Lords of the Jungle #1
(Dynamite Entertainment– Writer: Corinna Bechko, Artist: Roberto Castro)
Every once in a while I wonder how many nooks and crannies of comic books there are left to explore. I’ve been reading comics for close to 30 years and am well aware of what’s happened since the 1980’s, but there’s about 60 years that’s still an undiscovered country for me. Or, a lost city in the middle of the jungle, in this case. For this review I learned who Sheena is. In this issue writer Corinna Bechko focuses on schooling the newjacks on who The Queen of the Jungle is, only giving us a little Tarzan at the end. It works to a degree, although there is a lot of choppiness to get from Sheena’s world to Tarzan’s.
Sheena is a very important character – one of the earliest “jungle women” in comics. Sheena is a creation of Will Eisner and S.M. “Jerry” Iger from way back in 1937. Sheena is the first female character to get her own titled comic book series, predating Wonder Woman by three years. Sheena is the star of multiple TV and film adaptations. And yes, Sheena is a punk rocker, apparently the inspiration for the classic Ramones song and even appearing in the liner notes for the album Rocket to Russia. A very cool resume for sure, but how does it translate to the modern day? I’d say just OK, judging from this issue.
There are a lot of things I liked about this comic, from the Alex Ross cover art, to the kinetic action-packed interior art of Roberto Castro, to the allegorical tale about how we’ve been screwing up our natural ecosystems for a long time. Even the wacky Golden Age qualities of Sheena, from her panther sidekick and her talking parrot buddy Pete were charming. It’s when Sheena is a part of an explosive cataclysm caused by evil land developers that things get wonky. She passes through the pool of a sacred temple and ends up in 1936. She meets a monkey buddy, sees a bunch of Leopard Men get gunned down by another set of evil developers, and then things cut to London where we get a glimpse of Tarzan.
Again, this is an okay intro to things that could lead to something really cool. Hopefully Tarzan and Sheena are having jungle adventures sooner rather than later, although something tells me we’re probably spending an issue with Tarzan next. It’s an interesting idea casting Sheena in the modern day, only to take her back to around the time when her original stories took place. It also helps to deal with some of the potentially odd or uncomfortable details about telling a story that takes place in the jungle that went over easier back in the 1930s (talking animals, lost cities), while hopefully just avoiding any kind of racial awkwardness altogether.
What hopefully happens from here is that the action takes us from point A to C quickly, and we can get to the meat of the plot. I for one am curious to see how Sheena will get out of the predicament she’s left in, staring down a machine gun armed only with a knife and wearing a leopard print bathing suit. Also hopefully some big questions are answered, for instance just how many orphans were left behind in the jungle from the 19th century to the 1930’s anyway?