Astonishing Tales 7 (August 1971)

If Herb Trimpe spent as much time on his figures as he did on the shading lines, his Ka-Zar story might not have been hideously ugly. It’s actually passable–ambitious at times even–until the dinosaurs show up. Trimpe can’t draw dinosaurs. Roy Thomas scripts the story, which is an extended chase and fight scene. The narration’s weak and the dialogue’s weak. Ka-Zar is annoying with his Tarzan speaking, but he also lacks any personality. Sure, he’s got a sabertooth tiger for a sidekick… but it doesn’t make either compelling. And Thomas’s conclusion is inept. Then Gerry Conway and Gene Colan do … Continue reading Astonishing Tales 7 (August 1971)

Ka-Zar the Savage 34 (October 1984)

The cover proclaims this final issue as a “collectors’ item.” Until the epilogue, it’s unclear why. In an amazing turn, Ka-Zar and Shanna end up in the League of Cancelled Marvel comics, or something along those lines. It’s pretty funny. Too bad Neary’s art is awful. Otherwise, it’s a silly sci-fi issue with Ka-Zar being the savior of these human hostages in an interstellar prison camp. They’re being drained of adrenaline, which makes them unlikely to revolt. But, of course, Ka-Zar does. Oh, and Shanna’s pregnant. Not sure if she ever gave birth… it’d be awesome if it was Peter … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 34 (October 1984)

Ka-Zar the Savage 33 (August 1984)

Carlin’s destruction of the series seems to be complete now. In this issue, he reduces Shanna to a helpless damsel. He’s got Ka-Zar running around thinking about how he’s going to save after she falls victim to an absurdly drawn out incident. But this moronic event occurs halfway through the issue, until then it’s just Shanna being a stupid female, ignoring her obviously smarter man. For the first couple pages, it almost looked like Neary’s art was improving. It doesn’t, however. I’m just trying to think of good things about the comic. This issue ends with a note from the … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 33 (August 1984)

Ka-Zar the Savage 32 (June 1984)

Reading Carlin’s Ka-Zar is watching a series collapse on itself. This issue does have Marie Severin doing these wonderful imaginings of Ka-Zar and Shanna as a sitcom married couple. Those scenes, totally pointless and unbelievable, are awesome. Otherwise… it’s awful. Carlin turns Shanna into a ninny and a little of a harpy. She doesn’t trust Ka-Zar’s judgement because Ka-Zar’s dumb, remember? Carlin just amplifies all the textures of her personality (under Bruce Jones’s writing) until she becomes unbelievable. The major incident with this unbelievable behavior regards Ka-Zar’s brother, who’s a villain and has a goofy mustache and dumb name. But … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 32 (June 1984)

Ka-Zar the Savage 31 (April 1984)

With this issue, from the opening page actually, Ka-Zar the Savage has devolved into complete nonsense. Carlin even manages to make the strong supporting cast useless against his Machiavellian pterodactyl man. Except the pterodactyl man is an inept idiot too, so it’s kind of a comedy. Paul Neary and John Beatty take over the art. I feel like I’ve liked Neary, but I’m not sure… Ka-Zar doesn’t suggest he’s any good. His figures are stiff and blocky and his faces are worse. Again, good art isn’t going to help Carlin’s script. He keeps with the series’s high level of conversation, … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 31 (April 1984)

Ka-Zar the Savage 30 (February 1984)

Well, after a couple good issues, Carlin’s Ka-Zar is starting to unravel. The issue also has major art problems; some of these problems might even make Carlin’s script worse, but he still makes some awful choices. He tries to keep up the high level of content, sending Ka-Zar and Shanna through a battle, imprisonment, another battle, an escape, another imprisonment… You get the idea. Carlin loses track of characters a couple major times, with the character conveniently popping in to save the day, and he also makes a terrible antagonist decision. The bad guy this issue is a pterodactyl man. … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 30 (February 1984)

Ka-Zar the Savage 29 (December 1983)

Carlin’s not doing much to make Ka-Zar his own. He follows the existing template well–down to Shanna’s step-daughter being emotionally affecting from her first panel–and it feels like a good impression of Bruce Jones. Except Carlin doesn’t spend a lot of time on his protagonists’ emotions. He doesn’t keep their self-reflections going throughout the issue, instead using them episodically. It’s not a bad approach, it just gives the narrative a staggered feel. To be fair, Carlin does get a lot done. He probably has enough content in the issue it’d run six “decompressed.” Ka-Zar and Shanna have a wedding and … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 29 (December 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 28 (October 1983)

Mike Carlin takes over the writing reins and does a fine job. He handles Shanna’s personal crisis well, though he doesn’t stick with it as long as Jones would have. And Carlin’s Ka-Zar is a far more assured protagonist than Jones’s. It might help this issue’s Ka-Zar has been maturing the last twenty-seven issues. Another Mike–Mignola–inks Gil this issue and the result is mixed. Mignola sharpens Gil’s pencils, giving them a good amount of shadow, but he also removes some of the life. Ka-Zar looks boring, even though it’s full of action. Carlin’s big problem is tying everything together, something … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 28 (October 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 27 (August 1983)

Gil draws like a man possessed this issue. It’s his first time pencilling in a while and he opens the issue with this reintroduction to the Savage Land. Very scenic, but also very big–only two or three panels a page. By the end of the issue, Gil’s fitting maybe fifteen panels a page. Major action events happen in two inch tall panels. It’s incredible. Gil’s detail isn’t right for Ka-Zar–he’s more suited for horror work–but the enthusiasm is amazing to see. Some of it must be Jones’s fault. His script has about two issues worth of content, with Ka-Zar’s Savage … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 27 (August 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 26 (May 1983)

This issue is extremely hectic. The first three-quarters of it pick up immediately following the previous issue–Ka-Zar and Spider-Man duke it out until they decide to be buddies. Then they go save Shanna, which is easier said than done. But even after Shanna’s rescued, Jones doesn’t let up on the pace. Ka-Zar’s hellbent on getting out of New York immediately and, even though it’s fairly fantastic (and owes a lot to Raiders of the Lost Ark), his scheme works. The issue’s a particularly nice exercise. Jones establishes Ka-Zar as wanting back to the Savage Land, the cover is clear on … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 26 (May 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 25 (April 1983)

Weird issue. Since Shanna’s basically out of commission (she’s comatose in the second half and insane in the first), Peter Parker is basically the second protagonist. Jones splits the pages between him and Ka-Zar, though Ka-Zar has a lot more going on. He escapes from the bad guys–Jones doesn’t, unfortunately, give the villains a satisfying send-off–and heads to New York for Shanna. There are obvious pacing problems as Ka-Zar globe trots, but Jones deftly covers that passage of time with Peter Parker. Peter’s taken with Shanna in a believable mix of protectiveness and chaste lust. It’s too bad Frenz and … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 25 (April 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 24 (March 1983)

There’s a lot of action this issue. Jones really puts Hall through the paces fitting it all in. Ka-Zar and his evil lady friend fight the mad scientist and his men in the desert, then in their secret base. There’s also Shanna’s adventures in New York with Peter Parker. Hall does a lot better in New York than he does with the action scenes. He does okay with them, but having Ka-Zar fighting in the desert, against Bond villains in jumpsuits, requires a creativity Hall doesn’t bring. Most of the writing is good, though Jones relies heavily on expository thought … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 24 (March 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 23 (February 1983)

Jones turns Ka-Zar into James Bond this issue, setting him loose in Casablanca in a clumsy homage to the film. Jones includes lots of little details and nods and is very excited about it, but Casablanca isn’t an obscure film. Instead of witty, Jones’s homage seems overly cute. His explanation for Ka-Zar’s resurrection is the James Bond stuff and then it’s desert adventure time. Oh, the evil secret agent woman forces herself on him. Ka-Zar is surprisingly risqué (and has been since the first issue). Meanwhile, Shanna gets to hang out with Spider-Man a little more, but Jones severely reduces … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 23 (February 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 22 (January 1983)

Where the heck is Jones going with this comic book? First off, the issue is a visual delight. Not because of the quality of the artwork, but because of the intricate page layouts. There is a whole page of a car chase from a birds eye view. It’s absolutely crazy stuff. Candido doesn’t do a great job finishing Frenz’s breakdowns, but with layouts like the ones in this issue… mediocre becomes spectacular. Peter Parker is the issue’s costar, which is kind of fantastic. And Jones even gets away with Peter and Shanna getting busy. But the threaten of a Parker … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 22 (January 1983)

Ka-Zar the Savage 21 (December 1982)

Mel Candido is great inker for Frenz. For the most part, the issue looks great. Not great great, but great for a Marvel house style book, which Ka-Zar has apparently become. Right down to the Romita-style Peter Parker. While the issue opens resolving the big Ka-Zar versus Kraven fight, it then becomes a conversation issue. Not quite talking heads, because the pacing isn’t slow enough. For example, Spider-Man and Kraven argue over whether they should fight, seeing as how they both worked together to save Ka-Zar. The issue is then Shanna talking to Peter Parker about her life. But somehow, … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 21 (December 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 20 (November 1982)

Frenz is far more in his element here, with Ka-Zar having a New York adventure with Kraven the Hunter. They’re swinging around, crashing comic cons and just generally having antics. Jones’s strength is in the details, whether it’s he and Frenz cameoing at the con, the moronic cops Shanna asks for help or Ka-Zar figuring out what’s going on (he’s temporarily mute on top of the bullet lodged in his skull). It’s the most fun Jones has had writing Ka-Zar as a narrator–he’s too busy trying to figure out his situation to be callous. There is one major goof–Shanna’s in … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 20 (November 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 19 (October 1982)

This issue is very full. Not a lot happens, but there are a lot of scenes and most of them have some action. Ka-Zar, an amnesiac mute after his brain injury, roams New York while Shanna tries to save him. She has to surmount government bureaucracy… and buy a new set of clothes. Meanwhile, the villainous hussy from last issue is doing her own thing. Bringing Ka-Zar and Shanna to New York gives Jones a lot of material. The story itself is sort of secondary to the little encounters both have in the modern world. Jones maintains the characters perfectly–these … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 19 (October 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 18 (September 1982)

Well, Anderson’s back in a “layout” capacity. Gil’s finishes are often pretty bad. Jones’s writing is strong enough to get the issue through, but it would have been far better with good art. A botanist, his straying hussy wife and their sidekicks land in the Savage Land and throw Ka-Zar and Shanna’s day-to-day for a spin. The hussy’s after Ka-Zar, who’s naively polite, but Shanna gets it. Jones again gives Shanna the most to do in terms of reaction. Ka-Zar might get into a couple fights, but it’s Shanna who figures out what the fights are about. Unfortunately, the cliffhanger’s … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 18 (September 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 17 (August 1982)

This issue is a nice done-in-one, with Ka-Zar tripping on bad mushrooms and thinking he’s Sam Spade after a double-crossing dame (Shanna). Unfortunately, Frenz is still on the art–I suppose his noir scenes are a little better than his jungle scenes, but not much. It’s a script tailor made for the departed Brent Anderson. But what’s interesting about it is how Jones approaches the whole event. It’s clear he identifies more with Shanna. She choses the Savage Land lifestyle, which makes her more interesting than Ka-Zar, who’s bound to it. Half the issue follows her around and Jones does a … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 17 (August 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 16 (July 1982)

Ron Frenz. Ron Frenz does the pencils this issue. Ron Frenz doing jungle action. Not just jungle action, but jungle action with shades of Lovecraft. It’s hideous. Even though Gil can’t pencil, he’s inked Ka-Zar well but there’s nothing he can do on Frenz’s pencils. This issue looks incredibly silly. But the story’s not silly. It reminds of the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson Swamp Thing actually, with Ka-Zar and Shanna getting involved in the fantastic without having any idea what’s going on. The mystery keeps getting more confounding–a pygmy tribe, an adorable lemur and a tentacle monster–until Jones explains … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 16 (July 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 15 (June 1982)

Brent Anderson did “thumbnail layouts” for this issue, Gil does the rest. So there are some beautifully composed pages and panels and then not the art to make them work. Gil seems better suited for cartoonist work, not jungle adventure. Especially not a jungle adventure where subtle, poignant emotions are going to play a part. The issue continues Jones’s pacing problems from the previous one. Even though the issues are immediately subsequent, Jones treats them like time passes. Just because the reader has had a month to sit on a story doesn’t mean the characters have…. As a result, Shanna’s … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 15 (June 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 14 (May 1982)

And here we go… the perfect example of what it means to have a good inker versus a bad “finisher.” Anderson provides layouts, Gil finishes them. So this issue of Ka-Zar shows evidence of Anderson’s exquisite panel composition, without any of the detail. Gil, though a fine inker, is not a good penciler or fill-in artist. This issue is ugly. The art isn’t incompetent, but it’s definitely ugly. Besides the art, it also shows the fundamental problem with Jones’s pacing. Ka-Zar shows up, finds Shanna with her monkey man husband and monkey girl stepdaughter and tries to be a big … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 14 (May 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 13 (April 1982)

I want to love this issue but I can’t. Jones gets Shanna and Ka-Zar out of the Atlantean technology, away from their sidekicks, and back out into the jungle. Ka-Zar is jungle adventure after all. The issue opens with this amazing argument–going at least three pages (while they’re setting up camp)–between the couple. It’s fantastic stuff about Ka-Zar’s immaturity and so on. Then Shanna gets whisked away by a raging river and ends up with these awesome monkey people. They’re very nice, desperately romantic (spouses kill themselves after being widowed unless they have a child) and Shanna takes up with … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 13 (April 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 12 (March 1982)

Jones finishes up his Inferno homage–he confirms my plotting suspicions too… again, it’d be a great movie. Because kids need to read Dante. There’s a lot of action as Ka-Zar goes it alone (Shanna and his friends are brainwashed) against various demons and the big bad Lucifer stand-in. Armando Gil takes over inking Anderson to great effect. Having seen Anderson go through two and a half inkers, it’s clear Gil is the one adding all the detail. He brings out what Anderson has started–even though they’re in the pits of Hell, Anderson has a lot to draw. The issue’s particularly … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 12 (March 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 11 (February 1982)

Marvel ought to turn this one into a movie. Not a Ka-Zar movie, but a movie about the backstory–Dante Alighieri the action star. Jones’s Dante chased a Cthulhu-worshipping cur from Italy to Antarctica to save his girlfriend, discovering a long abandoned Atlantean vacation resort, which eventually the bad guy turns into Hell. And Dante writes Inferno about it. It’d be an awesome movie, even if the recap in the comic is only a few pages. The craziness of that plot, unfortunately, is the most substance in the issue. It’s an action issue, with a lot of scene humor, and it’s … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 11 (February 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 10 (January 1982)

Jones sends Ka-Zar, Shanna and company to Hell. Maybe. This issue is good, though not great–Jones is playing within a self-imposed constrain; there’s only so many places he can go. And they’re in Hell, after all, it’s not like Anderson has a lot to draw besides scary residents. Except a couple amazing double page spreads of the landscape. I’ve realized what’s going on with Anderson–some of it, anyway. He’s really slight on Ka-Zar’s face. It’s like he’s trying to draw him dumbfounded all the time. Otherwise, the art is pretty strong. Jones also establishes Ka-Zar is out of regular continuity. … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 10 (January 1982)

Ka-Zar the Savage 9 (December 1981)

Ka-Zar is nowhere near the level it was three issues ago, but Jones has definitely partially recovered. He gets away from the Atlantean technology and gives Ka-Zar and Shanna a real problem to deal with. Shanna loosed a giant griffin (inadvertently) and they need to deal with it before it kills all their flying friends from back when the series was awesome. Jones paces the issue really well, manages to work the character drama into it too. Shanna’s got a love interest (a robotic one) and Jones sells her conflict. His characters are far from perfect; she’s a little bit … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 9 (December 1981)

Ka-Zar the Savage 8 (November 1981)

Between Jones exploring the history of Atlantis themed entertainment and Anderson apparently deciding to be lazy, Ka-Zar doesn’t feel much like itself. The problem isn’t really Anderson, though his lack of detail is stunning. He takes the time on his panel composition, but the actual faces and figures are broad. The issue is almost entirely expositional–Jones goes through a little action, a lot of bickering and it’s all for a little joke. Maybe Anderson just couldn’t get interested. Shanna and Ka-Zar spend most of the issue in a futuristic Atlantean outpost, on the run from a deadly robot. Not much … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 8 (November 1981)

Ka-Zar the Savage 7 (October 1981)

This issue isn’t a success, not entirely, but it’s not bad. It’s also why I love and defend Bruce Jones’s writing. I was almost going to say his honor. Anyway, the issue opens with Ka-Zar and Shanna bickering over Shanna getting busy with the Atlantean ghost last issue. It’s a fast, hilarious dialogue exchange in about nine panels, maybe twelve. It’s just great. But then the issue itself is Ka-Zar telling Shanna about a dream and Shanna amateurishly psychoanalyzing it. So you get Ka-Zar’s recounting of the dream, then Shanna’s interpretation of it. It’s a lot of content, including Jones … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 7 (October 1981)

Ka-Zar the Savage 6 (September 1981)

Jones and Ka-Zar have their first mediocre issue. Anderson is fine, opening the issue with this amazing panel of a snow covered jungle, but the story is lacking. The issue concentrates on Shanna this time and Jones hurries her through a life crisis. It turns out Ka-Zar‘s Atlantis isn’t really in Marvel Universe continuity (or, if it is, the Atlantean in this issue’s never heard of Namor). It’s a quick little love story, with Shanna getting an Atlantean ghost as an admirer. But Jones removes the drama from it. She doesn’t have to pick between men, she has to pick … Continue reading Ka-Zar the Savage 6 (September 1981)