The stories follow John and his Martian Queen missus as they travel out into the desert wastes of Mars/Barsoom searching for a means to restore its dying atmosphere. Each story is standalone and slots into Burroughs’ original continuity within Princess of Mars, thus each story can change little or nothing in grand plot terms. However, some big issues are dealt with, exciting baddies defeated and many tender moments enjoyed between John and wife, Dejah Thoris, as the testing journey deepens and proves the bonds of their love.
The art is lush, rich and cinematic, with huge cinemascope scenery and intricate background detail, from the Barsoomian wildlife to intricacies of architecture in desert ruins. The musculature on many of the men is fairly absurd (Carter himself is a hybrid of 1920s silent movie heartthrob and an early 2000s WWE wrestler, which weirdly really works) but entirely within the parameters of the wish fulfilment fantasy of the stories. So too is the over-spilling voluptuousness of the women, particularly the voluptuary of all voluptuaries, Dejah Thoris, John Carter’s Queen and spouse.
For all the blatant objectification in the art (which we’re sure, for some, is a selling point) this depiction of Dejah Thoris is of a woman who wears the trousers in the relationship (not literally, of course, she barely even wears knickers) and who, independent of the super-strong John Carter, can also really kick arse in battle. Time and time again in this series of stories, Dejah saves John from death and John, in return, does his best to save Dejah from death (and worse), providing she hasn’t already saved herself.
That said, the whole volume is very nearly ruined by an unbelievably rubbish twist at the end but then subsequently saved by the fact that these standalone stories are such fun. These are the adventures of a super strong earthling who can jump really, really, really high and who bashes up alien baddies with cutlasses, broadswords, and radium rifles, accompanied by his equally kick-ass, essentially-naked, red-skinned Martian Queen wife. If that description leaves you wanting more depth or substance in the plotting then I suspect you’re missing the point.
JOHN CARTER: WARLORD OF MARS VOLUME 2: MAN-MADE MONSTER / AUTHOR: JONATHAN LAU / PUBLISHER: DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW