REVIEW: ‘Barbarella/Deja Thoris,’ TPB

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Barbarella/Deja Thoris TPB cover

Barbarella/Dejah Thoris TPB is published by Dynamite Comics, written by Leah Williams (Adventure Time ComicsX-Men: Black,) with illustrations by Germán Garcia (Action Comics, X-Men), colors by Addison Duke, and letters from CRANK!. The trade is a cross-over between the two famous characters. Barbarella debuted in a sci-fi film of the same name in 1968 but now is more commonly found on the pages of Dynamite Comics. Similarly, Deja Thoris the princess of the Martian city-state/empire of Helium created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and has appeared in many of his Martian novels. The issue starts as Barbarella investigates the murder of a well known intergalactic scientist, Dr. Gitu. In her quest to unravel his mysterious death, she finds herself trapped in a strange mirror that is later found by the Dejah Thoris, the Princess of the Martian empire of Helium. Together, the two must unravel the pieces Gitu left them.

Barbarella/Dejah Thoris TPB tasks the two sexy leading ladies of Dynamite into working together to get out the strange mirror both of them fell into. The story showcases Barbarella’s intelligence while also showing Dejah Thoris as human. While trying to escape a structure deep underwater, Deja Thoris has a panic attack. Like any warrior princess, her reaction is to deny her brain’s response to the stressful situation; however, Barbarella beautifully explains panic attacks are normal and never a sign of weakness.

Later on in the story, Barbarella addresses her robotic nature in regards to how she is dealing with the immensely stressful situation. She assures Dejah Thoris she does feel pain, but instead of showing it, she “puts it to work.” Barbarella clearly handles anxiety and stress differently than Dejah Thoris, but the moment is an important way to show that mental health issues are not black and white. No one deals with it the same way. While Deja Thoris feels her pain fully, Barbarella pushes down her pain in order to focus on the mission ahead of her.

The moment was a surprise to me, but something I greatly appreciated as someone who has struggled with anxiety. Additionally, despite just meeting and being from vastly different worlds, the respect between Barbarella and Deja Thoris is evident. Williams’s dialogue consists of a lot of banter but never pits the two heroes against each other. Instead, there are a lot of moments throughout the book where Barbarella reassures Deja Thoris who is in a hostile environment extremely unlike her own. At one point, Barbarella tells Deja Thoris she isn’t stupid and it is unfair for her to expect to understand worlds that she never had access to. Basically, you can’t learn what you don’t know that you don’t know.

Additionally, while the two women are fully-fledged characters, each showcasing their own strengths,  they also retain their classic sexy ensembles. While I am never against updated looks, like the ones debuted in 2016 for Vampirella and Red Sonja, it is still nice to remember female characters can be sexy, sexualized, or use their sexuality without it being problematic. Overall, the story of Barbarella/Dejah Thoris TPB can be convoluted, but the banter and comradery between Barbarella and Deja Thoris make the story worth reading.

Additionally, Garcia’s art has a certain softness to it that lends well to the designs of the characters. Duke’s coloring also helps to capture this softness. The color palatte is never too heavy-handed. However, the facial expressions on the characters, at certain points, can look distorted, particularly in far-away shots. Outside of the art, CRANK! makes a lot of creative choices with the lettering. Small comedic moments are drawn from the brilliant lettering designs in the action words.

Barbarella/Dejah Thoris TPB is an empowering story that has a lot of heart and a surprisingly inspirational message about mental health and impostor syndrome. I personally related in a lot of ways to Deja Thoris’s handling of the situations in front of her. If you are a fan of either character or Williams’s other fantastic work then this is a must-read.

Barbarella/Dejah Thoris TPB is available in comic book stores everywhere.

Barbarella/Dejah Thoris TPB
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TL;DR

Barbarella/Dejah Thoris TPB is an empowering story that has a lot of heart and a surprisingly inspirational message about mental health and impostor syndrome. If you are a fan of either character or Williams’s other fantastic work then this is a must-read.