Writer’s Commentary: Dan Abnett On Dynamite’s ‘Dejah Thoris’ Vol.3 #8

by Olly MacNamee

(++WARNING: this writer’s commentary contains spoilers for Dejah Thoris Vol. 3 #8, out now from Dynamite++)

Once in a while, something comes together so beautifully it quite exceeds your expectations. With the current story arc of Dejah Thoris, I thought it would be fun to ‘invert’ the classic John Carter story and have Dejah visit Earth. I thought we could get a lot of mileage out of that, advance the meta-story, and deliver something the readers would love.

I knew Sebastian Piriz (artist) would be a match for the challenge, re-creating the period look, and I knew Dearbhla Kelly’s  colours would be great.

But then, I saw the issue….

Page 1

Page One

From page one onwards, the evocation of 1940’s America leaps off the page, though leaps is the wrong word, because it doesn’t explode in your face the way such an idea might. There’s always a danger of trying ‘too hard’, and making it all look like a parody or an exaggeration of the period. This blew me away because it’s so subtle, so right, so authentic and deliciously low-key. Look at the architecture, the carefully muted colors. This isn’t a gaudy time travel romp…. This is like we’re really there.

Page 2

Pages Two to Seven

And inside… in the movie house, look at how Dearbhla’s ‘floated’ the light of the projection, and carried the ghost flicker of the screen images back across Dejah. It’s all quite brilliantly controlled, and feels so real. A slow, quiet afternoon in small-town America, circa 1945 (let’s not get into the time line here… Dejah’s displacement is not a straight switcharoo back to Civil War America. Time has moved on, and it’s all explained in the story).

To me, the first panel on page three – Llana in disguise, waiting anxiously while Clyde fixes the car – is worth the cover price alone. So much character, so much mood, so much credibility. And it keeps going. The scene is low-key, but tense. The ‘Feds’ have tracked the ‘foreign spies’ to the movie house. The tension mounts in an uncomfortable way. We knows that Llana, Dejah and company are (literally) unearthly, but –  with the exception of Llana – they are under-powered here. Armed and trigger-happy G-men are going to be a serious problem.

Page Eight to Eleven

And so the fight begins… and starts getting desperate. Can they get out of this? Can it get any more dangerous?

Page Twelve

Well, according to this splash page … yes, it can.

Page 13

Page Thirteen

Love the way Sebastian splits the two fights so they happen in parallel – simultaneously – down the page. Very effective storytelling.

Page 14

Pages Fourteen to Eighteen

And then we go up a gear, from gunpoint jeopardy to all-out epic action. Llana’s brilliant in this sequence, and that flying car… remind you of anything? I’d say that was a deliberate, evocative homage right there.

Pages Nineteen to Twenty two

And so into the closing scene, as plans are drawn and desperate escapes are made. And here we introduce (with, I may say, a respectful nod to the rather underrated movie) perhaps the most unexpected guest character of all. And I don’t mean the character revealed on page twenty two, though he, of course, is pretty darn important. 

Looks like Dejah’s about to get some profound answers. Or meet her doom at the hands of an old enemy. Either way, I think you should join us again next issue!

Dejah Thoris (Vol. 3) #8 is out now from Dynamite

Olly MacNamee

A unashamed DC Comics fan and sometime teacher for over 20 years! I got lucky and found the escape hatch. Now, I just read and write about comics all day long. Co-host of the ICE-Cast podcast and one third of the brains behind Birmingham's street art and graffiti festival High Vis Fest.