If you’re looking for an offbeat collection of stories to read, you can’t get much more offbeat than this collection of Mark Waid and Andy Kubert’s run on Ka-Zar, from 1997. This collection’s contents include Ka-Zar #8-14 and Ka-Zar Annual ’97, with the majority of the artwork being done by Andy Kubert, with some assists by Walter McDaniel, Louis Small Jr. and Aaron Lopresti. This is definitely some of the weirdest stuff to come out of Marvel Comics during the late ‘90s period, and it’s easy to see why, when you have a character like Ka-Zar taking on none other than Thanos. To say that these two characters aren’t even close on a power scale isn’t doing it justice, but that’s just what you have here, as Ka-Zar finds his brother in cahoots with Thanos, who’s trying to get himself free of a dimension that he’s stuck in.
The scripting by Mark Waid is all over the place here, as he does some experimentation that yields intriguing results, ranging from good to bad, with some ugly thrown in for good measure. Most of my personal experience with Ka-Zar is formed from his team-ups with other heroes, plus this series, so I don’t know much of his relationship with his brother, Parnival, but I can’t stand the character as he is written in this book. Waid plays up the ridiculousness of the character quite a bit, and when finally Parnival is dispatched, I breathed a sigh of relief that we were spared more of that character, at least for the time being. Waid explores just why Ka-Zar is having personal issues, with regards to technology, and his sudden craving of it, and it definitely helps to define the character a bit, as well as his relationship with Shanna. Shanna as written here is an extremely strong-willed, powerful woman, and I love how she acts with Ka-Zar, especially when he finally tells her what he’s realized about himself and his issue with technology. She’s a far cry from most female superheroes, in that she’s uncompromising and very strong-willed. Waid writes Ka-Zar and Shanna quite well together.
The story takes a bunch of twists and turns, as Parniva Plunder / Thanos transport the Savage Land into New York City, giving the term Urban Jungle a new twist. The plots are big and crazy, but Waid has fun with the premise, moving through it quickly, as a means to an end in the plot. The fallout from the big Thanos story finds Shanna changed quite a bit, which brings the High Evolutionary into the picture, suddenly intrigued by the changes that have been wrought in Shanna.
The biggest draw in this collection, for me personally, was the artwork by Andy Kubert. Ever since I first saw his artwork, he has been my preferred Kubert brother, and his artwork here is absolutely incredible. I loved his work on X-Men, but his work here surpasses it because there’s so much more going on visually thanks to the script by Waid. There’s tremendous amounts of action and adventure, and he brings it all to life wonderfully. His Shanna and Ka-Zar are supremely ripped and athletic looking, the best renditions of the characters that I’ve ever seen. This is some of the best work I’ve seen from Andy Kubert, and if you’re a fan of his artwork, you must pick up this collection, if only for that. He makes this book come alive, and gives the absurd premise some much-needed artistic grounding, which makes it far more enjoyable, entertaining and exciting.
This is definitely a strange storyline and book to have merited a collection, but I’m really glad it did, as I get to experience Ka-Zar’s fight against Thanos once again, and see Ka-Zar tame the urban jungle.