Lore Of The Jungle
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its eighty-first choice, Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan The Joe Kubert Years Volume One, by Joe Kubert and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows
Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan The Joe Kubert Years Volume One
Writer/ Artist: Joe Kubert with Burne Hogarth
Colourist: Tatjana Wood
Dark Horse Comics
Today’s graphic novel choice is the first volume reprinting the first eight issues of Joe Kubert’s Tarzan run. Originally published by DC back in 1972, Kubert brought Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous ape-man to life with style and panache here.
The first four issues tell the origin of Tarzan, how his parents, the Greystokes, were stranded in Africa and how they had Tarzan as a baby there. Kubert also retells his young life and how he is adopted by chimp Kala, who takes him as he own baby.
Kubert was master of the comic line and his lithe, lissome Tarzan really feels like the master of the jungle. Wood’s colouring really brings his work to life on the page.
The fifth story Land Of The Giants suffers a little because Burne Hogarth assisted Kubert on the story. There is nothing wrong with Hogarth as an artist but stylistically he is very different to Kubert and so there is a visual disconnect in this issue.
The three following issues see Kubert return to drawing in full and they are much more satisfying. The Captive sees Tarzan rescue elephant Tantor only to get captured by the African natives while Balu is a tale about Tarzan trying to protect the baby chimps from the lethal advances of a pair of panthers. The final story here, The Nightmare, deals with Tarzan hallucinating from a piece of bad meat he has liberated from the natives’ cookpot.
There is a refreshing simplicity here that Kubert manages to instill in every story. Okay the portrayal of the natives isn’t particularly nuanced. But this is a time capsule of when Burroughs wrote them. However Kubert’s linework is magnificent throughout. He is able to convey the deadly beauty of the jungle and the kinetic majesty of Tarzan’s movements. He had a long and distinguished career as an editor, a writer and an artist and the impressive thing about looking at his comic art is just how effortless he made it all seem. Every line here serves a purpose and there is a brutal elegance to Kubert’s Tarzan that very few other comic artists have managed to match. He is also an exceptional storyteller too with each page offering clarity and concision for the reader. Kubert’s exceptional covers are reproduced beautifully here as he was a master of the single image as well as the sequential tale.
Joe Kubert’s Tarzan is visceral, dynamic and a real treat for fans of classic comicbooks.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far