She may be 103-years-old but Dejah Thoris is ready to make some changes in her life. She has a new costume, a new name and she is dropping the traditional “damsel in distress” title. We have been waiting patiently for her reboot since it was announced in October 2015. And, now that her brand new #1 has arrived, it is hard to admit but… It is somewhat of a disappointment.
Conspiracies do not only cross countries, they cross the realms of imagination. It is a normal, bright day in Helium until the Jeddak (Jed) of the kingdom is discovered missing. Distraught by her father’s disappearance, the Princess, Dejah Thoris, must be strong for her people and begins preparations for her coronation. It is time for her to take the throne. But, just as the sun sets, a mysterious Councilman known as Valoris arrests the princess and seizes control of the palace. What follows can only be described as heart-wrenching and…
I was like many when Dynamite Entertainment announced their reboot of some of their strongest female leads: skeptical. But with one of the most innovative female creators, Gail Simone (Batgirl), at the helm, a level of trust was built within the industry. Then, on January 13th, 2016, Marguerite Bennett and Aneke’s Red Sonja #1 hit shelves. And it killed! Beautiful art, fantastic story that did not stray from Red Sonja’s strong history and yet just enough of an update to her personal appearance to appease the changing landscape of comics. It calmed the speculators like me.
So, I went in to the newest story from Dynamite with far more reasonable expectations. However, Dejah Thoris shattered them into several disappointed pieces. Written by Frank J. Barbiere (Five Ghosts) with art by Francesco Manna (Swords of Sorrow: Thoris Adler), Dejah Thoris #1 is probably one of the poorest titles I have read in the past several months.
Barbiere has a talent behind him and was a worthy pick for Dejah’s reboot, but his story telling did not seem to be on par. He had Dejah repeating herself over and over again in several panels, and not in the going-round-in-circles kind of way but more of the need-to-fill-panels kind of way. In multiple places, Dejah explains that she must seek out certain personal truths and follow her own path. This does break her from the typical damsel in distress role she has traditionally played since her creation over 100 years ago (A Princess of Mars) but it becomes so overplayed that by the end of the book her declaration of self-realization is almost eye-roll worthy.
And the art is almost as frustrating. Manna is a competent artist and I loved his work with Swords of Sorrow, but it was almost as if he wasn’t able to find his groove with this title. The art changes from lovely silhouettes and large emotional eyes to lost forms and oddly shaped features in less than one page. The constant differences between panels created so much aggravation that, for a moment, I almost could not finish the book.
For those who were looking forward to the new costume, which grossly differentiates from her original concept by Edgar Rice Burroughs, it hardly makes an appearance in this first issue. The biggest push from Dynamite was the idea of a more positive appearance of their female protagonists, ones that would match their domineering personalities. But, this issue merely whispers of the new Dejah, permitting only the first two pages to her new design. We will see more in future issues, since the story begins now and transitions us backwards. Yet for those who wanted the immediate satisfaction, like that of Red Sonja, you will have to wait just a little longer.
I do hope this is only the beginning. Dejah Thoris does fall short of touching the heavens in this new #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, but every series is always worth a shot. Her story line, though a poor start, does not stray far from her original character base and may find affection from those who have been reading her stories and that of John Carter’s for years. She is still the strong and intelligent princess of Helium who would put her life on the line for that of which she believed in. Maybe all the series needs to redeem itself is a few more issues.
Dejah Thoris #1 may not be my cup of tea, but it just may be yours. Make sure to stop by your local comics retailer and check out a copy today.