Writer’s Commentary: Dan Abnett Talks Us Through ‘Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter’ #3

by Olly MacNamee

Dan Abnett returns once more with another one of his writer’s commentaries. This time it’s for Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter #3 from Dynamite Comics and out now.

[+++ WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead! Buy and reader the book, then return here for some cosmic commentary! +++]

How tough is John Carter? How much trouble is Dejah Thoris in? Just how bad are the bad guys?

This issue will answer all of those questions and — thanks to Alessandro’s amazing art and Dearbhla’s wonderful colors —in spectacular style.

I really like this issue. My fondness for the Barsoom tales, which has followed me from childhood, is akin to my fondness for a certain mighty-thewed Cimmerian. Both conjure for me a vivid, and undoubtedly nostalgic, enchantment with those great tales of pulp fantasy. That’s something I’ve tried to capture and channel in all the Dejah Thoris (and Red Sonja!) stories I’ve written for Dynamite.

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But this issue has a special place in my heart, because it’s almost wall-to-wall John Carter in action. The lone warrior, sword in hand, performing huge feats of heroic combat in his inexorable battle to reach Dejah. Modern comics (and this is in no way a bad thing, mind you) can be quite sophisticated, creating space for dialogue, character work and clever plotting. As a result, unadulterated action can sometimes be reduced. And that’s a balance I’m happy with. Relentless swordplay can become tiresome.

But not here. 

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What I’m saying is, this is one issue were I give plenty of space for John to be utterly old school. If you want action, we’ve got it. As Dejah is quizzed by the villainous Rotak Gall, and comes face to face with the true menace, John is simply being John, Warlord of Mars, fighting his way through the palace one step at a time. It’s not indulgence. It serves the story. The depiction of John’s resolute carnage teaches us (and him) something about who he is and what’s at stake. But, man, there’s action here, superbly staged by Alessandro. It feels like every other panel could be the wonderful cover of a late sixties or early seventies fantasy novel. The savage hero, blade glinting, facing impossible odds.

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Let’s not forget the other highlights: the sheer, stupendous scale and menace of the Longborn, the revelation of their awful scheme, Dejah’s realization of the danger, her sparring with Gall, and Gall’s whole persona, at once articulate and urbane yet also deeply creepy. 

But I don’t blame you for being out of breath by the time the issue reaches an end and you’ve shared John’s herculean efforts. It’s a huge, huge thing.

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And the ending may come as a shock. It leaves an unexpected question: If John is this tough, how tough is Dejah going to have to be to prevent the annihilation of Barsoom?

I’m always anxious to praise and name check the team – Alessandro, Dearbhla and Simon – but I feel the art, colors and letters this issue deserve an extra cheer. Kudos, you three. This issue makes me very happy indeed!

Dejah Thoris Vs. John Carter #3 is out now from Dynamite Comics

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