Writers: Brian Wood & Alex Cox
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Release Date: 8th March 2017
Issue two is where our story begins to soar. Having set the scene in the debut chapter by splitting John and Deja up on their arrival to Mars, Alex Cox and Brian Wood now have a vehicle to tell their story from two angles. I must say that while I did like issue one, I had some niggling doubts about whether I would like this series as a whole. The Mars novels are favourites of mine, so the bar is pretty high.
Well, all I can say is, after the introduction of Tars Tarkus, I am very much into where this story is going. With John and the Green Martians having to flee from New Helium, the authors surprise us with just how sterile this war has become. Not only that, but they do it such a way as to ensure that the reader fully understands the kind of despot that Den Thorkar truly is.
The story jumps between Deja and John, but not in a confusing or irritating manor. Indeed, each little section adds a little extra to the narrative. First, Deja, back at the Palace on Helium. Taken back in without question, you sense the underlying hope that she can change things. On the outside, the palace staff have nothing but praise for what Den Thorkar has done, but it seems evident that no-one is really at peace here.
Back in the Valley of Swords, John finally reunites with a very changed Tar Tarkus. I’ll admit, when I first saw one of my favourite green Martians again I was a bit stunned at how he’d changed. I thought it was a mistake somehow. Not so, and when the reason for this change gets outlined in the dialogue I couldn’t help but nod excitedly in agreement. It is a brilliant piece of development to the character that is both fitting and portentous. I loved it.
This issue has absolutely everything you could want from a good story. There is a background to how the war is being fought and an unease in the people of Mars about the new Jeddak. The Green Martians are fighting what seems like another futile war, and that makes you immediately rally to them. Finally, through Dejah’s broken heart, we meet the her Tyrant Grandson. Yet, my favourite touch was Tar Tarkus giving the Jaddak of Jeddak’s a new weapon for his fight. There is so much going on in just a few pages this issue, and it’s magnificent.
Hayden Sherman is an artist for your watchlist. He seems to grow in stature with each new issue. From his formidable, hulking form of Tars Tarkus, to the prosaic acceptance of Gan Galar over his fate, Hayden has all the bases covered here.. I have to admit, I’m rapidly becoming a huge fan of his work.
Sometimes taking on a beloved property and making it your own can be a bit hit or miss. Make no mistake though, the direction in which Alex Cox and Brian Wood are steering this chapter of the John Carter story is definite “hit” territory in my view. There is a sense of finality (the clue is in the title), but the story is coming from a fresh and new angle that is utterly compelling. Yes, John and Dejah may be out of time having been away from Mars for 300 years, but even in all that time it seems like some things just don’t change. John Carter, Jeddak of Jeddaks, Warlord of Mars, is back. He has a hopeless fight to fight, and he’s all out of bubblegum.
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The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.