When I saw on my iPad that Dynamite finally released issue #1 of Lord Of The Jungle on Wednesday, I was pretty excited. The comic, which adapts Tarzan of the Apes, the second Burroughs adaptation from Dynamite, seemed perfectly timed with me finishing re-reading the original novel for my 3rd time a few weeks back. However, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. I have directed a stage version of Tarzan before, and I have been a long time fan of the comics and movies since I rented my first Tarzan flick from Blockbuster years ago in first grade. The character has been part of my life and will continue to be, but obviously like any long term fan of something, I have certain notions of what I want from a book. Lord Of The Jungle wasn’t perfect, but pretty close, to my delight.
Arvid Nelson, who also wrote Rex Mundi, has pretty much adapted the book straight up. Thus far, the story of Tarzan’s parents being left in the Congo and the social structure of the Apes have been a perfect adaptation from the original tale. I’m not giving anything away here unless you haven’t read the book (the story has been out almost 100 years now, believe it or not), but the issue covers the first few chapters: it gives us his parents being left to die in the jungle, the birth of Tarzan, the passing of his mom from illness, and the Apes coming in, killing poor old dad and taking baby Tarzan with them.
Not everything is exactly like the original pulp tales, though. Nelson’s big change from the book? These half-human/half-apes that attack some natives. However, if I have my suspicions correct, we cannot blame Nelson for creating these weird monsters that eat up 3 or 4 pages in the issue. If you haven’t read the original book, Tarzan eventually becomes “the killer of Blacks,” as he calls himself at one point. Sign of the times, the book as mentioned already is almost 100 years old, and Burroughs does spin it more as natives clashing than he hates everyone who is not white. Nelson has said previously he doesn’t want to adapt that part of the story (nor I doubt would anyone), and so I think these new ape-creatures are designed to fill in for the natives that Tarzan will kill later. This is all theory of course, we are one issue in, but it’s the only logical explanation right now for these weird-ass creatures Nelson has cooked up that aren’t in the original book.
Art wise Castro does a great job with the action scenes, and his humans are pretty great to look at. There were times when I really didn’t love everything he was drawing with the Apes, though. It seemed his style drifted a little on several panels depicting these animals. That aside, he does just fine for this book. In typical Dynamite fashion we get a ton of cover options, my favorite of the bunch being done by Alex Ross himself this time around.
So is Lord Of The Jungle worth picking up? Bottom line, yes. Tarzan fans will be pleased, and non-Tarzan fans can get into the world with an honest adaptation (minus that racism thing, of course), and see why Tarzan was so cool upon his original creation and why he took off. This is more than just a guy swinging on a vine, this is a survival comic at its best.
Out on stands now, first issue is the special price of one American dollar.