Lords of Mars finds Tarzan crossing over with John Carter once again, this time from Dynamite Comics the current publishers of both their titles. Written by the author who chronicles each book, Arvid Nelson and drawn by Roberto Castro, the story is the first instance of the two characters meeting in this modern continuity. This would not be the first time that the characters had ever crossed over, and most likely not the last, but as it turned out, it would be one of the better stories to have them do so.
The tale finds Lord Greystoke in civilization at this point with him and Jane being invited to partake in a hunting party. Unknowingly the function is a ruse to rile Tarzan up with the end result of getting him through a portal to Mars. Meanwhile, John Carter has to deal with the after-effects of winning his most recent battle as well as his rivals, the Therns. Those Therns are also the reason that Tarzan and Jane happen to be on Mars with a plan to pit Tarzan against their hated enemy, John Carter. As the twofold plan starts to come into focus, Jane and Dejah Thoris both start to become suspicious. Soon it is too late and when the Therns spring their trap, Tarzan and John Carter finally realize that they has been played and team up, jungle lord and warlord, to defeat their common foe.
So what we ended up getting was a good story starring our two heroes, but a pretty standard one when all was said and done. Our main characters meet up and battle as all good guys do when meeting for the first time because they both cannot possibly be on the same side, but after some misdirected anger, and some stark realizations, they team up to defeat the real enemy. Most first time crossovers seem to go in that direction, so why should this one have been any different. The positive side to this tale though was having a top-notch creative team in place to provide us with some solid entertainment.
Castro is a great artist and a perfect fit for the world of Mars. His pencils are detailed and energetic and he seems right at home drawing the strange creatures and peoples of the planet such as the banths and the four-armed Martians. The pages really flourish as we get farther along into the book and he really sets the mood up in most cases. Where Jane is required to spy on someone, he does it so we feel suspense and when Tarzan or John are required to do battle, our heart beats a little faster with the adrenaline of the moment. If a book can make you feel something, it has accomplished most of what it has set out to do. While Nelson does some of it with his writing, it is up to the artist to accomplish the rest and Castro does so. We also get the obligatory arena fight with the white apes of course, which no matter how many times you see it in whatever book it might be, it never gets any less exciting. If all Castro drew were arena fights, it would not be a bad thing. There is the odd time where he will let the odd facial expression out of his grasp, but the good far outweighs the bad.
One of the more annoying aspects of the book, perhaps only because of the number of occurrences and it seemed repetitive, is Tarzan and his confusion over the actions and personalities of both man and Martian. For a guy that is fairly smart in his own right, as well as having great instincts, he sure falls prey to the machinations of other people quite easily even with Jane warning him. On the other hand, John Carter is a little similar as he finds it a point of honour and pride to do as much for himself as possible. If he asks his men to go to battle, why should he not do so himself? Dejah Thoris knows that something is going on with the Therns and that Carter is walking into a trap, but he ends up going anyway. Perhaps that is where the saying ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman,’ might come into play. It was done for the story’s sake obviously, but just a bit too much at times.
One of the best aspects of the book were the portrayals of Jane and Dejah Thoris, from both writer and artist. Strong, stubborn, beautiful and supportive and every equal of the men, the two women embodied everything that makes for a good adventure tale. It was good to see they worked in almost all the main Burroughs’ creations such as the apes, banths and so on. It would not be a proper Martian tale if Nelson did not do so and if it should be someone’s first introduction to the universe our heroes reside in, having a nice representation of creatures and populace is a must. Also tying it into both Tarzan’s and John Carter’s regular books was smart for long-time readers, but even smarter as it was done subtly so as to not have to feel obligated to go and pick them up to get the full story.
Nelson is a good writer and has been writing the adventures of our two heroes for quite some time now, so it made sense for him to pick up the pen and continue on with this miniseries. It would have been nice to have a fresh voice on the title, to get a different take and perhaps see what someone else might be capable of. To share the love so to speak. So what happens next for our Lord of the Jungle remains to be seen? A new Tarzan book would be nice, perhaps Tarzan of Mars? Whatever it might be, should Dynamite choose to keep publishing our jungle lord’s adventures, it is hopeful they find another writer to keep things new and fresh, but if Nelson remains there will be no complaints. Meanwhile, Warlord of Mars is still going strong with Arvid Nelson at the helm, so go and pick that book up for your monthly Edgar Rice Burroughs fix.
4 out of 5