Review by Win Wiacek
This concluding volume of Joe Kubert’s 1970s Tarzan material again mixes stories written and drawn by Kubert with a longer adaptation of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, this time Tarzan and the Lion Man.
It’s the seventeenth Tarzan novel, and possibly the most intriguing conception of the entire canon, adapted over four chapters. It opens with a movie company on location in the deep jungle. They are making a picture about a white man raised by animals who becomes undisputed master of all he surveys. The chain of coincidences grows more improbable as actor Stanley Obroski is a dead ringer for Tarzan, which probably explains why he is taken by savages set on torturing the Jungle Legend to death.
Rescued by Tarzan, Stanley explains how the expedition was attacked, unaware exactly how much trouble his fellow actors are in. During Obroski’s absence, stand-in Rhonda Terry and starlet Naomi Madison are kidnapped by El Ghrennem’s Arab bandits. They think the production’s prop map leads to an actual valley of diamonds.
Part two reveals Rhonda taken by apes who speak Elizabethan English, and made the subject of a fierce debate. Half of the articulate anthropoids want to take her to “God” whilst the other faction believes her a proper prize of their liege lord “King Henry VIII”. Further imaginative creations include a feudal village and English castle, the bizarre human/ape hybrid calling himself God, and a war between church and state. It all leads to a dazzling, tragic conclusion.
Before the adaptation there are four standalone stories from Kubert. The collection opens with ‘Moon Beast’, which sees a mother and child brutally slaughtered and Tarzan framed for the hideous crime by cunning medicine man Zohar. Kubert takes Tarzan out of his comfort zone for ‘Ice Jungle’ when young warrior Tulum endures a manhood rite at the top of a mountain. Also converging on the site is American trust-fund brat J. Pellington Stone III who’s determined to impress his father by bagging a legendary snow ape. ‘Trial By Blood!’ sees the Ape-Man cleverly outwit a giant lizard and teach tribal elders a valuable lesson in leadership, after which albino queen Zorina seeks to extend her power by making Tarzan her consort. The mighty wanderer wants nothing to do with ‘The Game!’, and the kingdom descends into savage civil war.
A brief all-Kubert vignette has ‘Tarzan’ saving a deer from a lioness. It neatly segues into ‘Leap into Death’ starring Korak, Son of Tarzan, written by Robert Kanigher, with Kubert pencilling and inks from Russ Heath. The titanic teen nomad hunts for his stolen true love Meriem and barbarian Iagho who abducted her, before stumbling into a nest of aggressively paranoid bird-people.
Kubert ended his close association with Tarzan with ‘The Magic Herb’. He saves a couple from a crashed aeroplane and siblings Tommy and Gail urge him to help them find a legendary flower that might cure the man’s fatal ailment. However, something about them makes Tarzan deeply suspicious…
Kubert remained editor, cover artist and occasional scripter for another year, steering the Ape-Man’s path through the artistic endeavours of artists like Franc Reyes, the Redondo Studio and José Luis García-López, but his magnum opus will always be his unique jungle tales of Tarzan.
As an alternative to three Archive volumes of Kubert’s Tarzan, his entire run is collected in Tarzan: The Complete Joe Kubert Years.