Dejah Thoris volume 1 featured a tired cover by J. Scott Campbell, but volume 2, Dejah Rising, promises so much more. A cover by Diego Galindo features a deadly and determined Princess of Barsoom that is ready to defend her kingdom to the death.
Dejah Thoris Volume 2: Dejah Rising
Amy Chu (writer), Pasquale Qualano (artist), Anthony Marques (editor), Thomas Napolitano (letterer), Valentina Pinto (colorist)
May 27, 2020
The covers of this series, interspersed throughout the volume, are simply stunning. Rather than the usual Dejah Thoris T&A, they are almost all about a warrior princess that is done with your shit, including one by Stéphane Roux where she flicks away blood from her face, wearing an expression in her eyes that says “you are going to pay dearly for that.”
It’s a bit of a slow start before we get to that “to the death” part, though there are a few explosions and some treachery to set the tone for the rest of this story arc. Dejah Thoris is accompanying her grandfather, the Jeddak of Helium, on what she is led to believe is merely a scientific mission. In the previous volume, it is Dejah who sets about on a scientific mission, though the story itself is only loosely bound in any kind of actual science. Here, the science is purely a ruse. There be giant canons in that there ship. And also, traitors.
Accompanying Dejah and her grandfather on the mission is Dekana Lor, Headmistress of the Royal Academy of Helium. Dejah questions her place on this mission and is suspicious of her motives, which turn out to be not exactly what one might expect — until they are. While the twists and turns the story take are interesting, at times they felt too simplistic and predictable. Dejah is also joined by Keel, the captain of the ship who is also assigned to guard her, not realizing that the princess is not easily guarded and is well capable of guarding herself anyway. Keel also serves as a mild love interest as her grandfather encourages her to discover that there is life beyond being the future ruler of Helium. This is, of course, foreshadowing of what’s to come, since we are meeting a Dejah that is still gazing fondly at the planet Jasoom, having not yet met John Carter of Earth.
Pasquale Qualano keeps the focus of each panel on the foreground, with expressive faces and poses, and intricate costuming for the often scantily clad characters. There’s a distinct appreciation for fashion that is evident in the care Qualano takes to keep Dejah Thoris shifting through various looks before she’s forced to settle into her armour for the battles in the last few issues. Background imagery is almost forgotten and details of the ship are kept plain, with even explosions and blood being relegated to dimensionless black streaks and spatter.
As an origin story leading up to Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mars, this story is … sufficient, if not particularly memorable in the long run, save for the ending. Still, in my efforts to get to know Dejah Thoris better, it is a pleasure to read the work of a writer who adds more depth to a character that began her life as a damsel in distress.