Thursday, August 2

Dynamite Comics – Sep 2012

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the Dynamite Entertainment comics that were released during July that I received at the beginning of August.

Lord of the Jungle #6
The Height of Civilization” [ previous issue ]

The conclusion of Dynamite's adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes, with a somewhat expanded telling of the American epilogue, the one part that was totally excluded from Joe Kubert's masterful adaptation for DC Comics back in the 1970s. This is, however, overall probably Dynamite's closest to the original of any issue thus far. It tells the story of the Wisconsin fire that Tarzan arrives just in time to save Jane's life from, only to have her tell him that she is promised to William Clayton – just before a telegram catches up to Tarzan from D'Arnot, conveying the news that fingerprint analysis confirms that he is, indeed, the lost Clayton baby, and therefore the rightful heir to the title of Greystoke. It ends with the same famous words, “My mother was an ape. I never knew who my father was.”

My major quibble with this issue is that the way it is played here, Jane's ultimate choice for Clayton really comes off badly here, making her look really weak and superficial. Once again, Esmeralda's intelligence is highlighted in that she was the only one of the Clayton party who was taking news of the impending forest fire seriously.

Overall, I must say that this has been a solid adaptation/updating of the century-old story, with its own strengths and weaknesses that I hope I've taken due notice of along the way. In retrospect, the most glaring omission I believe to be the death of Kala, presumably to satisfy the politically-correct crowd, along with the transformation of the cannibalistic black African tribesmen of the book into a tribe of man-apes totally unknown to the original story, for the same reason. On balance, however, I've enjoyed it and look forward to future issues, both telling “original” stories and, presumably, continuing into an adaptation of The Return of Tarzan.

Warlord of Mars #19
Worms of Mars, Part 1 of 2” [ previous issue ]

A few days after the end of Gods of Mars, John Carter is still stunned as his allies continue cleaning up the Firstborn. He is roused from his apathy when it is necessary that he and Carthoris intervene and mandate humane treatment of the Firstborn women. In return, one Linea reveals a plot to destroy the Barsoomian atmosphere and pledges to lead them in an attempt to avert that. It turns out that she is the daughter of the perpetrator, the high priest of Issus, and the granddaughter of Issus herself. The high priest poisons himself after activating the “anti-Atmosphere Plant,” and dies without revealing how to stop it.

This seems to be another decent expansion on the canon as established by ERB, interpolating a story between the existing books. A couple of his tropes are duplicated – that of the haughty, resistant princess, resistant to the instant attraction that is apparent between herself and Carthoris. Of course, we know that ultimately Carthoris will end up with Thuvia … which brings her back to mind and how grossly her character has been mishandled so far. I mean, after we've heard how she wants Carthoris' father to do dirty things to her – which he heard too, although he has yet to actually meet her – doesn't their union seem quasi-Oedipal? That's beyond the canonical fact that he's the consolation prize.

I really find these sideways covers a bit annoying.

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #13
[no title that I can find, so: “The Boora Witch, Part 3”] [ previous issue ]

And the third part of the third story arc continues, with the possessed Dejah Thoris acting so out of character that her grandfather and father grow concerned. Good thing grandpa doesn't know what “she” was up to in his bed! “She” therefore manipulates the situation to make them appear treacherous, denounces them, and conspires with Than Kosis – not Sab Than as last issue – of Zodanga. Only Kantos Kan suspects that something happened on the island in the Toonolian Marshes. He goes there and discovers the preserved bodies of women from various Barsoomian races.

Please let this story be over soon! It's awful. Edgar Rice Burroughs did not write "sword and sorcery."

Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars #4 of 4
[ No title ] [ previous issue ]

As a conclusion, this is not bad. It's biggest asset is that it is the conclusion and I don't have the prospect of yet another issue to come. Actually, to be fair … nah, I'm not even interested in being fair. I did not like this miniseries. This is a more interesting final issue, though, although it really feels rushed – which in this case is a good thing.

Dejah Thoris is suddenly rescued by Carthoris and company, but also demonstrates some kind of dominance over the white apes. She realizes that someone had interfered with her flight to keep her from investigating the Battle of the Face of Barsoom, so she insists on pressing onward, taking along with her all the hatchlings whom she's just told their mothers were pretty much torn apart and eaten alive by the white apes. She excavates evidence of a massacre of green Martians – specifically called Tharks, but isn't that just one tribe of greens? – maybe their accoutrements identified them specifically, but whatever – rather than the remains of a glorious battle. Then she gets a message from the pilot of her first flier, who confesses that he had pretended to be having mechanical difficulties as an excuse to land them short of their goal in a city which he did not know was invested with apes (although doesn't A Princess of Mars, and maybe elsewhere, establish that the abandoned old cities are typically teeming with apes?), in order to hide his father's shame for being part of such a treacherous act. But his own treachery, and its horrific consequences, cause him to land himself in that same city and commit suicide by white ape. In the last scene, Dejah Thoris finds that Tardos Mors had been part of that massacre, although not in the cover-up. “I was but a young warrior, myself, granddaughter.... … I knew it was wrong but I followed orders. … I helped bury them, not cover them up. I simply never spoke of it.” Yeah, a lie by omission when the legend of a great victory that you shared in was being propagated is so much better.

Thank God this story is over.

Viking's picture from 1976
Incidentally, yes, the Face of Barsoom is the Face on Mars, a landform first photographed by Viking back in 1976 which does, in that image taken from orbit, resemble a face. Later, higher resolution, photographs have revealed that to be nothing more than an illusion, but for a long time it was popularly taken to be an alien artifact. 
 The in-story explanation, however, is that it is the burial mound of the Thark massacre that over time subsided in places to form a scream from the dead.” Except neither in the photographs nor in the one good image that we get here does it look like a scream.... Whatever.

Oh, I just thought of one redeeming facet of this story (I'm really digging for something good to say), that it does turn on Dejah Thoris' scholarly/scientific curiosity, which is often overlooked in A Princess of Mars but emphasized as an essential plot point in the movie, John Carter [of Mars].

Review – from someone who liked the series. I'm not so bold as to suggest I'm who he's referring to when he says, “I know some didn't like it but that sometimes happens.” This blog is on his blogroll at right (wow! – I'm on someone else's blogroll!), so it's conceivable. But as he rightly observes, “if everyone liked everything it would be a boring world.” Another way to put it is that everything is going to have its fans and detractors, often without any real reference to its intrinsic value. And the fact is that I may well hate something that someone else loves, and in the end I'm no more right than they are as to whether it's “good” or “bad.” I'm just throwing my opinion out there, half-baked though it might be at times. And, my word!, this has turned into a long intro for the alternative viewpoint review! … Which is here:

Cheers! – and Thanks for Reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment