Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle #1

Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 6, 2001

Cover date: January 2002

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Carlos Meglia
Inker: Carlos Meglia

"Sons of the Jungle" (Part 1 of 3)

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (

On the calm waters of the East African Bay a barkentine named The Fuwalda erupts in mutiny. Black Michael, the leader of the mutiny, tells his men that the vessel is theirs but is reminded of their captives. John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke protects his Lady Alice from the mutineers who advance towards them. Black Michael stops his men and tells the two passengers that no harm will come to them. He adds that only he stands between them and the crew's bloodlust.

As crew prepares to put the two off ship into a lifeboat John argues that they can't simply strand them on an uncharted island. Black Michael explains that his crew will not risk the gallows by putting in to a civilized port and that he cannot guarantee their safety. John asks him to reconsider especially since his wife is with child. Alice instructs her husband not to argue on her or the baby's account contending that if a hangman's noose does not find them then the wrath of God surely will.

A crewmate advances on her but before he can do anything another member of the crew cries out eyes aloft. All eyes go skyward as they see an object streak across the sky and crash onto the island. Seeing this as a sign Black Michael orders his crew to set sail for John and Alice's port of call. The Fuwalda catches a southerly wind and sails for Capetown leaving the coast for the land of men.

On the island the apes Kerchak, his mate Kala, Tublat and others investigate the fallen object. Kerchak approaches the object Tublat asks if it is a sky leopard and a baby crawls out. Kerchak cries out that this is no leopard and grabs the child shouting that the baby is from the world of ghosts and he is going to return it to its brothers. Tublat stops him claiming that the balu (baby) is hers sent to replace the one that Sheeta the leopard took from her. Kerchak insists that he must destroy the child but the baby disagrees and breaks one of Kerchak's digits.

Kerchak drops the child, which Kala catches saying that the baby is strong. Kerchak tells her to take the child since its cry hurts his ears. She does so and names the child Argo-Zan, which means fire-skin.

In Capetown Lord Greystoke and Alice's child is born. John announces that they will name the baby after himself and his grandfather and calls the child the future Lord of Greystoke. Alice asks if they will return to England and John replies that since his business in Johannesburg is finished they will return as soon as she is fit to travel home to Greystoke Hall. He quietly adds that they will never see blasted wilderness again.

Several years later the jungle becomes alive with Kala's cry for Argo-Zan. She asks the other apes if they had seen him and Tublat chides her for mothering the child too much. She tells him to go back to feeding his fat stomach and continues her search. Suddenly the leopard Sheeta savagely attacks her. Argo-Zan appears out of nowhere, grabs the leopard and throws it aside. While the other apes beat the leopard with clubs Argo-Zan goes to his mother's side. As she dies she tells her adopted child that he had come from the sky and that some day he will return to the sky and then they will meet again.

Kerchak approaches and tells Argo-Zan that Kala spoke the truth. When Argo asks what he means Kerchak says that he is not one of them, not an ape. He continues to say that only Kala wanted him and that Argo must now leave the forest and return to the sky. Argo-Zan picks up Kala's body and replies that he will leave as soon as he sees to his mother's body. He also warns that Kerchak should stay away from him until then.

After dealing with Kala's body Argo-Zan's friend N'Kima asks where he is going. Argo-Zan tells him to go away, but N'Kima continues to follow telling Argo that the portion of forest he is entering is cursed. Argo again tells him to go away but the monkey ignores him telling him that the area they are in is the footprint of the sky-leopard and that they should leave because the sky-leopard will eat him. Argo explains that Kala had said he was one of the sky-apes and this is where he had come from.

The two come upon the spacecraft that Argo had landed in. Argo says that Kala must have lied about him being from the sky because there is nothing there but a strange egg. N'Kima shouts that it is the egg of a great hungry bird and pleads with Argo for them to leave. Argo tells him that the bird must be long gone.

As he investigates the craft a holographic image of Jor-El and Lara appears. Jor-El tells Argo that they have appeared in this form to teach him of his home because no matter where in the cosmos he has landed he must know of his origins. The image goes on to explain that his world no longer exists and that he is the sole survivor of the planet Krypton. The pod contains all the knowledge of Krypton and Jor-El instructs his son that he should study the information for it is not only the story of his people but his legacy.

Back in England young John Clayton sits in class lost in his own thoughts. After asking him a question and receiving no answer his instructor tells the young man that, while he may be the future Lord of Greystoke, John is in his class and will be subject to his rules. After class another instructor tells John's teacher, Haversham, that the word going around is that he is risking the wrath of his peerage again. Haversham explains that the Greystoke boy is a riddle to him because despite being the most capable student he has ever tutored the boy seems very distant and troubled as if he was somehow displaced and incomplete.

Meanwhile in the forests of Africa N'Kima finds Argo-Zan staring into the sky. N'Kima tells his friend that Kerchak is leading the apes to the mountains for the rainy times, but Argo brushes him off saying he has little care for Kerchak and the others. N'Kima asks him if he will ever return to his tribe and Argo replies that his home is gone and not with the tribe. N'Kima questions him on this and Argo continues by saying his home once circled one of the stars above, a red star that he was trying to find.

The answer makes N'Kima's head hurt but suggests that the star may not be in the sky but in the river. Argo asks what he means and N'Kima points to the river where torches burn like stars. Argo tells him that they are not stars but apes, apes like him with no hair. N'Kima doesn't believe him because no one can see that far.

In England John Clayton and his wife Alice discuss the future of their son. The younger John Clayton is driving his father crazy because despite John being first in his form at Eton he turned down an offer from Oxford and the Horse Guard. When John asks his son why he wanders the estate like a poet the only answer he gets is that the younger Clayton has no sense of belonging, which only serves to confuse the elder Clayton.

Back in Africa the tribe that Argo had spotted hears a fierce roar. They think it is one of the great apes and one suggests that they should never have come there. Argo-Zan suddenly appears telling them that they should not fear him. He announces that he thought he was alone and the only one but now he rejoins them, the people of Krypton. Argo-Zan says that he is Kal-El, son of Jor-El and that he is home.

5Story - 5: This is one of those times where I really wish I had a better base of knowledge with the subject at hand. I have read very little of the Tarzan legend and honestly the only contact I have had with him is the Disney animated movie and the Christopher Lambert Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan motion picture. So I can't talk of how right or wrong Chuck Dixon got the Tarzan angle outside of those two examples. Given his emphasis on research I am going to assume that he did his homework because he is usually very good about such things.

DC Elseworlds stories have been hit and miss lately and this is definitely a hit. When you think about it this is really a no-brainer. The two characters, Superman and Tarzan, have similar backgrounds. Both were born somewhere else and adopted by a family not of their kind. Both find out about their origins and become champions of their adoptive peoples. This concept works better with the current post-Crisis Superman than it would have with the pre-Crisis Superman since the current Superman thinks of himself more as human than Kryptonian something his predecessor didn't share. Tarzan usually stays with his people and embraces his adoptive world just as the current Superman has.

High concept aside, I really enjoyed this comic. Dixon leaves his usual milieu of urban street crime, at which he excels, and dives head first into the jungles of Africa and the stuffy world of England. While the story had very little action in it, a staple of Dixon's work (I truly believe the man is the best action writer in the business right now) it is heavy on character, something else Dixon does very well with.

Dixon makes good use of the Elseworlds concept by having the arrival of Superman's ship serve as the turning point in history. The early mutiny scene was a lot of fun and despite the fact that we see Black Michael for all of three pages you do get a real sense of his character. The apes were well done as well and I have to say it was good that Dixon skipped the early days of Argo-Zan's existence and skipped right to the point of Kala's death. I believe that the early days would have slowed the story down and thrown off the pacing. The scene with the baby Argo-Zan breaking Kerchak's finger was enough to give you a sense of where things were going. The scene of young John Clayton's birth was nice as well, especially the characterization of the older John hating where they are. I think it foreshadows a conflict between father and son.

Dixon's back and forth between Argo-Zan and young John Clayton was a nice touch. This mirror technique served to show that while the events of the story happened things are not right. John has very little dialogue but you still get the sense that he is a very unhappy young man who feels out of place in the world he is in. I've always been a fan of characters having a destiny. It especially works here considering the fact that the two characters, John particularly, are not where he should be. It seems cold blooded, but John's parents were supposed to die. It's how the legend goes, just as Jor-El and Lara are supposed to die. It's things like this that make the story so entertaining.

I also enjoyed how Argo-Zan found out about his origin. In a way it reflects the Christopher Reeve film with the whole parent dying and searching for origin angle. Yes Clark wasn't kicked out of the house by Ma Kent like Argo-Zan was banished by Kerchak, but the theory holds. Also the bit where he thinks that just because the people he sees are hairless like he is that they are the people of Krypton was amusing and fitting. Seriously, how is Argo supposed to know the difference? He has only seen apes and other jungle creatures. He's never seen a human before. I am looking forward to see how this story plays out.

It will be interesting to see how the story plays itself out. I'm not one to speculate on how storylines will go, because I am usually wrong, but given the cover of this issue I have a feeling that a confrontation between the two heroes is inevitable. I don't think there will be a knock down, drag out fight because, well, John is human and Kal can change the course of mighty rivers and all that. The other thing I am looking for is whether or not Kryptonite will be introduced in a future issue. It seems cliche, but I think Dixon could make it work.

In closing, this story was a nice surprise. I really didn't know what to expect and I was very pleased with how the comic turned out.

5Art - 5: I'd like to call Carlos Meglia's style "mangaish" but there is a lot of detail in his art than you usually find in the manga-influenced artists. Usually I am not one for this style of art, but the rule of thumb I have always used is that if the story starts off with that style of art than that's the style the story has adopted and needs to be judged on those merits. Maybe this is just me.

In any case, I enjoyed the art thoroughly. From beginning to end Meglia has a style that is pleasing to the eye and conveys a lot of emotion. The detail is very nice. From page one, with the creaky boards, blood on the ground and that hand reaching up from below deck to the lush forests of Africa to the prim and proper setting of England this art went all over the place and didn't break stride.

The figure work was nice as well. It's rare to see so much emotion in this type of art but the feelings of the characters really come through with their expressions. Young John Clayton in particular who, as stated, has very little dialogue is drawn in such a way that you know what he is thinking and feeling. Kal-El has a similar effect and it accented Dixon's writing nicely.

I also liked Meglia's version of Jor-El and Lara and the discovery sequence in general. It's different from what has come before and I liked the robes. The information coming alive was a nice touch and the S symbol was added in such a way that it was subtle but effective. The sequence also dissolved nicely to the scenes in England and made the transition very smooth. This also highlighted the mirror effect with both characters learning at the same time.

I hope the art continues to be this good. I enjoyed it more than I would have normally liked this type of artwork.

5Cover Art - 5: A very nice cover. The mirror effect blends nicely with the story inside. There was a lot of detail and the layout was very cool giving you a look at what has come before and what will be in this story. It really makes you want to buy the book.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2002

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