In 1996, Dark Horse crossed over two of the most famous licensed properties it had into a four issue miniseries – that of Tarzan and John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. It also just so happens that both characters were created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and though perhaps not the most natural pairing one could make, they actually compliment each other quite well. Both are men of honour and both are used to dealing with the beasts of the wild as well as evil men with suspect motivations, so to have them cross over, in a way, makes sense.
The tale starts out on Earth with some Germans hunting Tarzan down upon a train to avenge their fathers. At one point during the battle, now taking place upon the ground, a lightning bolt strikes down between Tarzan and one of the Nazis and he is then transported to Mars. There he meets the beautiful Purid Mos of the Red Cadre, who just also happens to be their captain. She sees potential in Tarzan, not only as a tool of revenge against John Carter, but also as a potential mate. When he refuses, hurting her pride, Purid Mos tries to brainwash him and sends him out to exact her vengeance. Tarzan soon meets Cathoris, Tars Tarkas and Dejah Thoris and finds out that Carter has been missing for awhile, ever since he saved the planet at the atmosphere plant. Tarzan deduces that Carter is probably still alive, so he and Tars Tarkas head off in search of him all the while not knowing that Tars Tarkas has his suspicions of Tarzan and if he must, Tars will kill him to protect his friends.
At first the writing by Bruce Jones felt a little flat, almost as if he was doing it on purpose as it had that old silent movie dialogue kind of feel. It soon picked up though once Tarzan landed on Mars and the story got much better, dialogue included. The pace picked up as well during the latter half of the series and Jones seemed to be a bit surer on just where he was heading. He had a good handle on the characters and it was nice to see Cathoris have a larger role than he usually does when featured in a book with his father. If Jones was doing a regular run on a Tarzan, or particularly a John Carter book, it would probably end up being a must buy.
Bret Blevins is usually one of those artists that you can take or leave. On this book, he has never been better from what can be remembered of his previous work, including his work on New Mutants. Channelling his inner Russ Heath, Russ Manning and Alex Toth, his pencils are beautiful to behold. The men are statuesque and lithe in appearance while the women are all curves and alluring charms. Tars Tarkas is fearsome beneath his pen while the many creatures are truly alien and wondrous. Action sequences, specifically the battle in the arena, are dynamic and prove Blevins a strong storyteller in his own right. If there was any doubt to this man’s talent, this is the book that proves that the man can draw. With the old school flair that his art evokes, and since it has been seventeen years give or take since he has been on any sort of title, having him back on a book, particularly at Dynamite would be nice to see.
It is always a risk when crossing over two iconic properties as the potential to fail at delivering a great story that lives up to expectations is great. Aside from a little bit of a shaky start, Jones and Blevins pull out all the stops to deliver a fun and exciting ride starring the Lord of the Jungle and the Warlord of Mars. If they should ever do another book, it will gladly be purchased.
4 out of 5