Pick of the Week

March 21, 2012 – John Carter: The Gods of Mars #1

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 1.3%
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Sam Humphries
Art by Ramon Perez
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Julian Totino Tedesco

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

I’m a little bit in love.

I’ve been saying that Tale of Sand really reinforced my love of the art form 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’s 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.

Josh Flanagan
“a man I buried myself in an unearthly tomb–”


  1. I thought it would be Wonder Woman #7. Just read it, just great!

  2. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Whoa, totally unexpected! Great call, man! This was gorgeous and rollicking!

    Those colors!

  3. Well the previews certainly looked amazing with Perez suddenly becoming one of my favorite artists. But unfortunately I see this as a trade wait cause I am not a fan of the book all that much.

    My pick was Thunderbolts #171 for being a great, semi-horror issue for Songbird and it also had gorgeous art.

  4. I came for the art, but stayed for the story and coloring.

    I absolutely dug the first Marvel series (Princess of Mars) and was pleased to hear a second series was to be released shortly after the movie John Carter.

    My excitement for The Gods of Mars jumped ten folds when I saw the creators involved and, like you Josh, I was not let down after reading this.

    A great first issue!

  5. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    RE: Humphries’ script and his interpretation of the text: I was really impressed with his choice of running the Edgar Rice Burroughs scene where he did. In the novels it’s basically a series of forewords written by “Carter” to his chronicler Burroughs. So making Burroughs a character is pretty cool. I especially liked that great sequence juxtaposing Burroughs’ reactions to the fight John related through his letters. Beyond that, it’s also a great first chapter in a continuing story. John is back on Barsoom after ten years and the world has changed, but it’s all related cleanly and succinctly. That’s a feat.

  6. amazing spiderman 682 is my pick of the week if your not reading slotts spiderman i feel your missing out on one of the definitive spiderman runs.

  7. YES! Great Pick Josh, Ramon Perez is amazing

  8. Well, poop. I guess I’ll have to buy it and see what the fuss is all about. I really enjoyed the movie despite never having dug into this mythology or story at all previously.

  9. The Movie would have done better if they called it “The Gods of Mars”

  10. These Marvel novel adaptations are typically not on my radar. I guess they should be. I’ll look for this when I go to the store in a bit.

  11. Thanks to the early POW I just picked this up digitally. Thank God for digitally comics 😀

  12. To be honest I was a little afraid that this would be Batman for the pick again. Not that it isn’t really good or deserving but that I wanted something new to read and this pick looks like exactly that.

  13. I went back and forth on adding this to my stack and didn’t pick it up. I think I’ll drop in at the shop again on Friday and give it a go.

  14. I’m in the same boat as Josh; never had any contact with Mars before (sorry, I couldn’t resist!), and picked this up on the strength of Tale of Sand.
    Whilst I wasn’t disappointed in the book, as the visual storytelling was superb, I did feel a little cold after reading – the story didn’t grab me, so I felt as if the beautiful art was in service of something that didn’t really amount to much (of course, I might enjoy the whole miniseries when it is collected though.)
    All in all, it was good, but the piece mostly made me want the excellent visuals to be telling a different story – perhaps something more longer form and self contained… another Tale of Sand style project if you will!

  15. Aw man, I knew I should have picked this up.

    Well, I guess I’ll wait until it gets collected. Good to know it starts off with a bang though!

  16. Picked this up based on your tweet earlier this afternoon Josh, and I was not disappointed! Thanks for the recommendation, and I can’t wait for number two! Although I’m buying this digitally in issues, it might be the first book I pick up after doing so in trade format after having already paid for it once.

  17. Just got it digitally. This was really good! Totally caught by surprise. And that art, wow…gorgeous stuff. Good pick, Josh.

  18. Batman baby, just BATMAN for POTW!!!!


  19. Thanks for this pick; I wouldn’t have read it otherwise despite being a long term ERB fan. When I think of Barsoom I always see the Frank Frazetta images, but this was a wonderful alternative vision that tells the story well, much more dynamic and alien than Frazetta. Perhaps it’s time for a Tarzan that captures the spirit of the books.

  20. I thought the story was a little slow, but my goodness, that art…

  21. That’s a damn well-written review. If the readers got to choose pick of the year on on the reviews, this would be right up there.

  22. I was planning on picking this up after I learned of the creative team, but alas, my store didn’t order any. I guess there’s not many John Carter fans in these parts. I’ll keep my ears open to see if the rest of the series pans out and I’ll pick up the trade. If I get impatient, a digital download will be in my future.

    I’ve only read a few books for this week, but I’m looking forward to finishing them. Lots of good stuff this week.

  23. “blew my brain back and to the left” Absolutely awesome.

    This sounds like a beautiful book. I’ll check it out.

  24. I stick strictly to DC Comics these days, but I loved the film John Carter so much, I’ve been looking for any and all John Carter stuff i can get my hands on. So in addition to my weekly DC fix, I picked this book up yesterday as well after paging thru it and being impressed with the artwork as well. I’m extra pumped to read this now that i’ve read this review! Thanks Josh! Now go see the movie in theaters before it disappears…

  25. Can we go ahead and call it?…Jordie Bellaire – Colorist of the Year!

  26. I loved the art and colors but the writing left me empty. I thought Humphries had no grip on the characterization of Carter. Its like every second thing he said was some sort of quip. Which having read the books just doesn’t strike true to me. Anyways, to each their own. Humphries other stuff still rules.

  27. Does this mini-series tie in any way to the last one, Princess of Mars? That was a different creative team, correct?

  28. I was looking over the list of panels for Emerald City next week, and noticed that Ramon Perez is appearing in a “How to Break into Comics The Marvel Way” panel. I’m guessing we can look forward to more of his work on future Marvel titles. Which is awesome. He is extremely talented.

  29. Another week where I buy like 40 books and still don’t get the PotW. Back to comixology…!

  30. i bought this because it was POTW. worst decision i made that day. it has some good points. the art and the world it takes place on is beautiful with all the colors of the setting and atmosphere. the story and dialogue, however, is just terrible. gawd awful, even.
    granted this is unique, but wonder woman was ten times better than this.

  31. Is anyone reading the Dynamite John Carter comics? Are they any good, aside from their awesome covers?

  32. After reading the 4 part prequal to Disney’s movie (World of Mars) by Peter David I wasn’t sure Marvel would get it! Then I read the 5 part (A Princess of Mars) by Roger Langridge and started getting my hopes up. Well I have to say after reading the first issue of (The Gods of Mars) Marvel has got it!!

  33. Based on this article I decided to pick up the issue. Read it and enjoyed it. Picked up right where the movie left off. But after listening to the podcast, I have to agree that this is not something I want to read first in comic book form. I’m very interested in the mythology and the stories, but I want to get all of that, not just something streamlined into a mini-series. So while I really liked this adaptaion, I don’t think that I’ll buy the rest of them. I’ll read the books first.

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