Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Once and Future Tarzan

   Surely there is no literary figure who has been more badly beaten up by unthinking interpretations than Tarzan.

   Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the story of Tarzan begins with an infant whose parents are killed after they are left in the jungles of Africa - and he is raised by the Great Apes. 

   But the real Tarzan is not the crude "Me Tarzan, you Jane" character brought to life in movies and TV shows starring actors like Johnny Weissmuller. In the original stories, he's self-educated (thanks to the books his parents left behind), and he eventually divides his time between the world of civilization, where he is the respected Lord Greystoke, and the jungle (and numerous lost worlds all over the globe).

   Those original stories captured my imagination in a way few original stories by other writers have managed, and I'm glad to report that the trade paperback collection Dark Horse's Once and Future Tarzan stories live up to that legacy in a very satisfying way.

   Written by Al Gordon, the stories were serialized in small chunks in Dark Horse anthology titles - which is perfect for the jungle lord's stories, since they're all about cliffhangers and propelling the story forward at break-neck pace.

   This is set in the future, where Tarzan is somehow still in his prime (impressive for a 300-year-old man), only now instead of exploring strange lost worlds, the entire Earth has become untamed and wild, with danger around every corner.

   The art is wonderful, featuring chapters drawn by Thomas Yeates and Bo Hampton - both masters at heroic battles and amazing environments and creatures. And boy, do they get to strut their stuff here.

   It's a smart, terrific tale, and it's great to see the Ape Man (and his wife, who also kicks ass) in top form again. 

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


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