Written by: Ron Marz
Art by: Abhishek Malsuni and Zsolt H. Garisa
Colors by: Nanjan Jamberi
The theatrical release of John Carter in North America was a flop. And I’m not entirely sure I can put that blame on Taylor Kitsch. It’s possible the character of John Carter just does not translate well into 21st century fiction. Maybe the character is just destined to be one that spawned many of the world’s post-1970 fictional heroes while never becoming really popular himself. It would be nice if some medium would really nail this character. Dynamite’s efforts to do so in the pulpy John Carter Warlord of Mars #5 is not that kind of success, unfortunately.
Stranded in another world, John Carter is a man out of place who eventually adopts the ways and means of his adopted planet. Thinking that he is the only earth-man on this planet, Carter finds another man of his time: Captain Clark. Clark and Carter actually fought once before, at the Battle of Bull Run. Apparently they got in each other’s craw back then, and the hatred has carried over. In John Carter #5 the two fight in an arena, Carter escapes, and then goes back to the arena…and they fight again. Yep. That’s it.
It’s really a shame that this issue is such a lame duck of a yarn, because the art is really pretty sharp. There is nothing particularly enrapturing about the panel layouts. Pretty straight-forward fare, there. But the character models are exquisitely rendered, with solid rich colors from Nanjan Jamberi. Combat scenes are full of wonderfully depicted musculature and motion. Really solid, engaging work.
Where things fall apart is in the 1980’s-like dumbed down simplicity of the story. First, there are three characters in the beginning of the story, friends of Carter’s, there for two pages, and then the story rips away to Carter on page three with zero transition. Those three characters are mentioned in a one-liner later, but there is absolultely no context to relate them and that 2-page scene to what is going on in the rest of the book. After Carter and his wife leave the first fight with Clark, they hide out in some hills. For five pages. Talking. I literally had to keep swiping back and forth to make sure I was not re-reading pages, because the dialogue across those five pages began to feel extremely monotonous . Because they never move from the campfire it actually looks like five pages of the same thing, and one page is just four panels of the book’s romantic duo kissing. I almost threw my tablet down at that point.
It is nice to see Dynamite trying to honor this character. This issue, at least, leaves the legacy of John Carter worse off than if they had not done a comic on him at all. If the entire series has been like this, then hopefully it will end soon. The insipid story is the worst kind of 1980’s schlock. It is a warm artistic read, with colors that are pleasing to the eye. However the story is a hairy jumbled up mess that goes nowhere. To Mr. John Carter, my deepest regrets, sir. We wish you better in the future.