Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"The End" Week: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #28!

It's probably never openly discussed, but I'm occasionally curious on the licensing rates for something like the Edgar Rice Burroughs' properties, specifically Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Are there licensing rates for those, or did they go public domain at some point? I wonder, because I've read Tarzan comics from Gold Key, DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse; and there seem to be a ton of John Carter comics forthcoming. Today, we're checking out the last issue of Marvel's 1977-79 series, John Carter, Warlord of Mars #28, "The Weapon-Maker of Mars!" Written by Peter Gillis, pencils by Larry Hama, inks by Ricardo Villamonte.

Carter had previously fought off cancellation around #26, and while this was the last regular issue, he wasn't quite down for the count: John Carter Annual #3 came out after this one, but let's go on. This issue, coming down from the hectic pace of the last several adventures, John takes some men to explore the dead city of Aaanthor. It's not the biggest dead city in the deserts of Mars, but still, neat.

In a few pages, Gillis does a good job of setting up a very Burroughs story: weird bugs in the abandoned city. A throne room full of paralyzed, frozen Martian apes. A throne with shackles--"Locked, unbroken--and yet empty!" Carter's investigation is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a couple in a chariot, being chased by a horde of green Martians. One of the green Martians then appears to grow colossal, before they all disappear; not even leaving tracks.

After camping outside the city, Kantos Kan decides to investigate himself. He is promptly surprised by a giant, and captured. John and the others come after him, and find Kantos a prisoner of a withered, ancient man. He paralyzes them all with his sceptre, which he conveniently found under the throne when he was chained there. The geezer identifies himself as a priest of the Elder Gods, who was denied the usual trip to the underworld and was instead sentenced to be eaten by the apes. The sceptre froze the apes, and eventually he starved to the point where he could get out of his shackles; at which point he started having weird visions and making sacrifices to the Elder Gods.

John, having some telepathic resistance, breaks free, and after a brief tussle, "the vault of the gods" is knocked over. Instead of the secrets of the universe, it contains...more bugs. The geezer's mind snaps, probably for good; and John frees his friends. Smashing the sceptre, they leave the dead Aaanthor, with John resolving to have the area sealed off...even as he wonders where the visions came from. Left alone, the bugs gather...

A fun done-in-one; that doubtless wasn't intended to be the last of the series. Still, not a bad way to go out.

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