Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Ramon Perez
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Julian Totino Tedesco
Size: 32 pages
I’m a little bit in love.
I’ve been saying that Tale of Sand really reinforced my love of the artform since I read it a couple months back. I’d heard the name Ramón Pérez before that, but never noticed or came across his art. But Tale of Sand blew my brain back and to the left, and I couldn’t wait to see more. It turns out that I didn’t have to wait long.
While the story across all media channels seems to be how the John Carter film lost more money than anything ever in all of history, everyone I know who saw the picture completely enjoyed it. Regardless, Disney and Marvel had these John Carter comic books in process, and damn if they didn’t slate up-and-comers Sam Humphries, Jordie Bellaire, and yes Pérez himself to manufacture the thing. I didn’t get a chance to see the movie, and I’ve never read the books, but I picked this one up solely on the strength of the creative team.
Good call, me! I got exactly what I came for with John Carter: Gods of Mars #1.
No offense to Humphries, but I came for the artwork, and everything I liked about the work in Tale of Sand was evident in this issue as well. We see strong, clear cartooning, with cinematic movements and closeups. There are no wasted lines, but they’re not so precise that it’s without life. The art is confident, but not too uptight or precious. The work is serious, for all intents and purposes, but the specific style gives it a little wink and half smile, not unlike what we see in the best of Tony Moore’s artwork. Peréz’ John Carter is having fun out there. It’s a little silly, and a little goofy, and he knows it. Like in the book from Archaia, the action is constantly moving down and to the right, exactly the opposite of what you want to see on an earnings graph, but perfect for a comic book. Then again, he switches up styles, taking us back to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ desk, in a different time and place. That mixes in with the “present” of the story and we’re transported between worlds via visual signals. There’s just a little bit of everything I like about comic book art in this book, and it almost didn’t matter what the words were, because I was hooked just a few pages in.
Laying down the bass to Pérez’ lead guitar, colorist Jordie Bellaire also stepped up providing an alien landscape worthy of our imaginations. Besides providing a grounding for the pencils and ink, the colors in this book instantly communicate that we’re not on earth. We’re somewhere else, and the colors of life are different there. Skins are blue and green. The landscape is red and purple. Light is not what we are used to, and while it would look odd back home, it’s perfect for the story, and never overpowers the line art.
It’s a little bit difficult to rate the performance of writer Sam Humphries on this issue, because I haven’t read the original books, and I don’t know how much of it is his work, and how much is Burroughs. Yet the task of transforming something from century old text to a modern and vibrant comic book is no small task, and what from I can tell, Humphries did it wonderfully. The transfer of information to a new reader like myself was fairly natural, and I didn’t feel like I was a victim of explication dumping. Even more, he let these pages breathe, never being choked from too much dialog, and too many attempts at explaining what was already being shown so well. There’s a great deal of skill in involved in being a comic book writer who knows when to let the art do the word, and leave words back on the shelf. It’s doubly impressive when the original text is dense and full of words from an earlier world, where brevity was less appreciated. It’s not as much a building job Humphries did here as much as it was a pruning and shaping. In that respect, it was a great success, guiding the reader through what was a very fun and eventful single issue.
I can’t tell you if you’ll like a modern John Carter story anymore than Disney film executives can, but I can tell you that there are comic book production skills on display here that rate among the best. It’s a fun story, and has all the adventure and imagination you could want out of any comic book. If you’re feeling like a break from the superheroes, the industry is not in short supply of excellent alternatives. Or enjoy it in addition to your other comics; however you like it.
“a man I buried myself in an unearthly tomb–”