January 21, 2012

Dynamite Reviews: Lord Of The Jungle #1

Lord Of  The Jungle #1
Publisher: Dynamite
Writer: Arvid Nelson
Art: Roberto Castro
Covers By: Alex Ross, Ryan Sook, Paul Renaud, and Lucio Parrillo

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.

Drew McCabe



  1. Billy

    Phenomenal cover!

  2. Kristin

    So you think the writer replaced Africans in AFRICA as the villains with half-human/half-ape creatures, to make it LESS racist? Wow. Not only is it NOT less racist, it’s out right insulting. Blacks were frequently depicted as ape-like in the past in art/comics. And anyone who has read the original work would know what they’re representing.
    Hopefully that’s not the case. If I were him, I’d leave it alone, and work to remove the racist themes another way. He’s a WRITER. He should be able to do that.

  3. Drew

    Not all the Africans are replaced, just the ones Tarzan later on the story that he kills. So now instead of killing natives, he kills these half-ape/half-humans who attack both him and natives, so Nelson has introduced a new set of characters for Tarzan to kill basically

  4. wizard clip

    Drew, I suspect your reasoning is correct regarding the ape-man creatures, and given that Dynamite is promoting this as an “uncensored” adaptation of Tarzan, I thought it was pretty gutless for Nelson to pull the switch. This is akin to Disney’s theatrical version of a few years ago dealing with the thorny racism issue by simply pretending that black people didn’t exist in Tarzan’s Africa.

    As you point out, the story is 100 years old, so what are they afraid of? It’s condescending to the audience to think that we won’t be able to understand that this was how things were seen by many whites in those days. It’s the same sort of thinking that led to the version of Huck Finn last year that had been scrubbed clean of the “N” word. Also, as you no doubt remember from reading the novel yourself, Tarzan’s perception of black people evolves as he has more contact with human beings, so this change makes for a more one-dimensional character.

    On another note, I’m not sure why Nelson needed to make the apes that adopt Tarzan seem even more brutal that they are in the novel. I’m refering to the scene in which Kerchack picks up Kala’s baby and bashes its head against the rock. This doesn’t happen in the book (Nelson doesn’t yet use these ape names–don’t know if he will).

    Some of the art was nice, although the scenes with the apes were awkwardly rendered. Really, I found this completely unimpressive. It doesn’t do anything that the earlier DC and Marvel adaptations of the story haven’t already done with more skill.

    I’d really like to see Darkhorse complete their publication of “Tarzan: The River of Blood.” THis was an 8 issue series that ceased publication at issue 4 (due to low sales, I presume).

  5. Read the story as a kid and even then the symbolism was painfully obvious. So I’ve never really got into Tarzan for several reasons and the only adaptation I was able to stomache was The Legend of Greystoke and Disney’s.

    I’m sure Nelson did what he did to improve the story and take away some of the negativeity from the source material but this is one title that doesn’t excite me. I’ll just stick with Flash Gordon.

    • Billy

      You spelled Flesh wrong, dude…

      • haha!

  6. I liked it.

    Haven’t read the novels, so I have nothing to compare it too, but for $1 it’s totally worth it.

    Moving on we’ll see if it has staying power, but so long as Dynamite doesn’t oversaturate us with Lord of the Jungle titles (a la Warlord of Mars), it has potential.

  7. Drew

    @Andy: What, not ready for ‘Jane of the Jungle’ and ‘Wrath of the Jungle Apes’ titles?

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