This is a different Dejah Thoris than the one we’ve seen of late. Gone is the naive young princess who must learn the ways of her world in order to navigate it. Now she is a grandmother, ousted from her throne, and the planet of Barsoom faces a threat that it has never felt before.
Dejah Thoris #1-2
Dan Abnett (writer), Simon Bowland (letterer), Nate Cosby (editor), Vasco Georgiev (illustrator), Dearbhla Kelly (colourist), Lucio Parrillo (cover artist)
December 11, 2019 / January 22, 2020
The difference is apparent from the first page, where we meet Dejah Thoris alone in a desolate, snowy place. And she’s dressed appropriately for the weather! She is, indeed, warm enough — though she’s still not wearing mittens — and easily defends herself against a fierce attacking beast. The narration tells us of the other changes to what we normally see, speaking about what she “has been” — princess, wife, mother, one time Jeddara of Helium. But the warrior and scientist remain (and the mother part too, I should think). Turns out she’s not on some far away ice planet. The snow-covered area is part of Barsoom. The forever dying planet that has always seen its people warring over water now is dealing with climate change.
But of course, no one will believe her. Reporting to the new Jedak dressed in the kind of formal attire that graces the covers of Dejah Thoris stories despite the growing chill, Dan Abnett and Vasco Georgiev make use of the nine-panel grid to make Dejah Thoris’ and Jedak Kurz Kurtos positions clear. Her Jasoom Dynasty is over and her family members have been exiled. Dejah knows that she is only tolerated by Kurtos because the Jasoom Legacy is so strong with the people. The two pages of their conversation is purely talking heads, but Georgiev creates energy and tension through subtle expressions, shifts in position, tilts of the head. Dejah stands on protocol and remains calm — gone are the outbursts of a young woman who speaks first from her passionate heart. She knows how to play the game now with clipped and careful words. She’s willing to take the risks that come with her requests to continue researching the change in temperature, which the Jedak dismisses as just a chill season. Georgiev also works with angles here to remind us of who is truly in power. Though Kurz sits on the throne above her, Georgiev draws him as if we are looking down on him, while Dejah is shown head on or as if we are looking up at her, ever the powerful and confident woman, no matter who tries to hold her down.
In the third volume of the Dejah Thoris series, we also get to meet her daughter and granddaughter, Tara and Llana. The redheaded women, ruling over Gathol, share a warm relationship, complete with jokingly unwanted embraces, but they are clearly no less warriors than their parents and grandparents. Llana even shares the supermortal abilities of her father — who is carefully not named throughout the entire issue, though Dejah thinks no less of the man who forever holds her heart.
Unsurprisingly, Kurz’s assassination plans are put into action soon enough. Georgiev gets to show off his monstrous illustration chops with some, well, monstrous chops, unleashing the white apes of Barsoom. Working almost purely in red, black, and white, Dearbhla Kelly’s colours enhance the viciousness of the creatures against the stark backgrounds of the research facility.
On top of all of this, there is war brewing. Barsoom has always been at war with itself, until the Jasoom Dynasty brought peace between the factions, but as Republicans know, war is where the money and control lies, which is why Kurz has no issue with the rumblings of the Tharks, who are now also under new leadership. The Green Men of Mars likewise have a displaced princess who disagrees with the decisions of the new Thark Jeddak, but she has less pull than Dejah does. As the situation brings the various factions together, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Sola Tarkas.
Simon Bowland makes some interesting lettering choices in this series, making use of sentence case in the narration boxes. Lower case letters are typically frowned upon by lettering veterans due to various issues with kerning and leading with the letters. The Tharks speak in a distinctive thick, green upper case font with squiggly word bubbles that perhaps imply a more guttural sound to their language. When the scene switches to them, the contrast is jarring and it overpowers the plain black and white of the narration boxes. A nitpick on my part, but perhaps the narration boxes needed their own uniqueness beyond the case choice.
Lucio Parrillo’s covers are stunning. Without losing Dejah Thoris’ trademark barely-there attire — though he does give her more than tassels to cover her nipples — Parrillo shapes an alluring image of women at war. Remembering that women are people with purpose and identity, Parrillo pays just as much attention to detail in their expressive faces as he does the shape of their bodies, and poses them ready for battle, rather than merely there to serve as eye candy. Having now met Llana and Tara, I am especially fond of their portrayal in the cover of issue two, where Tara’s expression and pose show off her lighthearted nature, though her weapon and shield are ready to defend. Llana’s pose is relaxed, but confident in her supermortal abilities. And Dejah stands at the forefront, regal and deadly and ever ready to fight for her people, but also pensively looking to whatever lies beyond.
Barsoom is as much about politics as it is war, with all the factions throwing around their weight, attacking, making alliances, and breaking alliances. This new series promises no less, throwing in several more players by the end of the second issue. But will any of their warring and conniving matter if the whole planet is freezing over?