Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review - Dejah Thoris #1 (@DynamiteComics)


"Once I was called Dejah Thoris, Princess of Barsoom. But that life is no longer mine."

Being a princess brings with it a world of expectations. Etiquette, marriage prospects, proving your innocence amidst kingdom-changing conspiracies. How a princess deals with any or all of the above is always compelling and Dynamite Comics is all about compelling in Dejah Thoris #1. The issue is written by Frank J. Barbiere, illustrated by Francesco Manna, colored by Morgan Hickman and lettered by Erica Schultz.

A shocking conspiracy unravels in Helium as Dejah's father has gone missing. In the wake of assuming the throne, Dejah learns secret information from her past that will have resounding effects on the kingdom - and her life!

There's a certain malaise that can accompany more established characters such as Dejah Thoris, yet Barbiere looks to eschew that ennui with a bold take on the character. Dejah Thoris has always been characterized by her fierce independence coupled with her political standing as a princess which would imply she hasn't really dealt with many of the same hardships others on Barsoom may have faced. Barbiere upends that notion by putting right at the center of a conspiracy of power and reinforces her as someone capable of solving her own problems. The presence of John Carter can easily allow the story (and Dejah Thoris) to fall into a damsel in distress trope, so it's nice to see the different direction here. And Barbiere's dialogue is very proficient at keeping things moving in the right direction without getting bogged down.

The illustrations of Dejah Thoris by Manna depict the character as proud woman capable of holding her own in combat and conversation. Her look has traditionally been provocative and Manna's rendering of her is done in a way that doesn't seem oversexualized. The rest of the kingdom is fleshed out with a variety of characters (most male) that serve as a stark contrast to Dejah's more voluptuous physique. Manna relies on a mix of panel layouts in moving through the setup issue with insets and overlays being used to great effect. Hickman relies on goldish hues for most of the issue to represent the wealth of the kingdom, switching to darker blues for scenes in jail and reds when outside the kingdom.

Dejah Thoris #1 is a fantastic new take on a relatively old character. It's clear from the start that the issue wants to challenge readers familiar with her to re-calibrate their notions of Dejah Thoris as a character. Barbiere's script gets all the personality traits of Dejah Thoris right without sacrificing any, keeping her sense of perseverance on display in circumstances unusual for her. Manna's illustrations are clean and straightforward, offering a picture of Helium that works to further characterize Dejah Thoris and give her obstacles to overcome. Dejah Thoris #1 is a strong start and fans of the character will definitely want to check their familiarity at the door.

Dejah Thoris #1 is in stores now.

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