Writers: Brian Wood & Alex Cox
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Release Date: 12th April 2017
I am a bit conflicted over the latest issue of John Carter: The End. On one hand there are a couple of brilliant reveals that elicited some genuine excitement. On the other, I found a lot of this issue a bit messy to follow, making it a fairly frustrating read at times. At least on my first read-through I did. Subsequent reads helped me piece the parts together, and on reflection I liked the story. That said, it was a bit of a trek to get there which, obviously, impacted my enjoyment somewhat.
In saying that, writers Brian Wood and Alex Cox introduce a new, third perspective in this issue. While we’re still following the dual storylines of John and Deja’s respective returns – John and Tars Tarkus with the green Martians; Deja at the Palace of her grandson with the red Martians – the introduction of this new player is fleeting. A few pages at the start and the end of the issue, and I suspect it’s those meddling white Martians, The Therns. It also turns the whole story on its head (as in AH-HAA)!
A lot of the issue is exposition which can be a bit of a slog to get through, and a significant chunk is Tars manipulating John. After years away John doesn’t believe he’s the same warrior he once was, a warrior Barsoom now needs. The writing does capture the camaraderie between Tars and John, and is a pleasant read. Yet, no matter how it’s garnished, it’s obvious this is a necessity to get the story moving. At the same time, the scene it leads to definitely justifies the wait and we get the ‘hero moment’ we all crave from a story like this.
It’s the same with Deja’s narrative. It’s clear she does not completely believe what her grandson, Den Thokar, has told her about this new Mars. In defiance of perceived truth she leaves the palace to investigate for herself. It becomes clear that John and Deja’s paths will align again, albeit from different directions. Quite how this will redefine their relationship remains to be seen, especially considering how they parted. And yet, the obviousness of this does not dampen your enjoyment of the overall story.
I still love the art of Hayden Sherman and the colours by Chris O’Halloran. I understand that Hayden’s style isn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, and yet I find it compelling and satisfying. The clean lines add an almost random quality to the art; there is an abstract feel, and yet there is still a high level of detail there. It’s distinctive in that it’s unique, and that’s part of the reason I find it so fascinating. There are some wonderful plays on perspective throughout the issue, as well as a sense of speed that is kinetic in nature. Chris O’Halloran must have been rubbing his hands together when he got the proofs. His colouring of the Martian landscape is delightfully alien. Both artists have a hand in bringing a mid-twentieth century grandiose feeling to the sci-fi feel of the comic. The spaceships are less like those of the Disney film, leaning more to the styles of Dune, or what I’d imagine a Gor novel would look like.
While my enjoyment of this issue of John Carter was perhaps tempered by forced re-reads and an overabundance of exposition, there are some wonderful twists here to the story that Cox and Wood have crafted. I get the feeling that if I was reading the trade paperback I’d have flown through this part without the slight frustration I had reading it as a single issue. It’s still a damn good read though, and the reveal at the end makes it all worthwhile as I’m now dying to get my hands on the final two parts.
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The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.