"John Carter: The Gods of Mars" is plucked from a sequel to the story currently making the rounds in movie theaters. Of course, the original story predates every single character published by Marvel and most of their creators but that doesn't stop the House of Ideas from properly celebrating one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' most intriguing creations.
Sam Humphries creatively adapts the story from Burroughs' works, including a passing reflection from Burroughs' notes as the author did when he originally penned "A Princess of Mars" and the original manuscript for "The Gods of Mars." The device works well to advance the action of the story, juxtaposed with imagery depicting Carter's struggles against the Plant Men -- imagery is beautifully drawn by Ramón Pérez and collaboratively colored by Jordie Bellaire.
Pérez and Bellaire melt into one another, making the art an indistinguishable cooperative. Cory Petit plays alongside the two, adding sound effects (or perhaps preserving those effects in Pérez's art) and distinguishing journal entries between Carter and Burroughs admirably. Sepia-toned, softer-focused panels accompany Burroughs' entries, beautifully demonstrating Pérez's versatility. Pérez clearly is having a wonderful time drawing Barsoom and Carter's adventures judging from the brilliant gestures and expressions he gives to all of the characters and inhabitants of Barsoom. Tars Tarkas was already a fun character, but filtered through Pérez's cartoony style and lavished with extravagant coloring, Tarkas becomes so much more.
Pérez blends classic storytelling techniques, such as having Carter and Tars Tarkas move through panels while the setting remains static through the larger imagery of those panels assembled, with bold page layouts boasting daring amounts of negative space. Pérez uses this space to convey the enormity of the scenery around Carter and company. The artist has taken the legend of John Carter and put his own thumbprint all over it. Going forward from here, I will be unable to read any Carter prose without mentally conjuring the good Captain as Pérez has imagined him here.
This book is a defining spectacle for all to see. Fans of the film or the novels are certain to find a satisfying experience in these pages. My biggest gripe is that Marvel has chosen to have Julian Totino Tedesco to illustrate the cover instead of Pérez. Although Tedesco's cover is wonderful and iconic, it would have been so much nicer to get just one more Ramon Pérez drawing.
I've been hesitant to hop on board the "John Carter" marketing machine, especially with the multiple comic offerings, but this series appears to have the blessing of the Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate and with such gorgeous art by Pérez -- well, I simply couldn’t resist. Of course, now I think I should have resisted if only to revel in this story and Pérez's art all at once in a wonderful hardcover collection. For now, however, this floppy is visual gold. Hand anyone this issue of "John Carter: The Gods of Mars" and they'll be asking you to direct them to more.