Review - John Carter: The End #1 (@DynamiteComics)

"Where is John Carter?"

As far as planetary liberators go, John Carter is one of the best-known. Most of his work was done on Mars, but his reputation has spread throughout the universe far and wide. In John Carter: The End #1 from Dynamite Comics, his reputation is put to the test as he seeks to step back from his notoriety. The issue is written by Brian Wood and Alex Cox, illustrated by Hayden Sherman, colored by Chris O'Halloran and lettered by Thomas Napolitano.

Centuries have passed and time has taken its toll. Conflict burns across the landscape of Barsoom. A war of supremacy and genocide at the hands of a brutal despot has brought the planet to the edge of collapse. A search party has finally located an aged John Carter and Dejah Thoris, living in quiet seclusion on a desert moon, in perpetual mourning for a lost son. How could they be Mars' last hope?

The tone in John Carter: The End #1 is one of pessimism and despair. Both Wood and Cox do an excellent job of conveying that sense of gloom through the brooding John Carter and depressed Dejah Thoris, both of whom are in mourning. The pervasive sense of dread shines through, as Wood and Cox let the reader know that the Carter and Thoris aren't really as keen on doing what they're best known for in liberating oppressed worlds. And the plot itself is pretty interesting as Wood and Cox manage to make the John Carter mythos feel somewhat refreshed. What's most amazing about the issue that there's really not a lot of dialogue throughout, but Wood and Cox still manage to tell a pretty emotional story where the characters' facial expressions convey the tone.

Those facial expressions are handled quite masterfully by Sherman's unique artistic approach. Sherman illustrates the characters in a way that's very stylized, emphasizing jagged edges for the characters. The bold outlines are sharp and cut against the sparsely illustrated backgrounds, allowing Sherman to focus on the aforementioned characters. The harsh artistic approach lends itself well to the narrative and Sherman really leans on that to bolster the sense of despair throughout the issue. The colors by O'Halloran are somewhat washed out in a way that make the desolate landscape feel that much more desolate.

John Carter: The End #1 is an issue that focuses on the minimal. John Carter and Dejah Thoris are two tired saviors who wear their trials and tribulations tiredly. The story by Wood and Cox is a fascinating take on the two heroes who are thrust into the thick of war yet another time--even if they don't want it. The artwork by Sherman is as haggard as the characters themselves and lends itself well to the overarching tone of the issue. John Carter: The End #1 is a pretty heady foray into the character with an illustrious history that turns some of that history on its head.

John Carter: The End #1 is available February 8.