Last month Ron Marz and Abhishek Malsuni breathed some new life into Dynamite Entertainment’s John Carter franchise with the release of their John Carter: Warlord of Mars #1 which is the first new comic to come out in the post-settlement era (between the ERB estate and Dynamite). And it was a pretty awesome start to the series, packed with all the action and character I could have asked for, especially with the establishment of a new villain for John Carter to eventually face off against.
This week’s John Carter: Warlord of Marz #2 continues the story of a Barsoom under siege by an alien species led by an Earther, Captain Joshua Clark who fancies himself as a nemesis to John Carter, having fought opposite him during the Civil War back in America. Ron Marz starts off the new issue on a very strong note, by showing John facing off against a White Ape of Mars, and continues in the same vein as we get even more character development with the cast, and as Abhishek Malsuni continues to impress with is energy-packed visuals which really capture the wild and ferocious nature of life on the Red Planet.
In addition to a face-off between John and a White Ape in the first third of the issue, the middle third is packed with John facing off against one of the aliens who have invaded Barsoom, whom John has managed to capture, essentially. And then the final third is all about learning more of our villain, his goals for Barsoom and then John setting off on a mission that will see him and his armies, led by Tars Tarkas no less, invading Helium to free it from alien oppression.
The great thing about this issue is that Ron never lets off on the action. He starts off with some great physical action and then slowly transitions it into something less tangible, but still pretty damn effective. He plays on the strengths and weaknesses of his heroes and villains alike to show how they are all well-matched against the other, and that while John has no love for the aliens who have laid siege to a world he has come to call home in recent years, he also doesn’t bear them any particular ill-will, unlike his enemy counterpart who is pretty much out for blood, as he displays in the middle pages.
The developing at-distance dynamic between John Carter and Joshua Clark (notice their initials!) is something that I’m really coming to enjoy a great deal. John is a hero, someone dependable and honourable. Joshua is a thug and a bully with a singular focus on revenge. We get some little details here and there with relation to his animosity for John, so his larger motivations are still somewhat a mystery, but I don’t mind that really since I’m enjoying the character too much in the moment to worry about that.
Ron’s writing is also low on any kind of explanatory exposition this time, unlike last time where he had to quickly catch the reader up on John and Barsoom’s history so he could delve straight into the meat of his story. Without that holding him back per se, he is really able to get into his characters’ heads and show what makes them tick through their interactions with the characters around them. For John, that’s through the alien combatant he captured, Tars Tarkas and the White Ape. For Joshua, it is through Dejah Thoris, a random Red Man and the Heliumite traitor Vush Tanzar.
Pretty incredible mix of characters and relationships right there which Ron is able to leverage a great deal and end on a very satisfactory note.
Abishek’s pencils are complemented by Zsolt H. Garisa’s inks, Nanjan Zamberi’s colours and Rob Steen’s letters with the cover by Ed Benes and Dinei Ribeiro. I mentioned last time how Abishek’s work was pretty incredible, and that’s certainly true of this issue as well. So much more action this time, in addition to everything and he paints a really vivid picture of a Barsoom under siege, not to mention that Joshua comes off as a really potent villain too, which is no small feat in comics. Zsolt’s inks and Nanjan’s colours assist Abhishek’s pencils to a great degree and the overall effect is of this being one of the best issues I’ve flipped through this year.
A strong sophomore issue, which only leaves me wanting more!
More John Carter: Warlord of Mars: #1.