Carlos Garzon

Ka-Zar the Savage 34 (October 1984)

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The cover proclaims this final issue as a “collectors’ item.” Until the epilogue, it’s unclear why. In an amazing turn, Ka-Zar and Shanna end up in the League of Cancelled Marvel comics, or something along those lines. It’s pretty funny.

Too bad Neary’s art is awful.

Otherwise, it’s a silly sci-fi issue with Ka-Zar being the savior of these human hostages in an interstellar prison camp. They’re being drained of adrenaline, which makes them unlikely to revolt. But, of course, Ka-Zar does.

Oh, and Shanna’s pregnant. Not sure if she ever gave birth… it’d be awesome if it was Peter Parker’s kid.

Anyway, the series comes to a lousy end. For these Carlin, Neary and Fingeroth issues, one could never guess the series was once good, much less sublime.

Oddly, Carlin’s explanation of the aliens is decent. Or, at least, unpredictable.

But unpredictability doesn’t make up for the rest..

Ka-Zar the Savage 33 (August 1984)

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Carlin’s destruction of the series seems to be complete now. In this issue, he reduces Shanna to a helpless damsel. He’s got Ka-Zar running around thinking about how he’s going to save after she falls victim to an absurdly drawn out incident.

But this moronic event occurs halfway through the issue, until then it’s just Shanna being a stupid female, ignoring her obviously smarter man.

For the first couple pages, it almost looked like Neary’s art was improving. It doesn’t, however. I’m just trying to think of good things about the comic. This issue ends with a note from the editor announcing its cancellation. Strangely, the editor, Danny Fingeroth, takes no responsibility… and he really should. The series has gone, albeit slowly, to pot since he took it over.

There’s one nearly good moment, with Ka-Zar and Shanna watching “television.” The punchline’s cute. It saves the comic from being entirely worthless.

Ka-Zar the Savage 32 (June 1984)

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Reading Carlin’s Ka-Zar is watching a series collapse on itself. This issue does have Marie Severin doing these wonderful imaginings of Ka-Zar and Shanna as a sitcom married couple. Those scenes, totally pointless and unbelievable, are awesome.

Otherwise… it’s awful.

Carlin turns Shanna into a ninny and a little of a harpy. She doesn’t trust Ka-Zar’s judgement because Ka-Zar’s dumb, remember? Carlin just amplifies all the textures of her personality (under Bruce Jones’s writing) until she becomes unbelievable.

The major incident with this unbelievable behavior regards Ka-Zar’s brother, who’s a villain and has a goofy mustache and dumb name. But he’s got an accent so Shanna’s going to believe him? It doesn’t seem likely.

But the plot also requires Ka-Zar to be really stupid and unobservant.

Carlin’s whole approach seems to be making the protagonists morons so they’ll fall for his bad plot ideas.

Neary’s bad art doesn’t help anything.

Ka-Zar the Savage 30 (February 1984)

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Well, after a couple good issues, Carlin’s Ka-Zar is starting to unravel.

The issue also has major art problems; some of these problems might even make Carlin’s script worse, but he still makes some awful choices.

He tries to keep up the high level of content, sending Ka-Zar and Shanna through a battle, imprisonment, another battle, an escape, another imprisonment… You get the idea.

Carlin loses track of characters a couple major times, with the character conveniently popping in to save the day, and he also makes a terrible antagonist decision. The bad guy this issue is a pterodactyl man. He thinks to himself a lot and he’s a big meanie. It’s a goofy villain, made goofier by Mary Wilshire and Ricardo Villamonte’s questionable pencils, and the issue sinks thanks to it.

The art looks dated, like a bland sixties comic.

Luckily, the strong cast still makes it throughly readable.

Ka-Zar the Savage 10 (January 1982)

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Jones sends Ka-Zar, Shanna and company to Hell.

Maybe.

This issue is good, though not great–Jones is playing within a self-imposed constrain; there’s only so many places he can go. And they’re in Hell, after all, it’s not like Anderson has a lot to draw besides scary residents. Except a couple amazing double page spreads of the landscape.

I’ve realized what’s going on with Anderson–some of it, anyway. He’s really slight on Ka-Zar’s face. It’s like he’s trying to draw him dumbfounded all the time. Otherwise, the art is pretty strong.

Jones also establishes Ka-Zar is out of regular continuity. There’s a brief exchange about comic book reading preferences and, no surprise, Ka-Zar makes Marvel his. But Shanna, the smarter one, is a Superman aficionado.

The issue plays like Jones was reading Dante’s Inferno and wanted pay homage, but it’s enthusiastically well-written.

Ka-Zar‘s (almost) back.

Ka-Zar the Savage 9 (December 1981)

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Ka-Zar is nowhere near the level it was three issues ago, but Jones has definitely partially recovered. He gets away from the Atlantean technology and gives Ka-Zar and Shanna a real problem to deal with.

Shanna loosed a giant griffin (inadvertently) and they need to deal with it before it kills all their flying friends from back when the series was awesome.

Jones paces the issue really well, manages to work the character drama into it too. Shanna’s got a love interest (a robotic one) and Jones sells her conflict. His characters are far from perfect; she’s a little bit fickle and Ka-Zar’s occasionally a moron. Their lack of perfection makes all the difference.

Unfortunately, Anderson’s still rushing through. His panel composition is stunning–there’s one amazing sequence in particular–but his level of detail is still low.

I like this Ka-Zar issue… but I miss loving the every issue.

Ka-Zar the Savage 8 (November 1981)

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Between Jones exploring the history of Atlantis themed entertainment and Anderson apparently deciding to be lazy, Ka-Zar doesn’t feel much like itself.

The problem isn’t really Anderson, though his lack of detail is stunning. He takes the time on his panel composition, but the actual faces and figures are broad. The issue is almost entirely expositional–Jones goes through a little action, a lot of bickering and it’s all for a little joke. Maybe Anderson just couldn’t get interested.

Shanna and Ka-Zar spend most of the issue in a futuristic Atlantean outpost, on the run from a deadly robot. Not much jungle adventure going on. Jones loses his hold on the characters and the issue. He tries and fails.

As far as the creativeness behind the Atlantean outpost plot line… it’s good. It’s very creative. It’s just not the right presentation of the material for a comic book.

I’m bummed.

Ka-Zar the Savage 7 (October 1981)

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This issue isn’t a success, not entirely, but it’s not bad. It’s also why I love and defend Bruce Jones’s writing.

I was almost going to say his honor.

Anyway, the issue opens with Ka-Zar and Shanna bickering over Shanna getting busy with the Atlantean ghost last issue. It’s a fast, hilarious dialogue exchange in about nine panels, maybe twelve. It’s just great.

But then the issue itself is Ka-Zar telling Shanna about a dream and Shanna amateurishly psychoanalyzing it.

So you get Ka-Zar’s recounting of the dream, then Shanna’s interpretation of it. It’s a lot of content, including Jones playing with the differing views on events.

The dream part isn’t great, but the psychoanalyzing is a lot of fun. Jones’s ambitious with the experimentation–jungle adventure, psychoanalysis, Robert E. Howard and Cthulhu.

Jerry Bingham joins Anderson on pencils, leading to good art. The script’s too restrained for great art.

Ka-Zar the Savage 6 (September 1981)

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Jones and Ka-Zar have their first mediocre issue. Anderson is fine, opening the issue with this amazing panel of a snow covered jungle, but the story is lacking.

The issue concentrates on Shanna this time and Jones hurries her through a life crisis. It turns out Ka-Zar‘s Atlantis isn’t really in Marvel Universe continuity (or, if it is, the Atlantean in this issue’s never heard of Namor). It’s a quick little love story, with Shanna getting an Atlantean ghost as an admirer.

But Jones removes the drama from it. She doesn’t have to pick between men, she has to pick between Ka-Zar living and dying. That development changes the story’s trajectory, making it melodramatic and common.

And even though Jones’s characterization of Shanna isn’t bad, her suitor’s pretty lame.

It feels like a rush attempt–or even a regular one–when the story demands more thoughtfulness, more attention to detail.

Ka-Zar the Savage 5 (August 1981)

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It’s a flashback issue, but only flashing back to right before the first issue of the series. Jones gives the reader an insight into what’s made Ka-Zar so thoughtful about his place in the world (other than being the protagonist in a thoughtful comic book).

Jones gets away with a lot here because he realizes he needs to make Ka-Zar feel identifiable to the reader. There are quizzical pop culture references, making one wonder if all Ka-Zar’s time in the civilized world is spent watching TV or movies. But it works, because Jones has to make his struggles (as the protagonist) matter. They’re also pretty funny.

The issue is split between resolving the opening arc and the flashback, about half and half. Jones and Anderson’s trip, in the flashback, through the Savage Land is utterly fantastic. It mixes action and humanity.

I can’t believe this series isn’t more well-known.

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