STORY BY Frank J. Barbiere
ART BY Francesco Manna
PUBLISHER Dynamite Entertainment
Last year, the surprising hit spawned from the Swords of Sorrow event from Dynamite Comics was the Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler books. While a lot of the mini runs and one shots used the “fish out of water” trope, it was this book in which it was most successful. As such, it makes sense that Dynamite return to this idea, although in a subtler way.
Everything is going well for Dejah Thoris, Princess of Barsoom (Mars for new readers). Her husband is the Warlord and she lives a life of privilege as the daughter of the Jed. However, trouble brews with the disappearance of her father and the following after effects take a toil on her place in society and throws her life into chaos.
Frank J. Barbiere has a difficult job on his hands with this first issue. As it’s a first issue, he needs to bring in new readers and educate them to Dejah’s world. This in turn could cause long-term fans to roll their eyes. In addition he has to drive the story forward. For the most part, Barbiere manages this balancing act well. Yes, there is a lot of exposition to wade through, but its worth it. The nature of the story allows for the history lesson whilst also setting up problems and antagonists at the same time. The dialogue is a kind of “off-English” that is tried and tested for anyone writing in a non contemporary environment.
Francesco Manna provides the art for the book. This isn’t his first visit to Barsoom, working on the aforementioned Swords of Sorrow Dejah book. In the interim, his art has improved. The same energy is prevalent through the book, in the panel structure and in some of the angles taken. The facial expressions are consistent, giving the characters a sense of life. As this is a Dejah book, there is a fair amount of flesh on show. I am sure that this is part of the charm of the character, however, this doesn’t become a focus of Manna’s work. The colors are provided by Morgan Hickman and like the dialogue, supports a not-of-this-Earth style, conveying the brightness of Barsoom, contrasting it with a darkness brought on by more than the night.
There is a lot of talk in the industry about equality and diversity. Looking at the style of this book, you could be mistaken it’s a bimbo book. But take the time to read it. Barbiere has created a tale in which Dejah doesn’t rely on John Carter, showing her own strength of character, thus providing the industry the strong female lead that a lot of commentators campaign for.