August 11, 2007


Last of the Mohicans 1

Review by Dan HeadThere aren’t nearly enough comics on the market today by writer Roy Thomas. I don’t know if that’s because Thomas chooses not to work all that much anymore or if some genius at the Big Two thinks he’s no longer fashionable, but either way, I miss his work. I came late to his work. I discovered it only recently via Dark Horse’s reprints on the old Conan series from Marvel, but I’ve become a big fan, and I bought this book solely because I saw Thomas’s name on the cover. And yet in a larger sense I’ve gotta say that it’s way past time that Marvel did a treatment of this story. The company owes so much of what it is today to James Fennimore Cooper’s idea of the lonely ranger who exists outside of society even as he protects that same society from the evils of others on who also exist on the outside. In many ways, I think Last of the Mohicans is the original superhero story, and as such it only makes sense that the industry leader should be the one to tackle the subject matter.

Our story opens during the French and Indian War. The blue blood daughters of an English Officer have come out to the frontier for a visit just as French troops arrive along with a tribe of Huron reinforcements. But the girls will not be dissuaded from visiting their father at Fort William Henry despite the dangers of the road, and so they set out alone along with their protector, Major Heyward, and an untrustworthy indian guide named Magua. Luckily for them, the white ranger Natty Bumpo and his trustworthy Mohican Indian friends arrive just in the nick of time to save them from a Huron ambush. And then things get interesting.

Fennimore Cooper’s story isn’t the most historically accurate piece of fiction in the history of American literature, but I like it because although it gets some basic facts wrong about the Indians in question, it sticks close to reality when concerned with the life and skills a frontiersman might have needed to stay alive in what was quite literally Indian country. In the book, Bumpo and company spend a lot of time moving quietly and leaving tracks that no human tracker could follow. This adaptation succeeds because Thomas has found a way to keep that part of Cooper’s vision intact even as he ups the visual spectacle of the comic over and above what was represented in the original prose story. I also liked the fact that Thomas kept as much of the original dialogue as possible. It must have been some feat of research to decide what to leave in, what to cut, and what to attempt to abridge. I’ve read the original several times and couldn’t spot any places where the abridgement was overt and noticeable.
Rob's review:  I don't disagree with any of Head's points, but I didn't find LAST OF THE MOHICANS #1 compelling. Maybe the problem is the source: an overrated "classic" with a difficult plot and stilted dialog.

I hope kids will pick up the comics (or the trade paperback) at the library and be inspired to read. But I'd recommend spending $5 or whatever on the novel rather than $18 on the comics.

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