Armando Gil

Ka-Zar the Savage 29 (December 1983)

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Carlin’s not doing much to make Ka-Zar his own. He follows the existing template well–down to Shanna’s step-daughter being emotionally affecting from her first panel–and it feels like a good impression of Bruce Jones.

Except Carlin doesn’t spend a lot of time on his protagonists’ emotions. He doesn’t keep their self-reflections going throughout the issue, instead using them episodically. It’s not a bad approach, it just gives the narrative a staggered feel.

To be fair, Carlin does get a lot done. He probably has enough content in the issue it’d run six “decompressed.” Ka-Zar and Shanna have a wedding and even get married, along with fighting a demonic bad guy and saving some people. Throw in another five or six pages of villain scenes and you’ve got a packed issue.

Frenz does fine fitting it all in. Even if his pencils aren’t beautiful or even ambitious.

Ka-Zar the Savage 28 (October 1983)

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Mike Carlin takes over the writing reins and does a fine job. He handles Shanna’s personal crisis well, though he doesn’t stick with it as long as Jones would have. And Carlin’s Ka-Zar is a far more assured protagonist than Jones’s. It might help this issue’s Ka-Zar has been maturing the last twenty-seven issues.

Another Mike–Mignola–inks Gil this issue and the result is mixed. Mignola sharpens Gil’s pencils, giving them a good amount of shadow, but he also removes some of the life. Ka-Zar looks boring, even though it’s full of action.

Carlin’s big problem is tying everything together, something Jones had to leave the Savage Land to avoid. This issue seems to kick off a longer arc where the entire Savage Land cast reunites, including the bad guys.

It’s a good comic book, but I’m a little wary without Jones at the helm.

Ka-Zar the Savage 27 (August 1983)

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Gil draws like a man possessed this issue. It’s his first time pencilling in a while and he opens the issue with this reintroduction to the Savage Land. Very scenic, but also very big–only two or three panels a page. By the end of the issue, Gil’s fitting maybe fifteen panels a page. Major action events happen in two inch tall panels. It’s incredible. Gil’s detail isn’t right for Ka-Zar–he’s more suited for horror work–but the enthusiasm is amazing to see.

Some of it must be Jones’s fault. His script has about two issues worth of content, with Ka-Zar’s Savage Land buddies healing him and Shanna. So there’s the future science medical scenes, but then we learn… drum roll… Shanna’s mind is going. So Ka-Zar and friends go into her subconscious to save her.

It’s a busy issue, but Jones and Gil make it work.

Ka-Zar the Savage 26 (May 1983)

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This issue is extremely hectic. The first three-quarters of it pick up immediately following the previous issue–Ka-Zar and Spider-Man duke it out until they decide to be buddies. Then they go save Shanna, which is easier said than done.

But even after Shanna’s rescued, Jones doesn’t let up on the pace. Ka-Zar’s hellbent on getting out of New York immediately and, even though it’s fairly fantastic (and owes a lot to Raiders of the Lost Ark), his scheme works.

The issue’s a particularly nice exercise. Jones establishes Ka-Zar as wanting back to the Savage Land, the cover is clear on the New York exodus… it all comes together quite well.

Except, of course, Frenz’s artwork. It’s not completely awful, but he’s lost the urban touch he exhibited a few issues ago.

The Mayerik-illustrated backup comes to a fine conclusion. Some great artwork in just a few pages.

Ka-Zar the Savage 25 (April 1983)

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Weird issue.

Since Shanna’s basically out of commission (she’s comatose in the second half and insane in the first), Peter Parker is basically the second protagonist. Jones splits the pages between him and Ka-Zar, though Ka-Zar has a lot more going on.

He escapes from the bad guys–Jones doesn’t, unfortunately, give the villains a satisfying send-off–and heads to New York for Shanna. There are obvious pacing problems as Ka-Zar globe trots, but Jones deftly covers that passage of time with Peter Parker. Peter’s taken with Shanna in a believable mix of protectiveness and chaste lust.

It’s too bad Frenz and Gil are lousy this issue, otherwise some of the quiet scenes would have been much nicer.

Aside from Jones’s usual problems with Ka-Zar as protagonist, it’s a fine issue.

The backup, still with waning Mayerik art, is exciting once again. Not shocking like last time, just exciting.

Ka-Zar the Savage 24 (March 1983)

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There’s a lot of action this issue. Jones really puts Hall through the paces fitting it all in. Ka-Zar and his evil lady friend fight the mad scientist and his men in the desert, then in their secret base. There’s also Shanna’s adventures in New York with Peter Parker.

Hall does a lot better in New York than he does with the action scenes. He does okay with them, but having Ka-Zar fighting in the desert, against Bond villains in jumpsuits, requires a creativity Hall doesn’t bring.

Most of the writing is good, though Jones relies heavily on expository thought balloons and narration. He’s got a lot of information to get across in addition to the action; he rushes to make it fit.

It’s good, but not particularly compelling.

The backup is positively disturbing and not because Mayerik’s art is losing detail. Jones reveals an alarming detail from Ka-Zar’s youth.

Ka-Zar the Savage 23 (February 1983)

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Jones turns Ka-Zar into James Bond this issue, setting him loose in Casablanca in a clumsy homage to the film. Jones includes lots of little details and nods and is very excited about it, but Casablanca isn’t an obscure film. Instead of witty, Jones’s homage seems overly cute.

His explanation for Ka-Zar’s resurrection is the James Bond stuff and then it’s desert adventure time. Oh, the evil secret agent woman forces herself on him. Ka-Zar is surprisingly risquΓ© (and has been since the first issue).

Meanwhile, Shanna gets to hang out with Spider-Man a little more, but Jones severely reduces her page time in this issue. It’s too bad. Ka-Zar’s story is fantastic, but without emotional connection to the reader, whereas Shanna’s is all about that connection.

Bob Hall’s pencils are occasionally quite good, but usually just okay.

The flashback backup is fine, an excuse for Mayerik art.

Ka-Zar the Savage 20 (November 1982)

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Frenz is far more in his element here, with Ka-Zar having a New York adventure with Kraven the Hunter. They’re swinging around, crashing comic cons and just generally having antics. Jones’s strength is in the details, whether it’s he and Frenz cameoing at the con, the moronic cops Shanna asks for help or Ka-Zar figuring out what’s going on (he’s temporarily mute on top of the bullet lodged in his skull).

It’s the most fun Jones has had writing Ka-Zar as a narrator–he’s too busy trying to figure out his situation to be callous.

There is one major goof–Shanna’s in her jungle outfit, even though she wasn’t last issue. Apparently Frenz wanted her scantily clad.

Kraven’s a weak villain for Ka-Zar, who doesn’t do well in the “grounded” reality of the Marvel Universe.

The issue’s fun, but not particularly special. Though it does put Frenz to good use.

Ka-Zar the Savage 19 (October 1982)

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This issue is very full. Not a lot happens, but there are a lot of scenes and most of them have some action. Ka-Zar, an amnesiac mute after his brain injury, roams New York while Shanna tries to save him. She has to surmount government bureaucracy… and buy a new set of clothes. Meanwhile, the villainous hussy from last issue is doing her own thing.

Bringing Ka-Zar and Shanna to New York gives Jones a lot of material. The story itself is sort of secondary to the little encounters both have in the modern world. Jones maintains the characters perfectly–these are people who have left the modern world and are only back in it by force. They don’t fit, regardless of attire.

Unfortunately, Gil’s art has its usual problems, otherwise it’s excellent.

The backup has some beautiful Mayerik art… but not enough. The backup is way too short again.

Ka-Zar the Savage 18 (September 1982)

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Well, Anderson’s back in a “layout” capacity. Gil’s finishes are often pretty bad. Jones’s writing is strong enough to get the issue through, but it would have been far better with good art.

A botanist, his straying hussy wife and their sidekicks land in the Savage Land and throw Ka-Zar and Shanna’s day-to-day for a spin.

The hussy’s after Ka-Zar, who’s naively polite, but Shanna gets it. Jones again gives Shanna the most to do in terms of reaction. Ka-Zar might get into a couple fights, but it’s Shanna who figures out what the fights are about.

Unfortunately, the cliffhanger’s weak–Jones wants to take Ka-Zar to the city and is apparently willing to do anything to get him there.

Mayerik is back for another of the charming backups.

Jones clearly does not like Ka-Zar to be too strong a protagonist… and the comic is better for it.

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