Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you ask for something and it magically appears.  Like the new Dark Horse Comics’ graphic novel Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Once and Future Tarzan I originally reviewed a one-shot initial version of this story here at borg way back in 2012.  I liked the retro adventure vibe and thought that it begged for an expanded story.  At last writer Alan Gordon has taken Tarzan into the distant future in a full 15-part epic, as a 300-year-old survivalist who encounters a future world right out of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes, Nolan and Johnson’s Logan’s Run, or Richard Matheson’s I am Legend.  Tarzan and Jane join a tribe of warrior women on their quest–Tarzan is a well-educated leader who communes with the animal kingdom, and Jane brings her own special skill set to this adventure.

Readers will find a densely written graphic novel with many literary references and a thoroughly researched, thoroughly faithful look at Burroughs’ Tarzan, with the building of a great expansion world for the character, loyal to the spirit of the original stories.   It’s a mix of fantasy and James Bond action, as the Tarzan of the past confronts a future world reeling from decades of mishandling.  Tarzan has been secretly protecting animals, species other humans failed to protect, and Tarzan brings them into this future.  It’s a story of the past catching up with mankind, and a glimmer of hope via the legend of Tarzan.  Can the future still be saved for all of life on Earth, before nothing is left of the natural world?  Gordon’s story suggests the possibility and the story itself serves as its own sci-fi warning to take care of what we have before it’s gone.  The story isn’t dark and daunting, but it has that fantasy adventure tone of the age of serial adventures, peppered with humorous dialogue, too (some of the callbacks to Tarzan’s past are particularly funny).

The imagery of artists Thomas Yeates (Prince Valiant, Conan) and Bo Hampton (Viking Glory, Batman) is gorgeous, and it wouldn’t succeed so well without the complimentary color palette used by colorists Steve Oliff and Lori Almeida.  It has the nostalgic look of Illustrated Classics, but with more movement and action, something that will appeal to fans of Matt Kindt’s Dept.H and Black Badge, Phil Noto’s retro styled art, P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Wagner’s The Ring, and the imagery of The Hobbit artist David Wenzel.  Parts feel like a voyage of Captain Nemo, Captain Blood, Conan the Barbarian, or Red Sonja.  All of these fantasies share the common quest, the world outside of a present day reality, stocked with nicely fleshed-out legend and lore.

Other elements–the post-apocalyptic mix of nostalgia and the modern–suggest this isn’t far from where Waterworld or Mad Max could have ended up if genres were switched.  And the warrior battles may entice newer fans of Black Panther and Wonder Woman to the Tarzan mythos.

The Once and Future Tarzan is exactly what readers are looking for when they dart to the section of comics at their comic book shop from publishers like Dynamite, IDW, and Dark Horse, comic book companies that hold many licenses for classic properties that could otherwise end up forgotten as their fan base dwindles because of the age of the fan base or changing times–unless creators continue to build on classics as was done here.  Any of the Golden Age comic book characters would be lucky to get an updated series by Gordon, Yeates, and Hampton.

Here is a preview from the book:

Timeline crossings like Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, surprising places like The Prisoner.  There’s a lot in the mix, and this is a book for repeated readings, but the result works, and sets up the possibility of future stories.

A fun ride and significant contribution to the ongoing legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters, The Once and Future Tarzan, is available for pre-order now here at Amazon from Dark Horse Comics.  Or look for it at Elite Comics or your local comic book store.  It’s published ship date is December 11.

 

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