Friday, July 15, 2011
Savages and Sun Gods
Astonishing Tales #4 (Feb. 1970)
"The Sun God!"
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artist: Barry Smith
Inker: Sam Grainger
Karen: Way back in February of last year, I reviewed Astonishing Tales 3 (see it here). I've finally acquired the following issues and decided to read and review them. I'll just be looking at the Ka-Zar portion of this split comic. Not that I don't like Dr. Doom, but I find the Ka-Zar tale more interesting. It would be great if Marvel would collect these stories in a TPB. It would be worth it for the early Barry Smith art alone.
Karen: The mad priestess Zaladane has brought war to the Savage Land. Flying in on pterodactyls, she and her people reign fire on the peaceful green-skinned Vala-Kuri people. Ka-Zar is miles away and needs some speedy transportation. He wrestles down a unicorn(!!) and heads off for the city, leaving behind his buddy Tongah and Garokk, the petrified man, who appears to be made of stone; unlike Stone Boy of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, Garokk is quite mobile. In turn, Tongah leaves Garokk, who is left to muse about youth abandoning age and age burying youth. He's that kinda guy.
Karen: Zaladane and her forces are wreaking havoc on the poor Vala Kuri, who have neither the means nor desire to fight back. But along comes an enraged Ka-Zar, who launches himself at one of the pterodactyl riders, bringing man and beast down to the ground. He quickly punches out the rider and takes his flaming device, while Zabu works on the dinosaur. Ka-Zar also waxes a little philosophical here - surely the very young Gerry Conway expressing himself. I've noticed that his early stories seem much more like he's writing a novel rather than a comic.
Karen: In the meantime Garokk has reached the Sun God shrine where he was first transformed. He reaches out to touch it and there is a strange energy enveloping him. A very bizarre-looking Tyrannosaurus Rex comes lurching towards him, and he blasts it away. This was a well-composed sequence by Smith. While Ka-Zar and newly arrived friend Tongah face down Zaladane, a giant fiery head appears in the sky -it is Garokk, now completely changed into the Sun God. He demands an end to the fighting and uses his powers (apparently pretty god-like ones) to destroy all the fire-blasting weapons. The invaders stop attacking -all that is but Zaladane, who is infuriated by this development. She sweeps down and grabs Ka-Zar in her mount's talons and flies off with him! Can you say, to be continued?
Karen: This was a real rip-snorting yarn. I've always liked the Savage Land. It has so many possibilities. Gerry Conway does a nice job here of pacing the story. Although the unicorn seemed fairly out of place, I have to say. I wonder if that was his idea, or Smith's? But otherwise, we have all the elements -the hero, the evil queen, the wizard/god -that make this a classic tale of fantasy- adventure.
Karen: It's really fun to look at this early work of Barry Smith. It's instantly recognizable, but it's also clearly still Smith learning his craft. He has a gift for portraying the fantastic, but at times his figures and especially faces are a bit off. The T-Rex mentioned earlier is a good example of this; it looks almost more-bug-like than reptilian. But Smith still has a very appealing style which shows wonderful flashes of the brilliance he would eventually achieve.