Ka-Zar: Guns of the Savage Land – Chuck Dixon & Timothy Truman

Wait! What? Shanna the She-Devil is married and living in a London penthouse?

This a real piece of 70’s storytelling that was actually written in 1990. Ka-Zar is a Tarzan like character that appeared in pulp fiction of the 1930’s and was pinched by Timely Comics in 1939 then rebooted in 1965 for an X-Men appearance.

This story concerns the civilised by unhappy Ka-Zar leaving the surface world and going back to the Savage Land. There are brief Fantastic Four mentions and we have Wyatt Wingfoot as our narrator and POV character but you can follow along without needing to have a degree in Marvel Continuity.

It is quite a brief book considering the length of graphic novels today but we wisely spend our time with the three protagonists and observe the different viewpoints of man vs nature. It has quite a lot to say about civilisation and the fate of all aboriginal peoples. Shanna stands up wonderfully to her patriarchal husband and embodies strength, love and empathy perfectly.

The art is jaw-dropping because it is painted. As in with a brush and paint. You could never find anything like this done today, aside from possibly Blacksad. The wonderful colours and tones bring a warmth and life to the art that digital colouring just can’t match. There is a real sense of glamour to the characters and Shanna herself, with her green eyes, is positively radiant. And best of all she is appropriately clothed at all times.

This is more of a time-capsule than a hidden gem, just like the idea of the Savage Land itself.

Double Thumbs Up!!

Scout: Mount Fire – Timothy Truman

scout 2This is the second and unfortunately the last collected edition of Scout. Whilst this is a self-contained story many of the minor characters, and some new ones, are given plot hooks which would have featured in future issues.

The focus is less on Scout’s unusual heritage and spirituality and more on the action and plot. The Native American mysticism never makes it past the first issue and is lost to nukes and giant robots. There is even a gratuitous lesbian scene shoehorned awkwardly in.

The art is still labour intensive high concept work but there seems to be less detail and the sharp lines of the initial issues are lost. In places the hand lettering also chooses style over clarity becoming hard to read. Yet later on there are colour coded speech boxes which seem like overkill.

It’s very much a troubled second album and leaves you wondering what volume three would have turned out like.

Thumbs Up!

Scout: The Four Monsters – Timothy Truman

scout 1This is a comic written in the 1980’s about a dystopian future of 1999 and so it has a certain quirky charm. Unusually, even today, the protagonist is a Native American. This is quite the political tale of what could happen, but looking at the world of today it seems much of it did. There is a supernatural element present but the clever part is that this could be magical realism or allegory.

Truman both writes and draws this work and much effort goes into both. At a time long before digital painting each panel is full colour, with no blank backgrounds and an awesome amount of detail. The layouts and structure are endlessly dynamic and this must have taken an astonishing amount of work. No corners were cut here.

The last issue of this seven issue collection is part epilogue, part recap from one of the supporting characters. The story would have been just fine without it and it might have been better placed within a future volume.

Thumbs Up!