How do you juggle over a dozen characters from vastly different worlds? Very carefully, as it turns out! The premise here is nothing special- some bad guys are looking for a gem called The Eye of Judgment so they can build a death ray mumble mumble- it doesn't really matter. This is an excuse to get Burroughs' characters together and have them kick ass. Oh, and explore lost worlds too. Burroughs loved his lost cities and hidden worlds, and here we visit his most famous creations- including the Barsoom of the John Carter books and Pellucidar, the inner world of dinosaurs at the earth's core. It is pulp fun of the highest order.
Tarzan is head of an expedition put together by Jason Gridley, the catalyst of the story. Gridley is an inventor and the bad guys have used him to further their plans but he escapes. John Carter and Dejah Thoris play a prominent role (as they should) but the other characters span the gamut of Burroughs' stories, including heroes from books like Beyond The Farthest Star. It was a little overwhelming at first with so many characters to keep track of, but before long I had most of them down, in spite of the art not always distinguishing between them very well. Willingham did a fabulous job of giving almost everyone a spotlight though, a chance to shine- maybe his experience with the large cast of Fables helped in that regard.
I thought the characterizations were mostly spot on, from what I can remember- some of these stories I haven't read in years. I was tickled to see La of Opar make an appearance- readers of the Tarzan books know her as the high priestess of a sun cult who has a thing for Tarzan, and the scenes where her and Jane spar with each other were fun! Opar plays a role as well which immediately gets my approval. And the art captures these worlds really well- I mean one of the shots of Caspak (a prehistoric lost world) pays homage, intentionally or not, to an iconic scene from a rather well known dinosaur film (hint: Michael Crichton).
If there are any flaws it might be that even with nine issues it's a little hard to fit in all this stuff. We see a fair bit of Caspak and Barsoom, but we see very little of Pellucidar (to be fair there is a bit of overlap between that prehistoric world and Caspak) and Venus as well. Venus may have been the world I was most interested in seeing, especially with some of the teaser art on variant covers, and the glimpse we do see is amazing- there's a shot of a storm- tossed Venusian sea I just wanted to stare at- but there's only limited space. Some of the art though is amazing.
Willingham clearly knows his Burroughs. Little touches- like in Caspak when Tyler Bowen tells the expedition about the inland sea dotted with islands- I nodded excitedly as I remembered references to the same in the book. That kind of thing makes this super fun for an enthusiast, but even if you're not this is a solid adventure story.
Some additional thoughts:
- The flyers! Barsoom and a lot of the technology from that world play a crucial role, and I absolutely loved how prominent- and awesome- the flyers were. And some of them looked just like images from older book covers, like this one.
- Some amazing art- Mars at night with the two moons hurtling through the sky, airship battles.