For many, the upcoming “John Carter” movie will be their first exposure to the Edgar Rice Burroughs creation. This story is designed to help smooth out the introduction, serving as the “Official Prequel to Disney’s highly anticipated film,” as pasted on the cover to this first of four issues. The Disney logo does appear on the cover to this comic, but I have to say I am pretty sure that is the smallest usage of the logo I have ever seen.
Disney-approved or Marvel-produced, it matters little for this comic book, which is a nice primer to all things Barsoom (that’s Mars as the Mars-dwellers call it). It starts off with John Carter, but it quickly shifts focus from Carter over to the two characters that most impact the life of Carter on Mars: Dejah Thoris, princess of the city of Helium; and Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of the Tharks.
Through this story, and reinforced by the glossary at the back of this first issue, we are introduced to the three races of Mars: Zodangans, Heliumites, and Tharks. The Zodangans and Heliumites are humanoid and defined as “Red Men.” The biggest difference between the two is their outlook towards the other races. The Tharks are the “Green Men” of Mars, standing at nine-feet tall and sporting tusks and two sets of arms.
Peter David opens vignettes into the worlds of each of those races, using John Carter as the gateway character to bring us through. The scenes featuring Sab Than (prince of the Zodangans), Tars Tarkas, and Dejah Thoris are entertaining and worthy of the time and money this book demands, but the interstitials from one scene to the next are quite wordy, but in a necessary way.
Luke Ross’ heavily detailed artwork makes this a good looking book on first blush, but studying the panels and characters, they all appear to be quite wooden although they are marvelously detailed and carry strong expressions upon their faces.
As a whole, this book is a nice starter package for those unfamiliar with John Carter (or those looking to bridge the gap from what they know at this point from various comic book sources and the upcoming film). It is, however, the first of four issues, set to build one prequel story and as such this issue does not provide the complete tale. It does, however, leave off with a nice bit of tension certain to help tease readers back for more in the next issue.