There is no doubt whatsoever that ‘Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land’ with its fantastical deep character-driven eco-horror roots is not only one of the best books published by Marvel Comics right now but just one of the best comics period. What this creative team is achieving with every issue showcases what comics can do and what they should strive to be doing in many cases.
There are many things that are generally a common occurrence in stories that are about heroic journeys of any kind, no matter the medium through which the story is told. One of those things is the moment where the surging hero is going to come up against a threat that they are unprepared for, and often a threat that will actually take them down.
After the devastating occurrence of the last issue from Ka-Zar’s unpredictable new powers, the lord of the Savage Land faced his defeating moment in the series third issue.
These words get thrown around quite often about various projects, but what Zac Thompson, Germán García, Matheus Lopes, and Joe Caramagna have created with Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land truly is special. This issue they are joined by Álvaro López and Matt Milla who stepped in for the nightmarish first three pages.
Those three pages continue the series trend to start right off with the horror portion of the eco-horror theme, giving us glimpses at the nightmares that plague Ka-Zar/Kevin Plunder’s mind as he struggles to deal with his recent resurrection and the powered connection to the Savage Land he now has. López’s artwork is similar to that of García, going for a bit of a clearer look than the slightly more lined and almost sketched look that one can see within García’s. Milla’s colors though are a closer match to those of Lopes, matching the same sort of fantastical color palette with just a bit more brightness. This works in both cases since it’s a dream/nightmare which will always be more heightened than reality.
Outside of those nightmares, we’re given even deeper looks at the variety of realms within the Savage Land as well as a variety of the (sometimes nightmarish) beings that call it home or want to take it over. What Garcia and Lopes are doing is almost beyond words, because all the flowery and complimentary words don’t do the visuals 100% justice.
Garcia’s artwork has such a detailed yet fantastical or whimsical look to it, making it easier to sub out something real for something more outlandish (like an early scene with a close of Ka-Zar’s eyes taking on an eagle-like appearance). This helps bring deep life to the variety of areas/biomes in the Savage Land that the Plunder family travels through. Alongside the detailed looks are more blurry/unfocused pieces in the surrounding that add depth and streamline the focus of the panels. That unfocused technique comes into play best in some of the wider shots that really show off the different environments and how far they go on.
Each of the areas is distinct from the first glance but are even more so thanks to the varied color palette that Lopes brings into play. We get a brilliant mix of greens and blues within the Valley of the Vermillion Eye where things begin, that switches to a lot whiter for the snowy area they travel through, before a lot more yellows and browns pop up for the Desiccated Blight Plains where much of the story takes place. These tones are light and almost like a highlighting filter added over the base colors added to the world. It makes sure that this fantastical ancient, varied landscape never just looks like the common forests or jungles that might be seen everywhere.
There are numerous reasons that Caramagna’s lettering work can be found across a ton of books, especially at Marvel. Those reasons are very much on display within this series. Just like the art and the colors bring that fantastical and varying look to the book, so too do the letters. Each of the dialogue bubbles feels unique for the characters, throwing in various colors and other emphasizers depending on what the bubble is meant to convey.
Not to mention still the prose captions of the opening pages are always just a delight because they are so different than what we normally see in many of these books. Even the regular caption boxes have their own colorful personality, and the SFX are organic and match the energy of everything else within the issue.
Thompson has a vision for not only the Plunder family but the Savage Land as a whole, and it’s clear and paying off. This is a realm that is so unique and awesome but honestly has been relegated to just a sort of common area with some tribes and dinosaurs running around. Often, it’s just a place to throw heroes if you want them out of their depths taking on creatures long gone from the planet. Here though, it’s got a whole lot going on and is a fully living and breathing realm thanks to this plan and as mentioned before the amazing work of the art team.
Much like the Savage Land, the Plunders have so much untapped potential both power-wise and personality but just in the scope of what they can do and who they can be. Just like the Savage Land itself, they’re very often just a supporting bit of another character or character’s story, but this proves that they very much can and deserve their own full stories.
Just the emotional aspects surrounding this family and what they’ve been through, and how the story is not shying away from what might be broken or unresolved is fantastic. To me, the best stories that are coming out of Marvel these days remember that these characters are human at their core which means they have flaws and problems that must be dealt with in some manner.
That’s not even bringing in the ecological messages of this book that resonate in the best way, feeling organic and powerful without hitting the reader over the head. Tackling the issues of what humanity does to the world around them starring a family that has the last name Plunder and comes from a line of folks who didn’t do great things to the world around them, is just perfectly brilliant.
Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #3 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.