For a jumping on point, ‘Deja Thoris’ by Frank J. Barbiere and Francesco Manna nails a lot of compelling notes to catch the attention of someone like me: I saw ‘John Carter,” I read ‘Princess of Mars,’ but that was about it. For all the covers and previews I've seen, the character of Dejah Thoris was nothing but cheesecake - a Slave Leia on a throne who happened to be lucky enough to be married to John Carter, Warlord of Mars. However, this issue shows that any flashy metal she'll be wearing from now on won't be as pasties, but instead be armor.
Right off the bat, Barbiere throws out a desperate scene of Dejah – now called Larka – battling with swords and armor, lamenting her fall. With that in mind, the reader jumps back to her luxurious life as the Princess of Barsoom, and one can only ponder how such a precipitous drop in state could occur.
The crux of this first issue arrives expediently, as Dejah’s father mysteriously disappears, and questions of her hereditary rights to the throne are brought to light. Barbiere handles these heavy moments deftly, displaying Dejah’s regal pride while still managing to display her as someone who is experiencing a shock to their very way of life. The dialogue between John Carter and Dejah gets a little melodramatic, but Barbiere hits it out of the park by showing how the former princess is independently strong, and determined to unravel the mysteries of not just her father’s location, but also her own identity - Carter is begging an imprisoned Thoris to let him handle things, but she cuts down any notion of being a damsel in distress:
Manna’s work is reminiscent of Terry Dodson, in that his characters are all shapely and beautiful, but without being hyper-caricatures of actual physical forms. His facial expressions are wonderful at conveying emotion, and the jailing of Dejah feels brusque and unnerving – as it should.
The cover by Nen is hypnotizing - Dejah Thoris looks simultaneously sensually alien and incredibly fierce. It's unlike any cover previously released because, again, no cheesecake.
For a first issue – and new direction for an established character – this comic does a great job of setting the table. It utilizes one of my favorite storytelling elements, that of a character learning their world has an entire underbelly that was previously unknown to even exist. Now we the readers are in the same boat as the main protagonist, and it seems like it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
LOWDOWN: 6 out of 10 pelvic thrusts. If you don't feel like buying, at least give it a read and see if you want to continue.