Friday, March 11, 2011

John Carter, Warlord of Mars #2 - July 1977

"From The Shadows...Stara-Kan!" by Marv Wolfman, Gil Kane, and Rudy Nebres.

This issue starts with John Carter, Dejah Thoris, and their friend Tars Tarkas investigating the ruins of the once-great city Zodanga:
Back at Helium, Dejah Thoris wonders why she was taken captive and tortured for information about how to enter the Atmosphere Factory, when everyone knows only two people on Mars are privy to that information.

John Carter tries to reassure Dejah he doesn't know, but he does know the trouble is over. But inside he knows that its just beginning.

Tars Tarkas tries to get information out of their captive, but he won't speak. The prisoner is put on trial, threatened with the penalty of death for his treason. But still, he won't speak.

John Carter asks to be allowed to question the prisoner--alone. The judge allows this, but in the meantime the prisoner is locked into a cell:
The next day, John Carter is awakened with bad news--the prisoner has escaped! He and Dejah Thoris grab Tars and they prepare to search: that is, until Carter insists Dejah stay behind, that way he doesn't have to worry about his beloved bing kidnapped again. Fuming, Dejah agrees.

Carter and Tars investigate the Atmosphere Factory (the structure that keeps Mars alive by maintaining its air supply), and they are dismayed to find its front door open and unguarded. They enter the building, and are attacked by a gang of White Apes!

Carter, knowing he is physically outmatched, hacks and slashes his way free, and escapes their clutches, only to find himself chased by another pack of them. As he struggles to fight them off, an airship arrives, piloted by Dejah!

Crashing her ship into a glass tower, she distracts the White Apes long enough for John Carter to take a breath. When one of the apes grabs Dejah, though, he springs back into action:
sg be continued!

Man, if there ever was a book that perfectly encapsulated the Marvel style of the 1970s, I think it would be John Carter, Warlord of Mars--its all action, action, action!

And I don't mean that as a knock--not at all. Writer/editor Marv Wolfman wisely realized that to try and adapt ERB's stories as they appeared in the books wouldn't work as comics, since there was so much set-up with only tiny bursts of action in between. Here, he has Carter provide the prose via narration while giving his artist (the incomparable Gil Kane) lots of opportunities to draw fun stuff: aliens, spaceships, swordplay, etc.

This book was also published during the era when the story/ad ratio in comic books was nearly 50:50--these stories are just 17 pages out of a 32 page book, which means there isn't a lot of room for quiet reflection.

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