Relegated far too often as supporting characters of the Marvel Universe, the Plunder family is getting their overdue time to shine in a series that marries gorgeous visuals, compelling human elements and eco-horror in one amazing package. A true showcase of what happens when one fully explores what the Marvel Universe has to offer while tying it into the issues that we face in the real world.
One of the things that set Marvel Comics apart in the past was the heavy focus on the idea that these heroes were flawed human beings who have the best intentions, but sometimes those intentions don’t pan out. This idea is alive and well to this day, very much the backbone of what Marvel is publishing including the eco-horror series Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land.
Right away this series started off with the idea that Kevin Plunder/Ka-Zar is still dealing with his death and rebirth and a new connection to the Savage Land that came during last year’s Empyre event. He’s struggling to remain focused and often loses control and even has trouble connecting with his family. The way that Zac Thompson kicks off the issues with these looks into Ka-Zar’s dreams/nightmares and how they tie to the threat to the land is so fantastic.
They truly set the mood, especially when brought to such gorgeous life by Germán García, Matheus Lopes, and Joe Caramagna. Not only is the Savage Land living up to its breathtakingly beautiful potential under their care, but the horror part of eco-horror is right there in your face in the best way possible. There are some pages further in with what the Plunder family assumes are moving trees (turns out they are giant spiders) that were gorgeous, terrifying, and gross all at the same time. Being a person that isn’t a fan of spiders it made me run the roller coaster of gasping emotions and I loved it.
Nature is something that far too often we take for granted, especially the bits and pieces that survive in the sprawl of urban life that a great many of us live within. García and Lopes really capture the majesty and otherworldly feel that nature can have, giving us truly honestly one of the best renditions of the Savage Land we’ve seen.
Often this place, which was created by an alien visitor, looks like most depictions of tropical areas that one can find on the planet. Within this book, though it’s got bits that look familiar but tons of other bits and pieces that speak to the fact that this untouched land deep within Antarctica is a place where nature was able to continue to evolve from its earliest forms to something bigger and grander.
While García easily shifts between detailed looks and more blurry unfocused ones that allow you to really take in the surroundings, Lopes’ colors really set the mood. They slide from the warmer yellows to colder blues to dangerous reds right back to the more ‘standard’ colors and even mixing and matching depending on the moment. During the spider scene, there are some great examples where there are the shadowed more muted colors being touched by some of the yellow filter-like warm colors from previous pages as the sunlight happens to pop in and out of the scene.
Reading any number of books these days brings one the chance to see the wonderful lettering work of Caramagna, as showcased within this series. This extends through the formation and placement and emphasis work done in the dialogue bubbles through the issues, right into the SFX that just feels so organic in these pages. Not only is there a ton of variety to the various SFX, but some really neat ways that some of them come off on the page. There is a big “Whooosh” during the spider scene that actually is behind the leg of the spider rather than plastered in front of it and just that small change does so much.
It’s hard to even fully put into words how amazing the work of these three is because words don’t do justice to what they are pulling off. It has to be seen to fully appreciate what a gem this book is.
While they have been supporting characters over the years, the Plunders don’t often get a lot of characterization outside of the surface-level stuff of their situation. Mostly because the focus is on whatever character(s) are the mains of the books they might be guesting in. Here Thompson makes them a fleshed-out family unit that has a lot of the same issues that many families do just also all the issues of what is happening in their fantastical home.
Seeing them banter, struggle, and support one another is so great. I also appreciate that Thompson isn’t just rolling past the effects that death and rebirth are having on Kevin. There are repercussions and things to struggle with, and his good intentions to stop a threat, unfortunately, backfire in a devastating way. Together with the horror and really science fiction heavy tones of the book, it’s a majorly compelling read.
Truly this is a book and set of characters that I could and would read way more from.
Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #2 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.