TARZAN VERSUS THE BARBARIANS
Titan’s latest collection of classic Tarzan weekly newspaper cartoon strips covers the period from May 1940 to October 1943 and carries on more or less exactly in the vein of last year’s impressive first large-format compilation Tarzan and the City of Gold. Simply put, if you liked the first one you won’t find much to fault in this latest volume.
Interestingly, the Lord of the Jungle is on unfamiliar terrain in the first two stories reproduced here. In the exciting and fast-moving Peoples of the Sea and The Fire, he inadvertently becomes caught in the conflict between two warring communities who are both under threat from a nearby grumbling volcano. The story, like many of these linear, simply-plotted tales, consists of Tarzan under attack, Tarzan captured, Tarzan escaping and Tarzan saving the day. Hogarth’s art is, as ever, fantastically detailed even if the framing is utterly un-dynamic and undeniably primitive, but the story – and Hogarth’s illustrations - really comes alive in its last few instalments when the volcano blows its top, lava streaming through the streets of the city, which has been rather unwisely built at the foot of the mountain and later when an earthquake and a tsunami devastate the settlement near the sea. Tarzan heads home (some unspecified location in a deeply-generic African landscape) but his journey is interrupted in Tarzan against Dagga Ramba, when he becomes involved in a battle with the military might of the rampaging Askaris and their armoured weaponry. The shortest yarn here, Tarzan and the Fatal Fountain, is the most fantastical story in the collection, presenting a natural potion which encourages gigantism and allows Tarzan to battle eight-foot ‘monster men’ and, in its final pages, a super-sized ape in a thrilling mid-air climax aboard a huge airplane. The titular Tarzan Versus the Barbarians is probably the most traditional escapade in this second volume, as Tarzan is pitched into combat with Vikings and Amazons and assorted jungle-dwelling barbarians and, like its predecessors, it’s packed with action, incident and raw heroism.
The stories themselves may be unsophisticated, one-note, and packed with stereotypes – particularly, here, a string of wide-eyed princesses who fall in love with Tarzan the moment they set eyes on him, much to his disinterest – but it’s Hogarth’s lavish, intricate artwork which makes these strips so readable. There’s a real cinematic sweep to his illustrations, capturing a wild, untamed (if unrecognisable) Africa and with the baddies clearly defined as bad guys and the swooning heroines lifted straight from the flickering black-and-white cinema screens of the day. His greatest strength remains in his lithe and lively images of animal life, from pouncing leopards, rampaging elephants and apes and, in Dagga Rhamba, a camel whose fate not only underscores yet again the casual savagery and brutality of Tarzan’s world but which could even bring a tear to the eye of the more sensitive reader.
If anything, this is a more enjoyable and immersive set of stories than those reproduced in last year’s volume. The scripting is more assured and Hogarth’s artwork is even bolder and more confident. Beautifully and lovingly reproduced, this is another essential collection for Tarzan fans and classic comics’ aficionados and absolutely deserves a place on your bookshelf alongside City of Gold. Classy and jungleicious.
INFO: WRITER: DON GARDEN / ARTIST: BURNE HOGARTH / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW