Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dejah Thoris and The Green Men of Mars, Vol.1: Red Meat

There are people who just never learn. Even when they know better, they still do that little self-destructive act that brings them to ruin, over and over again. And so it is with ye olde Crabby Reviewer, who tries, over and over again, various and sundry JOHN CARTER comic books.



 Longtime "Crabites" (TM and copyright) will remember my exhausting (And expensive!) millenia spent reading Marvel's dreadful JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS OMNIBUS. I had better luck with Dynamite's first WARLORD OF MARS volume, which I enjoyed, but not enough to keep buying subsequent collections. So I decided to dip my toe in the Martian water yet again, with DEJAH THORIS AND THE GREEN MEN OF MARS, VOL. 1: RED MEAT.

 Where to begin...?

 The script, by Mark Rahner, isn't terrible, for what it is. What it is, however, is an S&M/rape/torture geek fantasy run wild. Dejah Thoris, who seems to be a colossal pain in the ass that cannot be left alone for literally ONE MINUTE, tells John Carter that she doesn't need him to accompany her to the Martian equivalent of a racial tolerance march. He doesn't, and she is promptly kidnapped and taken away by giant green men who want to eat her. And not in a good way, either. (Aside: John Carter really needs to keep a closer eye on this broad. She's like a Martian Lucy/Ethel combination, only with more titties. She CANNOT stay out of trouble.) This volume collects 4 issues that are virtually all sadistic torture porn. The book opens with flashbacks that show Dejah Thoris (Or "The incomparable Dejah Thoris"...) being whipped and branded by the infamous Green Martians, but she must heal really well, because she hasn't got a scar or blemish of any kind on her virtually nude body. Which brings me to the awkward storytelling of artist Lui Antonio. There were numerous times where I had no idea whatsoever what he was attempting to convey, starting with the opening flashback (At least I think it was a flashback....) that has the most awkward segue into present tense ever, and continuing on through a brutal dungeon fight that has a scene that implies that Dejah Thoris murders her guard by choking him until he falls over dead. A few confusing pages later, I realized that he didn't fall over dead, he fell ON Dejah Thoris, got up, and left. But none of this is shown....I assumed that if he got up and left, the artist might want to convey that. But I guess not. So this book is a mess, artistically. I assumed that this volume collected a mini-series, but it ends on a cliffhanger, so I guess that this is a full-fledged series, which would imply that this careless, clueless woman is going to get kidnapped and semi-sexually-assaulted EVERY MONTH. so....yeah. No thanks.

 Dynamite gives good value for your money in their collected editions, as they include a lot of extras. The extras here are confined to their usual plethora of covers and variant covers, which bring me to one of the more shame-inducing aspects of comic-book collecting: The "Nude variant cover". In the past, I have allowed civilians, including my Mother, various friends, co-workers, and the occasional girlfriend to accompany me on my weekly foray to the local comic store. Imagine trying to convince someone that comics really are literature, and sometimes GREAT literature, at that. Extolling the virtues of WATCHMEN, Alan Moore's SWAMP THING run, Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN, explaining the drama of Jean Grey's heroic sacrifice in the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN #137, the epic mythology of Mike Mignola's HELLBOY, the artistic bliss of a George Perez drawing, the simple elegance of Jeff Smith's BONE....and then having them give you the fish eye when they see some unwashed, creepy-looking dude lustfully pick up the nude cover variant and plunk down twenty bucks for it, so it can be taken back to his basement bedroom and placed in a spot of honor, next to the economy-sized bottle of Jergens and the mondo box of tissues.

 Who actually buys these creepy things? Especially in this day and age, where every human being who would possibly be interested in a comic-book probably also has a computer, which could be used to see bajillions of women nude. REAL WOMEN! Not cartoon women with an exposed nipple! I just don't get it. But I can tell you that most people have a very vivid stereotype of who inhabits comic shops, and that image is, sadly, not untrue. And that's why no one who isn't already INTO comics would ever willingly set foot into a comic shop. So when you see these pipe dreams of a getting all of the people who loved THE AVENGERS into the local comic store to buy Marvel comics.....yeah, keep dreaming. They'd no more go into a comic store than I would a cult meeting. (So GOOD MOVE making sure that no one can buy your floppies anywhere but comic stores, Marvel! I think you just killed the industry. But I digress....)

 Anyway, people looking for creepy will find it here. I'll pass on any further volumes.

 Dynamite provided a review copy.