Book Review: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Jungle Tales of Tarzan (Dark Horse Comics, 2015)

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Jungle Tales of Tarzan


Martin Powell (writer), Carlos Arguello (art), Diana Leto (art), George Tuska (art), Louis Mitchell (art), Mark Wheatley (art), Sergio Cariello (art), Steve Price (art), Patrick Thorpe (art), Pablo Marcos (art), Nik Poliwko (art), Lowell Isaac (art), Jamie Chase (art), Diego Rondon (colours), Dave Lanphear (letters), Oscar Gonzalez Loyo (letters), Tom Yeats (art), Steven E. Gordon (art), Will Meugniot (art), Terry Beaty (art), Tomas M. Aranda (art)

My rating: 3.6 of 5 stars

There are few characters as enduring as that of Tarzan of the Apes. He is a character from the literary world and also from that of pulp adventures and even a multitude of comics – over the years I’ve read versions of the characters from across the spectrum, from the originals of Borroughs himself to all manner of adaptations and spin-offs (including the adventures of his son Korak).
This latest printed tale of the white-Ape of the Mangani is interesting in that it is both a very comfortable and familiar experience whole being also something that has a newness to it.
At its core, it takes directly from the source material, adapting a series of short stories written by Edgar Rice Borroughs that are (very) loosely connected to one another. Beyond that, these stories to me stand out for a couple of reasons; Firstly, they are all set at a time when Tarzan is an extremely young man, barely entering his 20’s and as a result, we get to spend time with a young man who is apart from the tribe he has been born and raised by and is facing challenges as he tries to find his place amongst them and in the wild they all inhabit. Secondly, it is an anthology of stories that brings together a host of artists, each story getting its own, and the result is a cohesive set of inter-connected tales that feel so yet each one gets to take on a distinct character.

The stories themselves are far less remarkable than the grand adventures many people think of when you hear the name Tarzan. These are not tales in the city of Opar or with armies of foreign invaders where our hero faces off against massive odds. These are tales of a young man in whom we can see the early signs of a noble heart, of a caring member of his tribe and a curious and sharp mind with a sense of humour – we see some of the ginger steps toward the man he becomes, the one we all know so well. We get to see Tarzan facing the challenges of being a lone human (who does not know WHAT he is) as he lives with his Mangani brethren and has romantic feelings toward one of the females – which seems both logical given the basic setting and is handled actually quite well here – and we see his explorations into the jungle and early dealings with the cannibalistic jungle tribe who he hates for killing his “mother” and yet finds a connect with even he cannot yet explain. My favourite moments I must admit, were the too-brief bits with him and his friendship with Tantor the elephant.

Drawn with a mixed degree of success, the stories are nonetheless all good fun and apart from perhaps one or two where the art was less exciting than the rest, overall it was an interesting experience and the wide variety of visual styles – from painted to very familiarly comicy – added some nice flavour to things.

Overall I have to say that while it is no extraordinary or truly amazing a book, this collection is what I would describe as subtle in its ability to impress but impress it does. It does not go for grandeur, it does not try and make a bigger deal of the events within and to build bombast or the like – it has a simple goal and to me there is a clear love for the source material that comes through from the creators driving the project. It accomplishes its goals admirably and taking Tarzan back to his roots almost literally, without the many frills that Hollywood has added over decades and even feeling less like a “white saviour” than many incarnations have fallen prey to over the years, its an intriguing exploration of a very specific kind of fish out of water.


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