Dynamite’s latest writer’s commentary features Alex Cox talking about John Carter: The End #3, which he’s writing with Brian Wood. Cover by Garry Brown with interiors by Hayden Sherman.
John Carter of Mars! What a guy, right? Swords and radium rifles and nakedness. Burroughs understood the recipe for awesomeness. To ease you, the reader, into what is happening here, let me catch you up. This series is meant to be a capper on the many, many tales of Barsoom, set thousands of years in the future from the original tales. (Brian Wood is the guy who came up with the idea, I was just along for the ride.) John Carter and Dejah Thoris are currently in the midst of a conscious uncoupling after the revelation that the last child of their long line, previously thought expired, is still alive and kickin’. More than that, actually… he’s a despotic dictator leading Barsoom to a cataclysmic end. They have returned to their roots; John in the hinterlands with the Green Martians, Dejah back in the palace at Helium. What else? The art team is amazing. AMAZING. We wanted this book to look different, more along the lines of a 1970s European sci-fi magazine, and they took the spirit of that era and created their own version. Evocative without simply aping that style. It’s good stuff. I am super proud of those wacky kids.
I guess with that, we can dive in?
So… we are at the midpoint of the story. Issue three. The hump of our five issue tale. The calm before the storm. The cream in the coffee. It begins in the past, which in the timeline of this story is still in the future, although not as future as the future-future where the story actually takes place. It’s the past-future. Or future-past. Take your pick. This young Den Thorkar, being crowned Jeddak. This is where Barsoom begins its century-long decline. This is the start of it all. The boy-king who ruins everything.
Old Tarkas is taunting Old John for being a weak baby. Tarkas seems awfully rude here. He could be more supportive, right? Me personally, I would give John a break. Green Martians ain’t much for manners, I guess.
This page gives us a good idea of the scale of the Green Martians, John, and Tarkas. Tarkas is towering over John, in his current form, advanced from the pupal phase of the ordinary Green Martians. We start to see how he is becoming more animalistic. Let us consider this new phase of Tarkas a type of Martian puberty. Soon, he will start listening to THE SMITHS in his room, alone, and blaming his parents for everything.
John shows the green Martians he can still get the job done, beat-down-wise. We also see flashbacks to DEN THORKAR, who is the erstwhile villain of the tale. This page also has one of many nods to the history of John Carter, in which John is fighting naked, as Burroughs intended.
Look at that cityscape. What a view! The artists on this series, Hayden Sherman and Chris O’Halloran, absolutely kill it. Two very talented dudes. They should really write one of these commentaries. I’m not sure what to say. I already used up my one puberty joke, and it wasn’t event that funny.
Some more flashbacks here, showing how Den was raised, surrounded by sycophants in a giant palace. We are going out on a limb here by making him the villain. Usually people raised like that turn out just fine, but in this fictional tale, he becomes a monster.
Were I a smart man, I would be able to talk about the sophisticated color theory at play on this page. I am not a smart man, so all I can say is that it looks really cool.
Dejah Thoris ain’t buying any of it. She has suspicions. Spoiler alert! Hold on, is that a spoiler? She is realizing that the bad guy is probably the bad guy. She has been blinded by love for a child she raised, but now she sees that he is rotten. That is a spoiler I guess. I’m sorry.
Let’s talk some more about Hayden Sherman. This page is a good example of how great he is. Look at those trees. They didn’t have to be funky and weird and super-cool looking. He did that because he wanted to take the extra ten minutes and make sure that the details looked awesome. Not every artist does that. Check out those vehicles and that city. Things look alien, and new, and weird, but still functional. Look at the inherent drama in where he places the figures on the page. Little touches mixed with big visual flourishes, all mixed into these vibrant, awesome panels that really show off his chops. This is a dude to watch. He knows what he’s doing. It’s crazy good.
This begins an action scene where the SWORDS OF OLD BARSOOM, our insurgents, attack a flying train. It moves fast, and I’m not sure what else to say, except that Hayden really knows how to choreograph big action scenes.
I love the visual of John with goggles and a face-scarf at the bottom here. Man, this commentary isn’t offering much insight outside of me talking about how much I like the art. I apologize, to you, the reader, for not doing a very good job at this. I am not proud of myself.
This page is Green Martians pounding the snot out of Helium Soldiers who are flying with mechanical wings. That is a fun thing to write about, even funner to see it on a comic page. Comics are great.
More action. In my perfect world, this series would just be five issues of Hayden drawing high-speed fights, but Brian thought it would be better to actually have a story, with real human emotions and a reason to be engaged with the narrative and whatnot. I will admit he was correct, although I do so begrudgingly.
Dejah sees the suffering and the havoc wrought by Den’s rule. Shanty-town! Somewhere in that page is a big green Tom Joad, waiting to be a symbol of Depression-era Barsoom. Some Martian Steinbeck is gonna make big literature from this tale.
John and his team have stopped that train, and have rescued some political prisoners. John is building his army! It’s happening! The plot thickens! Get ready you guys!
“The Jeddak is dead. Long live the Jeddak.” Not sure there’s much else to add, there. TO BE CONTINUED! Check out the next issue! More violence and Martian action! What’s not to love!?!?