Thursday, 21 April 2011

Review - Ka-Zar by Waid & Kubert



I don't know why I have such affection for Ka-Zar. He's basically just Marvel's version of Tarzan, slightly more eloquent, with added dinosaurs. And yet I do get absurdly excited whenever he shows up in one of my favourite comics... and I'm more willing to buy his sporadic solo adventures that I am a lot of second stringers.

I suppose it all stems from the Bruce Jones / Brent Anderson Ka-Zar book published in the 80s which was one of my favourite comics of that era, particularly the lengthy 'Ka-Zar in New York / Ka-Zar dies' story that guest-starred Spider-Man. I've sold thousands of comics over the years (and eventually rebought many of them as trade paperbacks) but this is one of the few I actually regret getting rid of, particularly as the chances of Marvel ever reprinting it - even in an Essential volume - appear slight.

That said, I've never read the comics collected here. They were originally published in the early 90s when I'd fallen out of love with Marvel for giving prominence to flash artists over solid writers, promoting the speculator boom with stupid cover gimmicks, and deciding the Clone Saga was a good idea. Not even Ka-Zar could tempt me back into the fold, which is a shame because this series turns out to quite a fun read. I've long considered Mark Waid one of the better writers working in contemporary comics and though I'm not a huge fan of either of the Kubert siblings, their work is certainly head and shoulders above the majority of style-over-substance merchants Marvel was throwing money at in the decade of doom.

The story begins with Ka-Zar and his wife, Shanna The She-Devil, suffering domestic discord over the fact that Ka-Zar is polluting their idyllic jungle home with tacky Western technology. He's got a secret gameboy / portable CD player addiction which Shanna doesn't think is too appropriate for a paradise-dwelling hunk who often uses "The Savage" as his second name. (By the same criteria, I reckon Ka-Zar is entirely to blame for the earache he's suffering - what did he expect, marrying a woman whose second name is "The She Devil"?) Further unhappiness comes when Ka-Zar's brother (previously known as The Plunderer - because Plunder is their surname - yet not referred to as such here) sends some bloke who claims to have trained Kraven The Hunter (ooh - he must be even more dangerous than Kraven!) to kidnap Ka-Zar and Shanna's young son Matt (there's an amusing suggestion that Shanna chose the name in tribute to her old boyfriend Matt Murdoch, which adds to Ka-Zar's grievances). Ka-Zar and Shanna then head off to New York for a confrontation with the evil Plunder brother (and the Rhino) in the concrete jungle. Although the main plot concerning just what the Plunderer is up to (something involving Thanos - sigh) isn't resolved in this collection, the strife between Ka-Zar and Shanna does reach a satisfactory conclusion. Waid's script, while not up there with the best of his work, is fun, giving us likable heroes and dastardly villains, while Andy Kubert draws some very nice dinosaurs, elephants and sabre tooth tigers (yay, Zabu, another reason why Ka-Zar is much better than Tarzan). There's also a largely pointless flashback story tacked on the end which Waid has very little to do with - and you can tell - but does at least benefit from early John Cassady artwork.

KaZar by Mark Waid & Andy Kubert - Volume 1is available on Amazon for £8.21, which is less than half the £19-99 cover price and not bad for a book collecting 8 and a half comics. While it's not quite as essential a Ka-Zar book as the aforementioned Jones / Anderson one, I'd still recommend it if you're at all fond of the character.


3 comments:

  1. I liked that Jones/Anderson Ka-Zar run too. It was one of Marvels first non-code books and I felt so grown up reading it.

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  2. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only Ka-Zar fan out there (here?). In fact in many ways I'm a bit of an obsessive. I have, I believe, all this solo appearances... ever... which given the quality of some of them is pretty worrying actually.

    Okay there's no denying that he's just a Tarzan rip off BUT

    1. He's the 'lord' of a land dominated by dinosaurs

    2. His best friend and constant companion is a sabre-toothed tiger (I know, I know, but its so much cooler than cat!).

    And by those two simple things alone he becomes uber-cool.

    Anyway to my point. I've read some pretty terrible Ka-Zar stories but have a strange affection for them all. Therefore when you get Mark Waid on the title you'd think it'd blow my little socks off. I love me some Mark Waid plus its got a great storyline over his issues as a whole, interesting development of his central characters and more cool moments that you can shake a stick at, or a flint spear even.

    But

    but...

    ...its just kinda okay for me. Which every time I read it I find it so disappointing. I should love it. So I'm not a massive fan of Andy Kubert's art, its so BIG and chunky and frankly confusing at times (he really could learn a lesson from his dad!). Still it serves its function. So why don't I love this, so many people do after all...

    ...honestly...

    ...I'm stumped.

    Don't get me wrong I don't hate it but I so want to love it and every time I try I'm just left with a slight sense of deflation.

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  3. Colin - I think I know where you're coming from. I think it's just a product of its era - the 90s were a pretty dire time, so even the less dire stuff doesn't stand up against most product from ten years before or ten years after.

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