Writer Frank J. Barbiere is back at it again with artists Francesco Manna and Morgan Hickman to bring us another issue of Dejah Thoris. I haven’t been following this series since the relaunch, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised when I grabbed this issue to review. While this arc could be just dismissed as another retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I instead saw that there is far more talent here than what is on the surface. Both in writing and art.
Frank starts this issue off very well, albeit a tad garish, with a quick two page summary of the story so far. Normally I would advise to steer clear of constant plot recaps, but there was really something beautiful in the simplicity of it all. Which actually, now that I think about, aptly defines Frank’s writing throughout this book. Concise. It is clear to everyone who reads this issue what Larka’s goals are, and how she is using her past experiences, since her fall from grace, as a tool for revenge. The best part of this issue for me, as far as the story goes, is her search for truth. As Larka delves deeper into the abandoned city of M’rkassa, she starts to find more questions than answers and realizes that what she wants isn’t necessarily what she needs. This is one of my favorite devices in storytelling.
I am not saying that Frank was flawless in his execution, however. There were some moments of dialogue and exposition that felt redundant. At one point I was almost at the point of “We get it, you’re lost and confused, now do something about it!” Which was, thankfully, mirrored by Frank at the end of the issue.
While the writing was decent, the art is what really carried the entire book. Both Francesco and Morgan killed it this issue. The line work was smooth and clear, allowing for seamless transitions and flowing battle scenes. Francesco had great use of perspective when capturing the vast emptiness of the M’rkassa’s ruins; especially in contrast to the flashbacks of the once bustling city.. I personally enjoyed the fact that no panel of his felt stagnant. There was always some illusion of movement, that did not take away from his attention to detail. Which Morgan outlined beautifully. His constant ebb of warm and cool panels brought out the beauty on the otherwise dull Red Planet. So thanks, Morgan, for that.
All in all, I have to say that I actually enjoyed this new volume of Dejah Thoris. Frank, Francesco, and Morgan definitely took me by surprise with this one. The writing was concise, and the art was gorgeous. So, if you are into this mythos, or any kind of sword-and-shield fantasy, pick this one up. I give Dejah Thoris #5, 3.5 out of 5.