ADVANCE REVIEW: John Carter: A Princess of Mars #1

John Carter: A Princess of Mars #1 (of 5) cover by Skottie Young

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter: A Princess of Mars #1 (of 5)

Story by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Script by Roger Langridge
Art by Filipe Andrade
Color by Sunny Gho
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Skottie Young

32 Pages, Full color, $2.99

Marvel Comics

“Is there life on Mars?”
–David Bowie, 1971


Well over 52 contemporary American folk heroes are undergoing high profile reinvention this month. And that’s excluding Art Garfunkle’s very serious decision to try Crest 3D Whitestrips during his morning power walk. It may seem like a whole bunch of marketing swagger, but it’s as significant a mass revision as our new mythology has seen, especially when it comes to heroes.

Just shy of his centennial, another icon of American science fiction and fantasy leaps forth from his own relaunch, just as vibrant and entertaining as his 1912 debut. But writer Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show, Snarked!) and artist Filipe Andrade (Iron Man: Hack, Onslaught Unleashed) aren’t outfitting Burroughs’ John Carter with a new costume or attitude. If anything, they’ve simply dipped him in a bowl of vinegar and are now holding him aloft. “This trinket is older than any of you, but look at the shine.” If your experience with creator Edgar Rice Burroughs is limited to Tarzan and his apes, get ready for a weird, wild detour into the cosmos. This is sword and sandal space opera, though the hero of this alien adventure has more in common with Jonah Hex and Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee Hank Morgan than Flash Gordon or anyone who’s ever operated a space ship. John Carter never signed up for this trip.

The premise is simple enough that we’re treated to both origin and an in medias res opening all within this first issue. Page one: A man garbed only in a stolen saddle blanket and his own dog tags grapples with his strange captors. They’re tall buggers, with an extra pair of arms to boot. Green as young frogs. He understands their curses and commands, but they don’t register any of his complaints or excuses. It’s not until an elder leans down to touch noggins that Captain John Carter learns he’s on Mars, a place the big guys call Barsoom. This is where he lives now, though he’s not yet ready to call it home. The method of Carter’s slingshot relocation from Earth to old Mars has always been beside the point, and Langridge wastes little time with such matters here. Alice has gone down the rabbit hole and Dorothy’s found herself over the rainbow. So too has John Carter become subject to the towering Tharks. Like Kal-El of Krypton, he also finds a somewhat dubious biological advantage on this new world, almost supernaturally agile, able to leap tall parapets in a single…well, you get the idea.

From John Carter: A Princess of Mars #1

My friend and fellow staff writer Ali Colluccio famously embraced Langridge’s Thor the Mighty Avenger and lovingly rebranded it My Boyfriend Thor. There is little doubt in my mind this latest project will quickly become My Girlfriend Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. Just as he mined Marvel lore and Norse mythology for spectacular adventures grounded in a tender love story, the author fully embraces the language and scope of this overlooked romance. We’ll find out more about the eponymous Princess of Mars next month, but expect something a role reversal from the TtMA. Here, John is our touchstone, a reluctant visitor in a bizarre new realm. Dejah Thoris is the infamous scion of a lost race. And if the magnificent action sequences and exotic locales introduced in the first issue alone are any indication, we’re in for some grand swashbuckling, world-building, and danger.

If you were discouraged to learn master visual storyteller Skottie Young would merely be providing covers for this series, wait until you see the interior pages. Filipe Andrade’s Barsoom is among the finest Barsooms you’re likely to see. His lithe, angular forms are not likely to please all readers, but this unique style is a stunningly appropriate choice for John Carter’s return to the spotlight. There’s such a keen attention to animal musculature in motion, which makes every leap and every violent impact feel like true physical actions. It exists somewhere between Barbucci and Canepa’s Sky Doll and MTV’s Æon Flux animated series. And of course there’s more than a little influence from Frank Frazetta’s painted concepts of old Barsoom and it’s savage inhabitants. This book is beautiful and it moves.

This is a big week in an even bigger month of books. I know you have a lot on your plate. But if this looks even remotely like something you might enjoy, I implore you to take the plunge. Let’s ring in the 100th birthday of John Carter and Dejah Thoris with much more than a notice from Willard Scott and a Smuckers jar.

Story: 4.5 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5

(Out of 5 Stars)

Add this book to your pull list. 


  1. oh man, so good to hear. I think this is the only Marvel book I ordered this month.

  2. I like the art a lot. looks like it’s going to be a lot of action.

  3. can’t wait till wednesday.

  4. Really excited for this. I tried the John Carter series from Dynamite and it was not good in my opinion.

    • Paul, if you read the Dynamite John Carter books, how did you think this compares to them? I found the art in the Dejah Thoris and Fall of Barsoom books to be much better than the regular Warlord of Mars book. WoM started off good but they changed artists too much.

      I’ll be checking out this series since I love the Barsoom stuff. Hope it doesn’t stray too far from the original books – I mean, I get the Planet of the Apes homage, but that was not from the book, and I don’t recall any mind reading!

    • I haven’t read any of the Dynamite JC books.

      It’s been a while since I last visited the original Princess of Mars novel, but as for loyalty to the franchise, this is the officially sanctioned, canonical adaptation. The Burroughs estate is involved with what Marvel and Disney are doing and I believe the plan is to adapt existing material and then go beyond it with new stories.

  5. Will this spoil the movie for me? I know the movie is based off a book series but I want to go in fresh or do you think there will still be a lot to take in with the movie? Strange I know. I just miss being totally surprised by a good sci-fi movie in theaters. Thanks!

    • Who can say? It depends on how closely the movie follows the book, and how closely this follows the book. I would guess, generally, the major plot points will be similar, but the design, the presentation will be different. We also don’t know how much either will modernize the dialogue or do it in an older style like the book.

      So, I should have just not posted, as I know nothing!

    • @halik This comic and next year’s film cover the same story, that being the first Barsoom novel “A Princess of Mars.” That said, they look to be approaching that material differently. One major difference is that the film includes a subplot about Edgar Rice Burroughs as a character, learning about the fate of a relative named John Carter. This comic is solely from Carter’s perspective. I think if you read this book there will still be plenty to discover in next year’s movie.

  6. I want Skottie Young to do more interiors. It’s always such a tease when he just does the cover. That interior art is pretty dang nice though.

    • I feel the opposite…. I got worried when I saw that cover and was happy to see he had nothing to do with the story. I’m sure he’s a nice guy… just not a fan of his art.

  7. sold!

  8. I had a lot more fun with this book than I was expecting. I know nothing about the characters of John Carter or Dejia, even with having had a print of them both by Ty Romsa up on my wall for the last 5 years. I can’t wait for the next issue 🙂