Writer: Chuck Brown
Art: Emiliana Pinna
Colors: Ellie Wright
Letters: Jeff Eckleberry
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: April 19th, 2023
Last issue, the Kaldane, a race of spider-like beings, laid siege to Helium’s Royal Palace, causing Dejah Thoris and her bodyguard Rroo to flee into the wilds of the planet Barsoom. Now, in Dejah Thoris #2, the Kaldane scientists work on creating new Rykor soldiers (headless red Martians and white apes “piloted” by Kaldane soldiers controlling their spinal cords) to cement their control of Dejah’s kingdom. Meanwhile, Dejah and Rroo come into a new conflict in the forests of Barsoom, a conflict with each other.
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As thrilling as the siege of Helium was last issue, Dejah Thoris #2 shifts back to first gear, losing the momentum and presenting a surprisingly uneventful chapter of the story. The bulk of the issue shows Dejah and Rroo arguing over the fate of a green Martian they come across in the Barsoom forests, who is being tortured to death by one of the planet’s monstrous sentient trees. Dejah wants to leave him to his fate but Rroo wants to rescue him. It’s a role reversal of sorts. Normally in stories like this, Rroo, who’s a much older woman than Dejah, would favor watching an enemy die while Dejah, who’s a young woman here, would be wanting to save him. So it’s interesting watching this flipped on its head. Dejah’s bloodthirstiness seems to know no bounds, and after having to flee her palace (when she really wanted to stay and fight), it has made her even more filled with rage and angst.
A bright spot about this issue is that we’re seeing Dejah at a young age, long before she became the steadfast and level-headed warrior who romanced John Carter. Here, we see her in all her impulsive rage-filled glory. Rroo has a very Zen-style attitude, she’s very much Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid” films, preferring good will and non-violence but able to kick some serious ass if there’s no other option. I’ve found I enjoy her character more than Dejah. Beyond watching them bicker over the green Martian though, there’s no meat to the book. I feel the events of this issue could have been covered in 9 or 10 pages. It’s a Brian Michael Bendis-style method of decompressed storytelling that I’ve never enjoyed. On a positive note, the book ends with a fantastic cliffhanger that promises the action will ramp up again next issue.
Emiliana Pinna’s art on Dejah Thoris #2 is the high point of the book, capturing the exotic locales of the planet Barsoom in great detail, from the forests filled with alien vegetation to the various beings that populate the world. Dejah and her bodyguard Rroo are both drawn to look attractive and sensual without being oversexualized (as other artists have drawn her in the past). The Kaldane drip with creepiness in every panel, with their spider-like skeletons and glowing red eyes. In one scene, a Kaldane scientist converts a red Martian into a Rykor in a brutal and gory process that’s captured in perfect horrific detail.
Dejah Thoris #2 treads water as it sidetracks the main story with a tale of Dejah and Rroo’s conflict over a green Martian’s fate. It’s an interlude that could have been told in a few pages, yet takes up the entire issue. Thankfully, there’s a slam-bang cliffhanger ending and great artwork that saves the book from mediocrity.