Review by Frank Plowright
Tarzan’s been seen in the jungle, and he’s been seen in the Edwardian civilisation running parellel to his jungle times. He’s also been seen in the present, even drawn by Thomas Yeates as in the first three chapters here (sample art), but this is the first time Tarzan has been seen in the future.
That future seems one not too far away as some trappings of our civilisation are obtainable via dealers, and the toppled remains of familiar landmarks are seen, yet there are also mutant monsters and returned wooly mammoths. Tarzan is now three hundred years old, yet even with the world half destroyed there are those who would seek to control what’s left.
It’s a viable idea, and artists Yeates and then Bo Hampton create a strong visual identity for the future, but it’s not as easy to work through Alan Gordon’s writing. The story is peppered with unnecessary quotes, and references to past adventures, but they distract and slow down, proving Gordon is either knowledgeable or has undertaken in-depth research at the cost of making his story sluggish. Eventually, they’re forced and irritating. It’s around halfway that he finally kicks it into gear, although along the way we’ve seen firm favourite scenes like Tarzan seeing off a crocodile and a tiger, but too many words remain a problem from start to finish. In his introduction Gordon writes of viewing each short chapter as the equivalent to an old movie reel adventure, but that approach also gives the impression of missing structure as it takes some wild swerves.
While the art is perfectly okay, it’s neither Yeates or Hampton matching previous glories, and in Hampton’s case there are some flat and sketchy faces. They’re both good with animals, though (and it’s surprising how many artists aren’t), and with making the wild swerves of location seem more logical than they are.
Gordon does work toward an interesting idea, but then squanders it via neglect, and what should be a happy homecoming for Tarzan is rushed and shaky. Kurt Busiek, Robert Kirkman and Erik Larsen, all writers who know about superior storytelling, are happy to have their enthusiasm for The Once and Future Tarzan splashed across the back cover. Were they really reading this?