Every so often there is a new comic book series that just hits all the right spots and takes the reader beyond where they ever expected and just leaves them craving far more, and right now ‘Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land’ is that series. Great depth of character, gorgeous mood setting artwork that stands apart from all the rest, deep messages about real-world issues, and a bunch of comic book superhero-like fun.
Despite the long-time relationship that real-world issues/concerns/politics/etc and all forms of art have had, it’s not always easy to find a way to marry tackling of those events and the other demands that are often made of particular mediums. Such as in superhero and superhero adjacent comic books, where a certain level of action/heroes taking on villains is expected from much of the audience. Some books are able to balance that superheroic action, lots of great character work, and also tackle looking at some of the big issues that we face in our own world.
Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #1 is most assuredly one of those comic books.
Billed as an “eco-horror revival of Marvel’s mighty Jungle Lord” by series writer Zac Thompson, the first issue of this series lives up to all the hype around it. The Savage Land is one of the most unique and richest story areas in the Marvel Universe that is still so ripe for exploration. Using it as a means to look at ecological issues of the world with a horror tinge while still bringing all the action and character is perfection.
It helps that the book is truly gorgeous and unique thanks to the stunning work of Germán García, Matheus Lopes, and Joe Caramagna. Right away there are some really nightmarishly horrific scenes that are sure to stick with the reader just because they are so wonderfully bizarre and frightening but just stand out so well because of the amazing art and coloring.
García and Lopes’ work is almost dream-like in so many ways, which is fitting since the Savage Land is such an otherworldly like place that we could only dream of ever visiting. Everything from Ka-Zar (along with Shanna, Matthew, and Zabu) to a compromised T-Rex, to even the issue end revealed ‘being’, and all the nature around them are drawn so distinct and uniquely. Everything has personality and a spark, just as one would expect from such a place as the Savage Land.
There is a really warm yellow filter-like glow that is found across the pages, that never once mutes the other bright pops of colors that can be found in the issue. Rather than being all shadowy or dark, which is one way to convey horror, this series takes the other route. It showcases the horror right away but also brings you in with this warm and welcoming feeling because the land it takes place in is sunny and welcoming but also vastly dangerous at the same time.
Along with the wonderful lettering work that Caramagna does across the board with the mood-setting captions on the first page as well as the beyond solid dialogue work across the book and the SFX that seamlessly blend into the same style as all the other artwork. One could just hear when the Fall People scream out Ka-Zar’s name or nod your head and go “Yep that is definitely what flowers hitting a rampaging T-Rex in the face would sound like.”
Even the dialogue/caption boxes have the same gold/yellow comfort warmth feeling of the artwork, helping draw one even deeper into Ka-Zar’s thoughts and feelings at this moment. Just all-around amazing work that feels so unique and different from so many other books on the shelves.
On the character end, it’s great to see a follow-up on Ka-Zar’s death and resurrection from last year’s Empyre event series. While at the same time we get an actual bit of time to follow around the Plunder family and their lives and struggles in the Savage Land as Ka-Zar deals with his new powers and their son Matthew pushes back against his parents and their ways. Previously we had just gotten told that Matthew grew up at some point to become a teenager, but here we get to see what that means when one lives somewhere like the Savage Land.
Thompson not only fully gets the characters and the struggles they face but writes them in a way that despite how they butt heads and differ, you can feel that they are a family, and also you aren’t left feeling that any particular one is more right than the others. Which is a situation that most of us are likely very familiar with.
This series will most certainly go down as a classic and definitive Ka-Zar/Savage Land story when all is said and done.
Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.