When Dynamite’s first Warlord of Mars series started a number of years ago, it did so strong with a lot of excitement behind it, not to mention the release of a movie featuring the very same character. It had been a long time since John Carter had seen print, with only a shared miniseries by Dark Horse coming to mind, so a new series was most definitely welcome. As stated, it started off strong but soon things would start to slide and it became tedious, if not outright boring. How could anyone get John Carter wrong? He was a man from Earth stranded on an alien planet with all sorts of fantastical creatures and alien tech, foreign beauties and villainous peoples. It should have been easy to come up with any number of storylines that could be fun and exciting and make it the most action-packed science-fiction spectacle seen from any publisher. What followed though was the exact opposite. Most of the stories were decent, but they did not have you clamouring for the next issue and that was a big problem. So even though it was good to have the Warlord of Mars and his cast-mates back in print, you also kind of wanted to see the book put out of its misery or at least get a reboot. Thankfully both of those things happened.
Now Arvid Nelson is a good writer and has written some great stuff in his career, so to say that his work on this title was boring was a little hard, but truth be told, it was. What was great to see though, was that for the last couple of arcs on the book, of which this volume is comprised, he picks up his game and delivers one of the best stories that the title has seen since its inception, one that is full of intrigue and suspense and quite a lot of action. It was everything that this title had been missing and it was sad that after having found something exciting to say with the character, that the title had to end, but again, it was for the best as it had been too stagnant for too long. One tale involves the Yellow Martians and their plan to make war with the Green and the Red Martians through the use of an ancient form of slavery and the second tale involving the return of Dejah’s grandfather and the true ruler of Mars. In both tales, like all good stories, not all is as it would appear.
Arvid Nelson does a fine job on these final two arcs and they hold your attention with all the mystery he plants within them. Unlike the previous stories, these actually seem worthy of the character and more importantly, the reader’s time and money. The biggest problem with the book is the artwork which is just all over the place. One of Dynamite’s practices on almost every title is to start the book off with an A-list artist and get everyone excited and once that artist’s commitment is done, put anyone who is willing to do the work on the book, good or not. On this particular title, the artists were not the worst to have ever been found, but they are by no means the best that could have been paid to illustrate it. Separately, they would have been fine, but the way the book switches between one style and the next is jarring and quite distracting and it does not give the book any sense of flow whatsoever. It is only because Nelson’s story is more captivating than normal that you continue reading. If the artwork had been better, who knows just how well this title might have sold.
Collecting the last ten issues of the regular series, the last trade paperback is a big one and Dynamite is asking a lot for the reader to invest in it. If you are a fan, then yes this book is worth it. If you are a new reader, then start with the first volume and make your way from there. The one problem that anyone is going to face is the fact that you will have to get volume two and three to get to this book and they are just not that strong. It is a shame as well, as the bookends to this series are a lot of fun. All that can be said in the end is that Nelson did his best and sent the book out with a grand adventure for our hero and at least redeemed himself in the end.
3.5 out of 5