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‘Dejah Thoris: Gardens of Mars – Volume 1’ – Trade Paperback Review

I first started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books when I was about twelve. First, I went through the John Carter of Mars series. (Full disclosure – I liked the movie.) Then, there was the Venus series, and then I made it through the first couple of Tarzan books before I got distracted by something. I was twelve. It happens. All I knew was that I wanted a Thark as my next best friend. So, when I found out that Amy Chu had written a prequel about Dejah Thoris before J.C. showed up, I had to go and buy it.

The story begins with a brief prologue on how Mars used to be a lush and vibrant world, but now the planet has lost most of its water and vegetation. The surviving populations of Reds (human-like), Tharks (four arms, two legs, and green), and several other species are in a constant state of war over water.  Dejah is a young woman who we see being educated to take over as Jeddak (leader) of the Reds.  Though well-educated in science, literature, and warcraft, she is still rather naïve.  When she is ordered by her father to execute several prisoners, Dejah decides to aid in their escape when one Thark promises to show her the location of the mythical Epheysium—a place where plant life and a huge reservoir of water is supposed to be. He double-crosses her and, in her shame, she puts together a team of scientists to try to find the flyer the prisoner commandeered and Epheysium.  Nothing goes as she planned, but in the process she learns what it means to be a leader.

Ms. Chu did a terrific job compressing a huge amount of information in the prologue so as to not feel overly expositional.  Dejah’s character arc was nice and gradual, which made it a little frustrating at first as you kind of knew her initial decisions weren’t good ones, but she learned. There was also some nice foreshadowing, as she watched her father and grandfather play Jetan (Martian chess) which paid off later.  I did have one nitpick. When Dejah is brought down to the Royal prison, she says she had never been to that part of the palace before or to the prison. Not having been there before, I understand, but she’s lived there her whole life. She should know that the prison exists.

As for the art and coloring, they were dynamic and I loved some of the little details, but the extraordinary amount of “up the crotch” angles got old.  On the other hand, Mr. Qualano captured the sexiness of the Dejah we all know and love perfectly. The art and paneling moved the action along smoothly, and I really enjoyed those sequences. As a note, I do think a spin-off featuring Kajas, the hydroponics engineer, is in order.  

The first volume also includes some lovely variant covers by J. Scott Campbell and others.

Oh, and I purchased this volume at my local comic book store.

Creative Team: Amy Chu (writer), Pasquale Qualano (artist), Valentina Pinto (colorist), Thomas Napolitano (letterer)
Publisher: Dynamite
Click here to purchase.

Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Fanbase Press Contributor



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