Friday, January 18

Dynamite Comics – Feb 2013

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the Dynamite Entertainment comics that were released during December that I received near the beginning of January. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [Linkto previous month.]

Right into the comics....

Left to right, the Green Hornet,
the Black Bat, Kato, the Shadow,
the Green Lama, Miss Fury, Zorro,
and the Spider.
Masks #2 of 8

Well, I was worried that the change away from Alex Ross' painted art to Dennis Calero's more traditional art in this second, and I presume subsequent issues, would be quite jarring, but it's a decent transition, for the most part. I imagine it will be a bit more noticeable in the inevitable collected format. I'm not familiar enough with Calero to know if inking and coloring was adjusted here somewhat to make that transition smoother, but it works.

The story seemed a bit lighter this go'round. We have the introduction of male and female vigilantes MissFury and the Green Lama in the first couple of pages, then switch back to the main characters introduced last issue – the Shadow, the Green Hornet and Kato, and the Spider – retreating from an ineffective battle against the armored Black Police to Wentworth mansion. There they reveal their civilian identities to one another – all but the Shadow, who reveals only that, “I am the Shadow.” Heh. Meanwhile, Vega, the artist introduced last issue, ends up sent to the gallows – along with others – but escapes with the help of the District Attorney himself, Tony Quinn, who “didn't devote [his] life to the service of the law to see it perverted by thugs” but who ends up blinded in the process (the first step along the road toward his taking up the mantle of the Black Bat.) The main characters listen to the heavily propaganda-laden newscast and pontificate on the inevitable rise of new heroes to fight the ascent of evil. On the last page: Over a shot of Miss Fury and Green Lama – “We already have allies we don't even know, no doubt. Others who are fighting for what's right.” A glimpse of the Black Terror – “And there must be others in the shadows, waiting for their moment to strike a blow against injustice.” Vega and Quinn, the latter's eyes heavily bandaged: “And still others who will find a strength within them that they didn't even realize they possessed, and the courage to stand up. // I tell you, we might be the first, but we won't be the last.”

...Yeah. Not a whole lot really happened in this second issue of eight. We're a quarter of the way through the whole story and it's barely set up. It didn't even feel like a full twenty pages – it is, I counted, but it seemed really decompressed. Things are going to have to pick up.

I've really been looking forward to this series. Please don't disappoint!

We do get some nice rapport developing between the Shadow and Kato – but Kato's master the Green Hornet ends up coming off as a bit of a wimp here.

Cover B by Fabiano Neves
Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #20

Well, on the bright side, we're back to straightforward Mars-based adventuring, with no very un-Burroughs-like supernatural elements obscuring it. And Carlos Rafael is back on art.

There's no arc or even issue-title provided this time, but based on the plot and the text of the preview for the next issue, it could be something like “The Red Circle of Mars” or some such. I really do prefer to be given a story title.

We are introduced right off to a glaring discrepancy from the ERB canon, in my opinion. The letter “M” used as the mark of a victim of a new Assassins Guild formed by one Mortus. Getting beyond the sheer in-your-face silliness of the name “Mortus” for an assassin (even though such unlikely punning names for otherworldly figures based on very Earthly languages is not uncommon, it always bugs me and shows a lazy lack of imagination), the fact is that according to Burroughs, there is no common “alphabet” for the Barsoomian written language even though there is one common spoken language. Each Barsoomian city-state has its own distinct writing system, that is usually described as “hieroglyphic.” Or maybe I'm just being pedantic and letting such minutiae get in the way of simplicity of narrative.

I confirmed my memory regarding the Barsoomian language and writing by reference to John Flint Roy's wonderful Guide to Barsoom – which I thus had ready to hand when I encountered the term tanpi a couple of pages later (editorially translated as “dollar”), so it was easy to check that too. Contrary to my first thought that tanpi doesn't sound authentically Barsoomian, it is. It is, but the timing of the term's introduction into the original series brings up a question. Again according to Roy, it first appeared in Llana of Gathol, which was a 1948 compendium of stories that first appeared in 1941. Now, as I understand it, the reason Dynamite claims the ability to publish non-licensed stories in the Mars series is that the first five volumes were all published before 1923 and are all therefore in the public domain. Names, characters, concepts, etc., which appear in those books are therefore free for anyone to use. How does that, however, apply to a term introduced into the series after 1923? Llana of Gathol, its characters, names, and so forth, are all protected by copyright with rights reserved to the Burroughs estate, right?

As to the story itself: It takes up so abrupted, with what seems very much like a “what happened last issue” inner'logue by Dejah Thoris, that I had to check to confirm that I hadn't missed an issue. I hadn't. Soon after Dejah Thoris' return from self-imposed exile culminating in her adventures on Xasoom (Saturn), she becomes aware of the assassin Mortus who is killing his way to dominance and extend his sway into Helium. Most recently, he has eliminated a Heliumite agent sent against him. Dejah Thoris stows away with another Heliumite agent sent to infiltrate one of the Zodangan assassins guilds toward possibly forging an alliance between it and Helium against Mortus. The agent balks at his princess putting herself in such danger – against the orders of his jeddak – but she maneuvers him into accepted the pretense that she is his slave and he is her master. Things seem to be working out for them and the mission – despite the fact that so obviously even to their target she is the brains among the two. After “master” fell prey to a trap and only survived because of Dejah Thoris, it would have been more likely that from that point the target guild looked more interested in her than the agent! Not that it really mattered by the end – by that point they've fallen prey to a trap by Mortus and look to be blown up.

So this beginning of a new arc is better than what's gone before, recently at least, but frankly didn't really do it for me.

Incidentally, yes there are Dynamite's “risqué” variant covers – but this is not one of them.

Cheers, and Thanks for reading!

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