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Monday, May 7, 2012

Warlord of Mars. Fall of Barsoom.Robert Place Napton (Writer), Roberto Castro (Art), Alex Guimaraes (Colours), Simon Bowland (Letters) Dynamite Entertainment (2012)

A hugely entertaining and enjoyable comic, a prequel to the Edgar Rice Burrrughs' Barsoom stories, it is set 100,000 years before John Carter arrived on Mars. Barsoom is slowly and steadily dying, the oceans and the atmosphere are ebbing away leaving the Orovar, who ruled a great empire based on trade across the oceans facing extinction. Tak Nan Lee is a Orovan scientist who is struggling to complete a project that might keep life on Mars, building a great factory to produce breathable atmosphere.  General Van Tun Bor is leading the defense of the Orovar empire against the ravages of the giant, four-armed Green Martians. Xan Mu Xar is the Jeddak of the Orovars and has just ended an alliance with two other Martian races, the Okarians and the First Born to secure the survival of the Orovars. The story takes these three plot lines and deftly twists them into a great, pulpy stoy. The reveals are very well paced, the action is fast and compelling and there is a solid emotional and dramatic core to the story.
Robert Place Napton has done a superb job of picking up the threads from the John Carter stories and creating a story that effortlessly stands on its own feet. The cast are engaging and driven by the unfolding extremity that faces them. The responses by the leading players are nicely varied and layered, the unexpected possibilities are set up and exploited with thoughtful care. The story had great detail and texture, the balance between information for the reader, action and plot is exactly right.
Roberto Castro's art is a joy, it has the detail necessary in a story like this where the need to create a convincing physical context is critical, along with a cast who move comfortably within it. All of the various races of Mars, including the Green Martians, are give a great physical presence, they move in natural ways. The battle scenes are full of movement and life, the natural tension of the circumstances is conveyed very well in the quieter scenes as well.
Alex Guimaraes colours are vivid and subtle as required. This is a big loud story and the colours allow it to breathe and to be seen. Where needed they give the tone to the moment where words are not used, Mars is the Red Planet, it is a dying but vibrant place. Simon Bowland's letters are unobtrusive and effective, they are a pleasure to read.
Ignore the terrible cover, the story is much, much better than it implies, this comic is a wonderful slice of romantic science fiction.

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