John Carter: The End #5
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Brian Wood & Alex Cox
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colors: Chris O’Halloran
Letters: Thomas Napolitano
Review by PeteR
We do not know much about art and cannot easily work up ourselves into ecstasies over it. Mark Twain, 1899
For those who came late; the great Edgar Rice Burrows wrote the John Carter epics to be serialized in a variety of pulp magazines. They were later published as a series of ten novels. The first book was called A Princess of Mars. Disney made a movie of it in 2012 that met with mixed reviews. I liked it, but then again, I liked Hutson Hawk.
In the comic books, Dell published three John Carter books illustrated by the renowned Tarzan artist, Jessie Marsh. In 1972 D.C. Comics featured John Carter as a backup feature in their Tarzan and Weird World Titles. Dark Horse Comics has reprinted all of these comics in two volumes. In 1977, Marvel Comics released a new John Carter title. This series lasted for 28 issues plus 3 annuals. (Yes, I own all the above listed books and have read them repeatedly).
Dynamite has produced about seven John Carter related series prior to John Carter: The End. In 2013 Dynamite published Lords of Mars by Arvid Nelson and Roberto Castro Where John Carter teams up with Tarzan.
John Carter: The End #5 is the final chapter of a mini-series exploring what could possibly be the last adventure of John Carter and his wife, Dejah Thoris. The series starts with both John and Dejah as a geriatric couple that have grown apart after retiring to the moon, Titan. The cause for the rift was the death of their great, great grandson, Den Thorkar who they raised as their own child. One day, a delegation of Tarkases (Tarkasi?) show up to inform Carter and Dejah Thoris that Barsoom (Mars) is dying. The cause for this is a new leader who has risen up to take power over the city Helium and use that as the starting point to conquer the entire planet. The person leading the pathos is the aforementioned, previous thought deceased, Den Thorkar.
Dejah Thoris is furious at John Carter because if their progeny is alive, who was it they buried and mourned over. John explains that he sent Den Thorkar away because he had killed one of the villagers and had absolutely no remorse about it. Carter banished Den Thorkar from the village and faked Den’s death to cover up the boy’s killing.
Decades later, after John and Dejah were long gone from Barsoom, Den Thorkar reappeared and rose to power. Dejah and John return to Mars to stop the slaughter and hopefully rehabilitate their scion, now adult.
Issue #4 begins with John finding out that the Den Thorkar leading the invasion is a clone and meets up with the real Den Thorkar who turns out to be a patriot and all around good guy. Dejah, having been captured previously by said clone and his master, scientist Rav Thavas, the true evil mastermind of the New Order, discovers for herself that the problems of the city Helium are greater than she thought. Rav Thavis has appeared previously in the original Burroughs’s novels The Master Mind of Mars and Synthetic men of Mars.
Issue #5 wraps up the series. John and his great, great, grandson, now reunited, wage a final battle against an army of evil clones. Rav Thavas is slain by Dejah Thoris. Tars Tarkas evolves into his final form and dies to save the idea of what Helium is meant to represent. Dejah Thoris falls off a building and John leaps to save her and the family is reunited.
Writers Brian Wood (DMZ, The Massive, Northlanders) and film director Alex Cox, do not bring anything new to the legend of John Carter. In many ways, the majority of the plot points have been seen before and used better. Issue #5 felt pro forma at best.
The artwork for the series John Carter: The End, is produced by Hayden Sherman (The Few, Civil War: Kingpin) who is juggling being a professional comic artist with his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. I did not care for his work on this series. I thought the art was blocky and scratchy. His best piece of art in the entire series was a two page spread in issue #2. The kindest thing I can say about that was it is reminiscent of Howard Chaykin during his Empire and The Stars Are My Destination phase and even that’s a stretch.
There was a splash page in issue #4 of John Carter: The End where Chris O’Halloran’s colors really had a chance to shine. For the rest of the series Titan is green, planet Mars is red and the skies are blue. Other than that one page in Issue #4, the coloring did not evoke any strong impressions.
Why you should buy this book? If you bought the first four issues of John Carter: The End you probably want to pick up issue #5 to have the whole series even though you could see all of the story markers coming a mile away.
Yes, I am probably being over critical about the John Carter: The End mini-series, particularly issue #5. The previous Dynamite John Carter series have been superior to John Carter: The End, so my initial expectations were very high. As you might have gathered, I am a fan of the John Carter series, in all of its various incarnations.
In August of 2017, Dynamite is scheduled to release a 416 page volume, Warlord of Mars Omnibus. I believe the price will be around $29.99. That I am looking forward to. You can pre-order a copy from your local comic store.