Review: DEJAH THORIS #1

Dejah2016-01-Cov-A-NEN

DEJAH THORIS #1
Written by Frank Barbiere
Art by Francesco Manna, Morgan Hickman
Published by Dynamite Comics
Release date: February 3, 2016

After stealing the stage in Dynamite’s Swords of Sorrow‘s crossover, Dejah Thoris is getting a solo title that includes a costume redesign and a new status quo for the Princess of Helium.

The art by video game storyboard artist Francesco Manna continues to stun. There is a clean animation feel to the panels. While Manna did a great job on the Irene Adler/Dejah Thoris Swords of Sorrow crossover issues, this book feels like he’s kicked it to the next level. The consistency of the faces and dramatic poses have a Terry Brooks feel that works well with line that has traditionally be known for tasteful cheesecake. Morgan Hickman’s colors then take this whole world to the next level. The Mars setting is draped in an orange-yellow hue whenever the characters are outside. The skin-tone differences between Earth-native John Carter and Helium’s residents can sometimes be too subtle. The backgrounds and characters sometimes lack diversity and occasionally blend together.

The book opens with Manna and Hickman’s take on Dejah’s new costume, and how it works in action sequences. It’s an exciting and dramatic start that quickly gets bogged down in daily life and hard lessons. The non-linear beginning is an attempt to get you to stick around for the next issue. It then goes back in time to show Dejah acting almost uncharacteristically naive about the workings of her kingdom. A surprising conspiracy against her father is understandable. However, once it’s clear that Dejah is not safe, she becomes more involved with the everyday people of her society. It’s her surprise here that feels disingenuous to her character shown in previous series. That being said, it allows for a very brief exploration in the differences between class and society structures. It feels as if Frank Barbiere might be looking to make larger narrative comparisons here. If this continues in other issues, than the departure from previously established ideas about how well she knows her people and kingdom can be happily looked over.

The meat and bones of the plot is rather straight-forward. The aspects that are sold as being the shock factors are uncomplicated, but provide for plenty of twists going forward. Barbiere is known for subtle explorations and deeper storylines in his creator-owned work. So, it’s hard to believe that the on the surface story presented is all there is to a story rip-for metaphorical exploration. As Dejah is forced to take on a new mantle and setting there will be plenty of opportunity for this; hopefully the series takes advantage. Only future issues will tell.

An aspect that is shown well, and often falls to the wayside in comics, is expressing the strong partnership between Dejah and her husband John Carter. There is love, respect and discussion between Dejah and John. There is never co-dependence. Dejah trusts that John will investigate and do what he can to help her. Once she knows that justice within her own society cannot be trusted, and her life is in danger, she will not wait around for John to rescue her. It’s this scene that provides the most cheesecake, fist-pumping moment. It’s sexy, action-packed and also provides a believable motion path, with action lines, for Dejah’s attack.

This is clearly a number one issue, with a full set-up that has plenty to be explored. The beautiful artwork sells you on the drama. The potential for deep and thoughtful exploration of societal roles leaves you hoping for more in future issues. It could be unfair to judge a comic on potential, however, there is so much here. Plus, there were plenty of grin-worthy, fist-pumping moments that made the action and adventure enjoyable. This combination of intriguing and sexy is the perfect kick-off for a new Dejah solo adventure.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

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