Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom
by Robert Place Napton, Roberto Castro (Dynamite Entertainment, 2012)

Long before John Carter strode Mars and the red-skinned Martians reigned supreme on that planet, there was a great civilization -- that fell.

In the days of old, 100,000 years before the time of John Carter, Mars was ruled by a race of white Martians. The red-skinned people then are a bastard race, using only bows and arrows against the white man's guns. But the white Martians are confounded by the receding oceans and thinning atmosphere, and a scientist among them realizes that their time on the planet is short. The red Martians, a hybrid race, have a better chance of surviving the changing climate, as do the four-armed green Martians. While one scientist races against the clock to develop a process that will pump oxygen back into the air, the various leaders and armies squabble over who will rule over the dying world. There's a lot of heroic fighting with guns and swords, and a general with whom we're meant to empathize takes a sword through the back -- I mean, it comes out his stomach, so it was a pretty good stab -- but still manages to fight heroically through the rest of the book. Now that's Martian fortitude!

This story is set long before the existence of Martian princess Dejah Thoris, so the creative team here gives us Anouk, another muscular, well-built, red-skinned beauty who doesn't like to wear clothes.

I'm not a big John Carter fan, it's true, and maybe the true believers out there eat this stuff up like potato chips. But it all seems a bit silly to me, and it seems like there might be a little too much Barsoom glutting the market these days for any of it to seem fresh or interesting.

review by
Tom Knapp

5 May 2012

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