Warlord of Mars #1


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Warlord of Mars #1


  • Words: Arvid Nelson
  • Art: Stephen Sadowski
  • Colors: Adriano Lucas
  • Story Title: "A Tale of Two Planets, Part One"
  • Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
  • Price: $1.00
  • Release Date: Oct 13, 2010

John Carter, the inimitable Warlord of Mars, has enjoyed a long, somewhat convoluted relationship with the medium of graphic storytelling, since his first serialized appearance in All-Story Magazine in 1912. Alex Raymond’s comic strip version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' hero is perhaps the character’s most well known (and widely read) foray into a graphic medium, although there have been many attempts to visually chronicle the adventures of John Carter in both celluloid and print.

This week, Dynamite hopes to capitalize on yet another trawling trip through the deep waters of the public domain with Warlord of Mars #1. Following up prior successes such as The Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers, and The Green Hornet, Warlord of Mars seems poised to continue Dynamite’s hot streak, lending more weight to the validity of their publishing strategy.

In a recent review of Project Superpowers, I praised Dynamite for their canniness in assembling a prefabricated superhero universe with the potential to rival the venerable pantheons of DC and Marvel. The more I think about it though, the more I have to wonder if there isn’t a certain over-reliance on properties that, well…used to belong to somebody else. The reason Marvel and DC’s respective universes are so successful is because they set the standard and then broke the mold for originality and sheer creative genius.

Alex Ross is a brilliant talent but he’s no Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko. And Dynamite, despite the respect and creativity with which they’ve handled their licensed properties, risks remaining perpetual third-stringers if they continue their incessant mining of history. It just smacks a little too much of cherry picking – or more accurately, over-fishing.

Be that as it may, as far as comics go, Warlord of Mars is a solid book. Arvid Nelson does a fair job of providing an original back story to the events of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels, expanding upon Carter’s Civil War roots, while exploring his most trusted companion’s rise through the Martian tribal ranks. He (or Dynamite) may have gone too far though, when they included a prose piece at the end of the issue, supposedly penned by Burroughs himself extolling the virtues of Carter and prepared specifically for this “strange manuscript to you in the graphic narrative form…” Although probably an honest attempt to build a bridge to the source material, this unnecessary framing device comes off a little overwrought, if not overbearing.

Stephen Sadowski’s art is impressive as usual, although I felt his technical precision was a little too tight for the subject matter, particularly in his facial expressions. One of the most beautiful and defining aspects of Raymond’s art is that his technical virtuosity was always balanced or tempered by a naturally fluid line. His figures were robust yet organic; his faces expressive without an over-dependence on reference. Sadowski is a wonderfully talented artist but his rendering feels a little too stiff in Warlord of Mars, even if he does do a fair job of evoking Raymond’s clean lines.

At the end of the day, Warlord of Mars is another solid updating of a classic property. I just can’t help but wonder if such timeless champions as John Carter really need any “updating” at all.

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  • MadMikeyD

    MadMikeyD Oct 25, 2010 at 3:27pm

    I really enjoyed Warlord of Mars #1. To be fair, the prose from "Burroughs" at the end is only slightly altered from Burroughs' own introduction to "A Princess of Mars," where he presents John Carter's ?strange manuscript to you in book form??

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