London, 1894. A monster from Mars has suddenly materialised in the Houses of Parliament and eaten the Prime Minister. The case is a little too bizarre for even Sherlock Holmes to handle, and so it falls upon Irene Adler to investigate matters.
It soon transpires that the teleportation-related phenomena work both ways, and Adler is transported with some of her contemporaries to the surface of Mars – where swashbuckling princess Dejah Thoris awaits their arrival.
Some of the other issues in the Swords of Sorrow event have had their awkward moments in trying to fuse heroines from a range of distinct stories and genres. With Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler #1, however, Leah Moore knows exactly what she is doing in combining the disparate worlds of Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Moore’s straightforward approach is to work the two characters into a pastiche of Victorian adventure fiction, albeit one which benefits from a more knowing 21st century point of view. This is best demonstrated when a big game hunter goes off to find the wild beast that terrorised Parliament, and is teleported to Mars. Knocked out and recovering with an addled memory, he believes himself to be back on one of his colonial campaigns.
Specifically, he believes himself to be in North Africa. As, indeed, he would: after all, Burroughs’ Mars drew heavily on kind of the Orientalist, cod-Arabian Nights imagery beloved by Victorians.
“Am I so far north already? Am I come among Arabs and Egyptians?” asks the adventurer. “I could buy and sell these heathens ten times over!” He then opens fire on the Martian capital of Helium: “Bit of firepower to send them running. Then they’ll be out shouting salaams and trying to sell me their own grandmother!”
This unwise bit of intervention occurs just in time for Adler to be transported to the red planet. The meeting between the two heroines is saved for the very end of the issue; as is so often the case in comic crossovers, they get off on the wrong foot – Adler considers Thoris to be a “common trollop”, while the Martian princess believes herself to be under attack by an assassin.
Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler shows no intention of being anything more than a pulpy runaround, but its background of nineteenth-century colonialism (the very second page has the Prime Minister articulating his African policy, immediately prior to being scoffed) means that it has some potentially rewarding themes to play with.
Gender, as well as culture, is touched upon: Irene Adler is forced to traverse London in drag, passing herself off as her own brother. Moore succeeds in celebrating her hundred-year-old source texts while also finding time to add a few updates for modern audiences.
Francesco Manna’s artwork is appealing and has the requisite period details for the sequences in Victorian London. Inlight Studio’s colouring bathes the story in an appropriate range of sepia tones, although the comic suffers from an early continuity error where the Prime Minister’s hair changes colour upon seeing the Martian beast (or perhaps he turned grey with fright, who knows…?
Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler #1 is the most polished of the Swords of Sorrow tie-ins so far, and a fine start to what looks set to be a rollicking three-parter. With a cliffhanger that shows Dejah Thoris transported to London, Leah Moore has given herself a whole new fish-out-of-water scenario to play with…
- Writer: Leah Moore
- Artist: Francesco Manna
- Colour: Inlight Studio
- Cover: Jay Anacleto and Ivan Nunes
- Series: Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler (2015)
- Issue: 1
- Price: $3.99
- On Sale Date: June 17 2015
- Color/B&W: Color
- Page Count: 36