by Jessica Greenlee
I’d love to say that Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars was the story I’d been waiting for, the one that gives Dejah Thoris the chance to do all the things Burroughs says she’s capable of but seldom shows.
This issue, #9 in the volume, badly needs a “previously” summary. As there is none, and no clear references are made in the text, the reader is left skidding all over the surface of the story with nothing to hold onto. Dejah Thoris has done…something or killed…someone. It’s not at all clear which or who. Because of this mysterious event, she grows progressively reckless. Meanwhile, somewhere else, a group of undifferentiated Tharks are hanging out, drinking and fighting. They are approached by a mysterious hooded figure who offers them an unspecified job that will result in their deaths. They accept. We then discover that Dejah Thoris has cut her hair, and she’s going with them.
The entirety of Dejah Thoris’s part of the story is told in a series of text boxes either as remembered conversations or because she and John Carter are talking on the radio all the time; it’s hard to tell. This detached point of view keeps things needlessly distant because Rahner isn’t showing two people who love each other discussing an impossible scenario. He’s giving fragments of different conversations with only one person present.
The art is of minimal assistance. On the plus side, Morales’ does well with glimpses of the alien Barsoomian landscape, providing a look at some of the strange, multi-limbed creatures that live there. The protagonists are less defined. Dejah Thoris’ buxom and scantily clad body is well enough, but those who wish can find scantily clad fantasy females elsewhere. The sense that the princess might have an inner life is less secure. The green men of the title, meanwhile, are as visually indistinguishable as they are narratively.
Too, the story both rests on the reader already knowing something about Barsoom and on not caring too much how closely the tale holds to the canon. The only reason to care who John Carter and Dejah Thoris are is reading the books. On the other hand, it asks the reader to think that a group of Tharks, born warriors, would simply sit outside the camp drinking themselves to death without someone to point them toward an unspecified suicide mission. These are not human warriors. A green man who wanted to die fighting would be quite capable of finding his own death.
Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars is a story devoid of the pulpy vigor that marks the original tale. I strongly suggest reading, or rereading, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work if you’re feeling lonesome for the red planet.