Jungle Girl 3 – Frank Cho and Doug Murray

Jungle Girl 3Jungle Girl went downhill quickly and this easily breaks through the bottom of the barrel. At a mere 4 issues there is no reason this should exist. There is no character development, no emotional attachment, and no reward of any kind for reading it.

Even the art is too lazy to be titillating or even sexist. Jana, who lives in a hot and humid jungle, wears a skin tight PVC cat suit for the whole story and doesn’t pass out from heat exhaustion once.

The story is about alien invasion because clearly nothing exciting could take place in a Lost World full of cannibal tribes and dinosaurs right?

It is literary excrement that you thank god only lasted four issues.

Thumbs Down!

Jungle Girl 2 – Frank Cho

Jungle Girl 2Clearly what you need in a tale about a girl living in a Jungle is a space shuttle and a submarine. That will help the characterising wont it. From a shaky first volume to a total jumping the shark is what happens here. It’s as bad as volume two of Shanna.

Where do you start? We pick up from exactly where we left off and go running of in search of a crashing space shuttle that is never seen again as we get distracted by some underwater Lovecraftian/ menace. Cue submarine.

We don’t know too much about Jana’s companion Togg but it comes as a surprise when he seems to be a dab hand with machine guns, scuba gear, torpedoes, and submarine engines. He can only say the word ‘ma-sheens’, but has no trouble with pronouncing ‘gears, engines and Lewis guns.’

The art is pretty in places and there are some standout moments but it feels more rushed and less-polished than the last one. There is a clunky moment where two facing pages (that have clearly been drawn separately) work against each other by duplicating similar poses.

There is also an uncomfortable image of Jana so explicit it feels almost gynaecological. This coupled with her new pre-occupation with double-entendres is a real disappointment.

This could and should have been so much more. The underwater location is a brave idea but the title is Jungle Girl. There was almost a Robert E. Howard feel that could have brought some real depth to the work but you are too jarred by the incongruity of the characters. The deus ex machina is mermaids riding leviathans who are never explained.

Thumbs down!

Jungle Girl – Frank Cho

Jungle Girl 1So are you a chauvinist or is your inner feminist telling you to read this ironically. Any title in the “Jungle Girl” or “Cave Girl” genre is a precarious balance of female empowerment and titillation. Dating back to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Era of the last century when feminism didn’t really exist a strong female heroine was a valuable thing. In our modern world when women are theoretically equal surely this archetype is outmoded.

Jana (the titular Jungle Girl) is a strong and capable character, makes rational decisions, and takes time to help others. There is strong hint of a backstory and you are curious to know more about her. Her skimpy fashion sense is on a par with the male characters but she does find time to change her outfits whilst on the run from dinosaurs and forest fires. Her figure is a balance between curvy and athletic and her breasts are in proportion to the rest of her anatomy. So far so good.

Sexism is brought up both overtly, by a tribe of chauvinists, and more subtly by a female character from the outside world. As the book puts you firmly on Jana’s side there really isn’t any debate. I didn’t feel she was particularly objectified and while both beautiful and sexy she never felt helpless or inferior to the male characters or the reader, in fact it is probably the opposite.
The art will be one of the key draws for many readers. Frank Cho has a reputation for this type of work, particularly as he wrote and drew the modern version of Shanna the She Devil, but in this book he only writes and does the covers. Shanna is identical in looks to Jana (they even rhyme) but they are different characters.

Adriano Batista does an excellent job on art duties with wonderful poses and composition. There can be some confusing elements with motion but overall things are great and his depiction of Jana isn’t as sexualised as Cho’s work can be. The colouring is outstanding, having a matt feel despite using digital elements.

This is a great hardcover, jet black with silver lettering, and the page stock is high quality which displays the image and colours well. There are two pages of sketches as far as extras go which doesn’t seem worth it.

As a fan of the genre, and what it can potentially deliver, this a fine example. Although it uses the ‘plane crash visitors’ trope and there is some confusion about how much Jana knows about the outside world – she knows what a garden is but not what a house is. It does put both imagination and effort into the story and characters. The narration/ monologues are unusual and it feels like a throwback to the 1940’s but it shouldn’t spoil your fun.

Overall a Thumbs Up!

Shanna the She Devil Volume One – Frank Cho

Shanna 1Boobs! That’s what you are thinking. But before your inner feminist compels you to burn this book before reading, you should read it. Despite being a mostly naked woman in the company of a troop of all male soldiers in the dinosaur infested land that time forgot it isn’t an exploitative T&A fest.

Because Cho knows you are expecting something lowbrow and voyeuristic he delivers both a superb action-fest with a more than capable heroine and a hard look into the relationship between the sexes. Shanna is an extremely powerful character with her background making her stronger and more capable than all the male’s present. Because she has no cultural baggage or experience of patriarchal dominance she gets to design or discover her own brand of femininity.

The art and colouring is superb. Cho has a particular and popular style of drawing the female form. In every pose Shanna is confident, athletic and powerful. We never see her as demure or subservient or depicted solely for titillation. She is an extremely curvaceous woman – who will no doubt suffer from lower back problems in later life – she is certainly not as improbably proportioned as many female characters.
It isn’t just women Cho succeeds in illustrating. All his human characters, his landscapes and in particular his dinosaurs look superb. Some excellent colouring of the jungle vistas, superb sunsets and tell-tale shadows make this book a gorgeous read.

We also have a secret Nazi laboratory. This is one of the smallest story elements and it makes little impact to the plot. Cho seems to use it as a shortcut to magic away a bit of super science (unless I have missed a subtext saying powerful women are evil) so he can get on with story. He does use the iconography extremely well however.

This is an amazing book in terms of art and writing. As Cho is both creator and author this explains why the two mediums are so complimentary in this work. He does not favour either and always selects the best tool for the job. His panel layout with the figures crossing over the borders is pure comic-book gold.

This title was originally going to be part of the Marvel Max range and feature more nudity. Personally I am glad it didn’t as I think might have distracted from the pro-female message and given potential readers the wrong idea about the quality and substance of the text.

Double Thumbs Up!