His name is Kevin… Plunder? You learn something new every day, I guess. And so will you if this is your first go-around with the Lord of the Savage Land himself, Ka-Zar!

We’ve got a review of the debut issue of his miniseries, along with a bunch of other books in this week’s Rapid Rundown, all ahead on the Marvel Rundown!

Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #1

Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #1

Written by Zac Thompson
Art by German Garcia 
Colouring by Matheus Lopes
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jesus Saiz

I’m a fan of the Marvel Universe but in my time writing for this column, I’ve come to realise how little I really know about it. I know of the Savage Land from a few X-Men stories I’ve read here and there, but Ka-Zar has always been a mystery to me. As I mentioned above, his name is Kevin Plunder! And apparently he’s a British lord whose father tried to take over the Savage Land.

I thought to myself that a clearly socially conscious writer like Zac Thompson would take that concept, roll with it, and deconstruct it through a more modern lens, right? He doesn’t do that, instead framing Ka-Zar and his wife Shanna as more of an ecological force who protect the Savage Land when it needs protecting, not to lord over it as the very title of the comic suggests. In that sense I expected more from a comic that mentions the Savage Land does indeed have an indigenous population but relegates them to literally a few panels before Ka-Zar comes in to save the day. I expected more from a comic whose very premise suggests that colonisation was a failure in this particular place, and that despite all of this, a white family “lords” over this place and also happen to be the only beings who have changed and developed a deeper connection to the world. Don’t get me started on the name of this place. Savage Land? I’d honestly be quite chuffed if Thompson came up with a better name for this place by series’ end.

From Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #1

All that, and I acknowledge that I’m being harsh and unfair towards the creative team because I’m pointing out what this comic does not do, which is unfair criticism. Not to mention that this is only the first issue in a five-issue miniseries. And I’m not nearly as gifted a writer as whoever with the proper expertise will most definitely unpack this in the coming days. So I’ll leave my attempted social justice hat at the door and discuss the comic a little more broadly.

Thompson has noted Immortal Hulk and House of X/Powers of X as influences on this comic, and that couldn’t be more clear after having known this. There are a couple instances of weird body horror akin to Al Ewing’s take on Hulk, which aren’t just limited to bodies opening up or weird tentacle creature things erupting from t-rexes, but can also be found in Ka-Zar himself as he questions his new powers and what they can do, and finding out firsthand. Hell, the cover even looks to be an homage to Immortal Hulk #1, down to the title treatment. The House of X connection is a little more broad, applying to the Savage Land as a concept, as a living, breathing thing, and connecting it to its protector in a way that I don’t think has been done before.

From Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #1

Having recently died in the Empyre: Avengers tie-in issues, Ka-Zar has been resurrected by the Savage Land and can now feel every living thing around him, like rain hitting mud miles and miles away. He taps into the strength of a mammoth when fighting a dinosaur, saving his bratty son Matthew. Matthew is a problem. He’s a typical angsty teen who wants to… eat meat? He claims to love the Savage Land more than his parents do since he was born there, but wants to dismiss their meat-eating rules that stem from a respect of the land. The bits dealing with Ka-Zar’s new powers are the most interesting bits to be found in this issue, but the son plot is frankly paint-by-numbers. It does, however, look to be going in an interesting direction by issue’s end.

German Garcia has done some excellent work here. I first met his art in his Immortal Hulk issue and this felt like the polar opposite of that issue. Whereas Hulk was technical, sci-fi, extremely wide and minimalist work, Garcia’s work here is utterly lush and dream-like, occasionally tapping into a super-hero aesthetic for its action scenes but remaining naturalistic and gorgeous throughout. Matheus Lopes, known for his recent collaborations with Bilquis Evely and Nick Robles on recent The Dreaming series for DC, lends his amazing talent to Garcia’s pages and beautifully elevates them. This is probably the most gorgeous book you’ll read this week.

Final Verdict: STRONG BROWSE. This comic has issues that the creative team are not responsible for, but they still left me feeling uncomfortable. The art is gorgeous and the plotting is solid despite a couple of cliché elements involving Ka-Zar’s son.

  • Excalibur #23
    • Excalibur is one of the X-books that I haven’t followed closely, being not a big fan of magic, faeries, and the like. I recently decided to catch up on the series, though, binging through everything that came post-X of Swords, and I’ve found it pretty enjoyable when read in a satisfying chunk. This week’s issue, arriving just as I complete my catch-up, sees the team begrudgingly accompanying Doctor Doom into Otherworld to retrieve an unknown something from Morgan Le Fay’s castle. I’ve enjoyed seeing Doom noodling with non-Fantastic Four parts of the Marvel U lately in issues of Guardians of the Galaxy and S.W.O.R.D., so his presence here is more than welcome, and Tini Howard, Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, and Ariana Maher present an entertaining tale with some fun character interactions. I’m not sure if I’d call myself a monthly Excalibur convert, but I’ll definitely keep reading the series in chunks going forward. —JG
  • Extreme Carnage: Toxin #1
    • As the Extreme Carnage event hurls towards its close, we check in with the 1000th spawn in the Venom genealogy, Toxin, son of Carnage… and make no mistake: the paternal element is very important to this chapter of the Symbiote Hive’s story, which foregrounds the daddy issues. I especially enjoyed Steve Orlando’s dialogue in this issue, which leaned heavily into the humor (and you know, Carnage has a point – Eddie Brock is kind of the Absentee God of this whole sordid affair). Visually, the scenes in which Toxin faces off against Carnage inside The Void were highlights. With just two issues left in this event, I’m looking forward to the inevitable collision between the various symbiote factions and the xenophobic “Friends of Humanity”… Let’s hope it’s suitably gory! —AJK
  • “The Four Fives” 
    • Select new Marvel releases this week include an eight-page back-up tale, “The Four Fives,” commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Joe Quesada, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, Marte Gracia, and Joe Caramagnas vignette has Spider-Man and Captain America at the Ground Zero Memorial in New York for the striking of the Four Fives, a traditional firefighter bell-ringing ceremony honoring those fallen in the line of duty. Romita Jr. and Hanna were the penciller and inker on Amazing Spider-Man #36, which adds an extra layer of pathos to the largely silent, solemn tale. —JG
  • X-Force #23
    • Being the Black Ops book of the Krakoan nation, writer Benjamin Percy, and artist Martin Coccolo take us on a tour of the counter-intelligence being leveled against the Mutants by Mikhail Rasputin, Colossus’s brother, family what are you gonna do? A twisted version of the cult sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, the Beast is attacked by microscopic agents who are up to no good, his only hope, Black Tom’s micro self. Percy has a dark vision of what it takes to make a home safe in a world that wants you dead, and his version of the Beast that is a cold calculating spymaster is weirdly engaging. If you like espionage with a sci-fi kicker this series is for you. —GC3

Next week, Magneto’s trial continues, and the Fantastic Four mega-anniversary issue!