One of the newest kids on the block, John Carter: Warlord of Mars has turned out to be pretty impressive, reminding me of Arvid Nelson’s first arc on Warlord of Mars, which totally made me fall in love with the characters and the setting, though the movie John Carter had done that already to a great extent. The comics were just icing on the cake. In the soft-rebooted world of the new series, writer Ron Marz goes forward in a great way, touching on things we haven’t seen before, and artist Abhishek Malsuni has contributed well, creating some really strong visuals.
From this past week, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4 finally touches on the animosity between John Carter and Captain Clark by giving us a flashback to the battle that set off their rivalry in the first place. And it makes for a really great read since that first meeting was under banners of war, much as their reunion in the present is going to be. Captain Clark has slowly developed as a major villain for John Carter, and this issue adds some much-needed backstory, not to mention that the artwork as a whole continues to be good.
The mark of a good villain is that he has some strong motivations for what he does and that he has some good backstory to him. Without those two elements, he is just a silly cliche not worth your time. In the first couple of issues of John Carter: Warlord of Mars, we got to see that Captain Joshua Clark was an enigmatic character. He had some history with the titular hero but we didn’t really learn any details except that they had fought on opposing sides during the war between the North and the South and that Clark absolutely hated Carter. In the last issue, we actually did learn some small details, but it wasn’t much to go on.
That’s where this past week’s issue comes in and delivers a good dose of backstory to inform what really went on between the two of them in those days. Much of this issue is set during that fateful day in 1861 when Captain Clark of the United States Army clashed against the secessionist John Carter of Virginia. And the thing is that Clark definitely comes off even then as a deranged fanatic, quite like how he is right now in the present. He still froths at the mouth the same way, you could say.
John Carter doesn’t really get to do his thing until much later in the issue, when he finally decides to strike out on his own for Helium. With Dejah’s impending execution by Clark, it is all the more imperative for the hero to finally wake up and do his thing, though he doesn’t know about any of that. As a reader though, it is good that the hero and the heroine are finally going to be united, even if it is under the most trying of circumstances and if it is going to be little more than a trap.
Ron’s previous three issues were very impressive and he doesn’t seem to have lost his touch with this issue. In fact, he has got even better, though it would be tough to make a quantitative judgement on that. Gut feeling says that John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4 is the best of this series to date. It has the same kind of action as before, but deals very much with story setup and character development that was “missing” from the first three issues.
Abhishek is the artist here with Zsolt H. Garisa on inks, Nanjan Jamberi on colours, Rob Steen on letters, and the main cover by Ed Benes and Dinei Ribeiro. We don’t have any action scenes with Dejah in this issue, but we do get to see her act as the daughter of nobility she is, all poise and decorum even in the face of an impending execution. I think the artists really nailed that part well. The flashbacks to the days of the 1860s war were also good, with cavalry charges and infantry assaults all over the place and some great characterwork with Carter and Clark. Good art as usual.
And a great overall package as well.