of the Apes. And it’s hard not to make comparisons, but I was really missing the expanded story from Dynamite’s series. A book I reluctantly dropped after issue 6, because of the ridiculous renderings of Dejah Thoris. I was really enjoying the extra details about Sola and how she was an outcast in the society, etc. This story seemed a bit empty without those elements. That’s not Langridge’s fault – he’s doing a different kind of book, I know.

In some ways Roger’s really done a good job of efficiently compressing the story. At the beginning John has already been captured by the green Martians and is encountering their leader, Lorquas Ptomel, for the first time. He jumps high, starts to learn the language very quickly, gets his dog (Woola), fights some white apes, and finally sees Dejah Thoris. We also get a four-panel back-story of his trip to the cave. It took Dynamite four issues or so to tell same thing. I suppose that in the next four issues we’ll be able to cover a lot of ground. I don’t really know much of what happens next, because I always seem to stop reading it about this point. My favorite part of the story is John’s growing relationship with Woola.

I think the character design of Woola is awesome and he looks really fierce like a giant green six-legged Pit Bull/Bull Dog mix with an enormous amount of teeth. However, the Martians seem too slender to me, but maybe Filipe is trying to emphasize their more lizard-like qualities. The facial tusks also seem rather small. At least Dejah Thoris has full breast shields, rather than the golden nipples in Dynamite’s Warlord and she even has some fabric to cover her correctly colored (on the inside) mid-section.

While it took me a little while to adjust to Andrade’s style, I did like the power he put into his panels. Two examples are when John lands after his jump and when he put his hands on the Jed’s face to read his mind. Most of the pages flow very well, except for page 13. The transition from panel 4 to 5 is jarring and I kept rereading it to see if I missed something.

I have some trouble with page 15 too, but that’s not Filipe’s fault. No, that is a result of my biggest gripe of the book, Sunny Gho’s coloring. Now, I know Mars is a lot further away from the sun than Earth, so I would expect it to be darker and who knows what it would look like at twilight, but it just made everything hard to see. Going back to page 15, panel 3, John kills the ape that’s on top of him. It just looks like darkened blob to me and I can hardly make out where the ape ends and the man begins. John’s skin tone is so varied also, that you’d think he almost had red skin too. The tusks of the Martians alternate between a bone color and their fleshy green. It may all be technically accurate with the lighting sources, where things start to blend together – And, if you view a page as a whole like a painting, the colors are certainly pleasant to look at, but it’s hinders the storytelling, rather than enhancing it. This is a comic book, not an art gallery.

I’m on the fence on whether or not to continue with the series or not. It’s only a first issue and there is still great potential, but it’s doubtful that the coloring will change at this point. It’s not unreadable by any stretch, I just hoped I would enjoy it more.

GRADE C: A succinct start to John Carter’s saga with lots of promise and several problems.

I can't believe I actually got this post don't even want to know about all the computer problems I've been having ALL WEEK!

1 comment:

  1. I was ambivalent about this book, but decided to try issue #2. It is fun for me to see John Carter get so much attention.