This first issue throws a lot of characters at us right at the top, but we get some handy boxes of expository narration that gives us a better idea of who we’re dealing with and what their relationships are to one another.
That being said, while it’s not explicitly necessary in order to enjoy the story here, a working knowledge of Dejah Thoris and the Princess of Mars universe will probably help fill in a few of the gaps. There are quite a few instances of characters dropping terminology specific to these stories that may be lost on some new readers, particularly when it comes to characters’ status and race.
Writer Dan Abnett immediately makes Dejah likable, even for folks who may not have read previous stories featuring the character. We are first given her bonafides, then we see her in action, then we see how forgiving and gentle she can be to her subordinates. This entire first issue is a solid lesson in economical storytelling, giving us just enough to latch onto as it lays the foundation for this new chapter in Dejah’s life.
Aside from the dialogue, we get a really solid sense of these characters through their body language. This is particularly impressive when it comes to the four-armed Tharks, who can literally do one action while they show us how they feel about it. One memorable example would be when Tars Tarkus loads his rifle with one set of arms while his other pair seem to be almost in a resigned shrug. It’s a fantastic and subtle use of the characters’ unique physicality for which artist Vasco Georgiev must be applauded.
Speaking of things to be applauded, the political commentary in this first issue was entirely unexpected, but appreciated. The idea of Dejah and her family only being allowed to remain in Helium unharmed due to some sense of legacy on the part of her enemies is an interesting one — there is always a sense that traditions must be upheld among politicians, regardless of whether or not people agree on the why. However, it’s the arguments over climate change that feel especially pointed. It’s literally snowing in the deserts of Mars, yet no one wants to admit that its anything other than “a cold year.” Dejah may as well be talking to a wall, which makes her struggles to be heard feel especially relatable.
This first issue is light on action, but there’s a sense of danger brewing in every corner of Barsoom. Whether its the fear of an encroaching natural disaster, war with the Tharks, political intrigue, or broken hearts, something is gonna give — and it’s going to happen soon.