[+++ WARNING: potential spoilers! Buy and read the book and then return here for the commentary. +++]
After the enormous culture-clash fun of Dejah and Co.’s adventures in 1940’s Earth, the scale ramps up to cosmic level as Dejah comes face to face with the mysterious — and not entirely trustworthy — Thern. Sebastian Piriz delivers amazing and epic work for this instalment, and Dearbhla Kelly once more excels with the color work. Becca Carey provides wonderful and fluid lettering which allows the conversation to really flow.
We open with vivid and visceral snapshots of warfare and destruction on Barsoom…
Pages two to six
…and realize they are just the start of Shang’s account of the crisis affecting the entire Solar System. In the genteel surroundings of Edgar’s country house, over a civilized cup of afternoon tea, the leader of the Thern begins his story.The Holy Thern are ancient foes of the Heliumites, so there is tension from the outset, despite the restrained atmosphere. Sebastian captures that tension well, the simmering sense that everything is about to explode. He’s also great with the little surreal touches — like the Kaldane sitting in the armchair.
What is so terrible a threat that the Thern would broker peace with their ancient enemies?
The U.S. army, of course, isn’t far behind. Harington is determined to capture the ‘Nazi agents’ loose in the U.S. heartland during wartime. There’s a ticking clock for our heroes.
Pages eight and nine
At Edgar’s, the negotiations and discussions continue. Llana is not convinced by any of it, and Shang’s acolytes provide a sinister chorus of suspicion and mistrust. But thanks to psychic powers, all is about to be revealed in a great transition…
Pages ten to fifteen
…as Shang takes them on a journey to the future, allowing them to travel back to Barsoom in the blink of an eye. It’s a ‘virtual’ visit as we will soon discover, and Sebastian has done wonderful work establishing the sudden strangeness, the alarmed reactions, and the disturbingly odd interface between observers and the location.
This is wonderful stuff — vivid and exotic images that perfectly capture the feel and atmosphere of ERB’s original stories, and the sheer wonder of the world he created.
Green Martians ride to war, vast battles unfold, and airship fleets clash. But the real scale is yet to be revealed. I love how the art brings the mood down at the end of page fifteen, from the wrath of open war to a chilling darkness, and sinister mystery closes in…
Pages sixteen and seventeen
…and we get our first, stunning, epic and chilling glimpse of the primordial enemy that threatens everyone and everything.
Pages eighteen to twenty two
And so the lines are drawn and ancient enemies agree on a truce so that they can stand together against an ultimate foe. A return to Barsoom (a proper one) beckons, and you can take it from us that the next arc is going to lift the story to explosive and epic levels.
But before we end, there’s a sweet and touching goodbye and an agreeably light-hearted thwarting of adversaries. It’s a lighter moment, bitter-sweet, and we should savor it, because from here the monumental and brutal war for Mars begins
Dejah Thoris (Vol. 3) #9 is out now from Dynamite.