Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land is successful in doing many different things. It’s a story that stands alone incredibly effectively, where I understood everything despite not having much knowledge (or really, care) of many of the book’s focal intellectual properties. It’s a superhero story that veers toward the meta, but stays focused on being entertaining more than it does on being overly metaphorical. It’s a book that’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it leans away from complexity; rather, it’s because the book takes its time with a few ideas, ensuring they can be understood.
In all of these ways and others, Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land succeeds, and does so because the creative team worked together perfectly in a way that no other team could have. Which itself is fitting for the material and themes that are covered.
Ka-Zar, or Lord Kevin Reginald Plunder, is one of the protectors of the Savage Land, along with his wife and son. But…things are changing. The family has to find a new way to live with the Land and its other inhabitants, and to undo damage done to them by colonization.
“Change or die” is not a new idea in superhero comics — in fact, it has been beaten nearly to death at this point. Environmentalism is less tired, though, and the writer of this here collection of comics has casted plenty of words on that topic into the ether. Really, not much new is said here about those ideas. Still, this comic is phenomenal, which lies largely on the backs of Germán García, Álvaro López, Matheus Lopes, and Matt Milla, who put up career and industry best work here.
García and Lopes are the defining voices on the book: they do perfect work, and work perfectly together. The former’s style is such that it’s easy to see life in it, but Lopes does an incredible job of pushing everything into feeling natural in a tangible way. Even then though, nothing in the Savage Land feels fully natural, with the coloring (by both Lopes and Milla) creating a dreamy and heightened feeling befitting the locale.
The opening pages are a good example of the creator’s synthesis, and some of my favorite work within the series.
The pulpy narration, the line work that draws the eye naturally, the coloring that helps differentiate depth while also pushing the tone, and the letters sitting on the page in a way that feels more organic than typical all create pages of comics that feel unique, and work in a holistic way with the themes of the book. Where these ideas have perhaps been covered before, the way they’re covered here is done to the greatest degree possible. And while Thompson may have written about environmentalism before (as I noted above), his familiarity clearly fed into the overall success of the book.
Ultimately, Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land is a comic where the creative team did work that they deeply cared about, and executed about as perfectly as they could have. It’s a comic that can fit alongside Animal Man or Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt on your shelf, which is just about where I’ll put it.
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