• Warlord of Mars #0

    Published by: Dynamite Comics
    Released on: July 9, 2014

    This one-shot covers the entirety of Edgar Rice Burrough’s story of the same title. John Carter bears that title, hard-earned in previous stories and, in this outing, he disappears suddenly, leaving his wife and friends to search desperately for him.


    The story opens with John Carter, back on Earth, in an insane asylum, claiming he’s the warlord of Mars, seeing everyone in the place as the green Martian men. Two doctors are describing his situation and one is informing the other that - true to form - Carter has managed to rally the other patients to him, becoming their “leader” as well. He’s attempted escape a number of times and, in one doctor’s opinion, it might be best if he finally succeeded in escaping since his delusion is pulling others into it, the crazed inmates even referring to themselves as Martians now.

    But escape he does, finally successfully, and he gets some provisions, a horse and his telescope, heading back to the cave in the Nevada desert that changed everything for him. The story then cuts back to earlier, on Mars, with Carter, his red Martian queen Dejah Thoris, and his constant companion Tars Tarkas using a telescope there spying a similar dark, mystery spot in the hills not found on any maps. Dejah is reluctant to let him go exploring but he offers to have two green warriors accompany him so she relents, albeit a bit fearfully.

    Carter, along with Elas and Kota, head deep into the mysterious cave. But, soon, Kota vanishes and then Elars hears his long-dead mother’s voice calling him - right before he’s pulled away by a snaking tentacle. Carter rushes after him but finds Kota’s head body before he, too, is ensared by a tentacle, holding him in place while a ghostly visage appears in front of him…

    Suddenly, it’s 1895 and Carter is an older man, still in Nevada, still obsessed with convincing people he needs to get back to Mars. He’s lost an arm and an eye yet still struggles on, trying to create a picture with Dejah’s face but frustratingly cannot do so. Back on Mars, Tars reports in to Dejah Thoris that there’s been no sign of Carter or his party yet. They figure that Carter isn’t dumb enough to do something that would anger his queen so something must be seriously wrong. They all set out to explore that cave for themselves and bring John Carter back to them.

    In Carter’s world, it’s now 1907, and he’s even older and more feeble but still unrelenting in his quest. He manages to find a local tribesman who’s finally able to point him to the cave he seeks then. As he hobbles his way toward it, back on Mars Dejah leads the party into the cave and they find Carter’s dead companions. They hear an awful noise, one that Tars swears hasn’t existed in years and that leads them to the beast holding Carter in its grasp. It is a balor, a creature of fearful rumor for the red Martians and the ultimate test for the green warriors. It releases Carter to them, having his mind still in its grasp of the “death of dreams.”

    Tars relates that only the strongest warriors are able to survive this encounter at all and that the only way to release him is to kill the great creature. Dejah is ready to do so but then it appears before them, ready to fight once again. Meanwhile, in his deep, deadly dream, Carter has found the cave and lets its energy take him, transforming him into the Mars version of himself. He’s finally back on Mars but, then, suddenly, its air tries to choke him. He fights it and then, sadly, realizes that this vision cannot be real.

    Tars and Dejah and their party fight the balor in the mean time, with Tars knowing he’s the larger target and so leading the creature off so he can lead it into a trap of sorts, wherein he basically manages to jump on top of the thing. As his friend Tars Tarkas fights the massive creature Carter, in his dream - realizing that’s what it is now - continues to struggle and fight. His queen Dejah holds him and yells at him, commanding him to return to her in the way only she can. In his state, he hears her command come through, just as the balor is upon them. Dejah turns to fight but is joined in her arms by the re-awakened John Carter. Together, they stab it straight in its mouth, killing the balor, finally. Carter is confused, then, by war Tars seems to be taking a nap on its back, to which Tars can only shake his head and comment, “Earth men…”

    A brief but excellent one-shot of pure John Carter of Mars goodness, Matt Brady does a fine job capturing the exciting adventures of this famous Golden Age character. His characterizations are all spot on, especially Carter himself who goes through quite the identity quest here. Jack Jadson’s artwork is equally up to the creative task, getting some huge panels for detailing rich, detailed action sequences. Add a Gabriel Hardman cover and you’ve got one solid winner of a story worth buying.