A new miniseries starring Ka-Zar (a.k.a Kevin Plunder) was recently announced by Marvel, and Ka-Zar #1 will be arriving on 6/8/11 (thanks for the preview, CBR!). Ka-Zar has done a lot in the Marvel Universe; he’s teamed up with most everyone now and then, fought against the Skrulls in Secret Invasion, made it to a couple Marvel cartoons, and even had time to marry Shanna the She-Devil and have a kid. There’s so much I can talk about regarding the Lord and Lady of the Savage Land but I’ve decided to just pull a few select comics from my collection to highlight some fairly random moments.

What? I work with what I got.

We start way back in the 80s…

The cover to my copy of Ka-Zar The Savage #4

1981’s Issue #4 is the only example I have from the Ka-Zar The Savage series, and fans of mind/body swap should look out for it! The adventure opens up in the middle of a crisis. Shanna has been strapped to a flying beast and it is struck by lightning, dropping her into the waves of an ocean below. We soon join Ka-Zar, who is on a desperate search for his lady, but he has no way to know that an unconscious Shanna has already been found by one of the Savage Land’s bird men and her mind has been switched with the comatose and scheming Queen Leanne!

The issue is mostly exposition and flashbacks, and seems to be used primarily as a vehicle to explain how everyone got where they are and is intended to tie up some loose ends left dangling from the story arch in the previous issues.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its high points. Leanne is perfectly happy to use Shanna’s body to seduce Ka-Zar into doing what she wants him to…and I do mean seduce! Savage Land sand cannot feel good in some nooks and crannies, oi! Lots of romantic drama and dramatic double-crossing plays out and in the end our heroes are reunited.

One thing I also love about this issue is how clearly Ka-Zar understands the independent and fully capable woman that Shanna is; the change in “Shanna’s” attitude and actions because of Leanne’s conniving and less strong/action-oriented personality is absolutely noticed. For me this says so much about who Ka-Zar and Shanna are. Shanna is a woman of strength and courage who’s personal capabilities have not gone unnoticed. And Ka-Zar sees Shanna for who she is, not just what she is; lesser jungle men may have simply noted the fur-clad tits and ass were present and be done with it, needing a talkative villain to prematurely reveal their ruse. But Ka-Zar clearly notices that Shanna is more than just M Appeal and that she is acting out of character. This is understanding goes a long way towards saving the day. A very powerful message about female equality in Marvel’s Savage Land.

The cover to my copy of Ka-Zar #1

Now I have to jump to 1997’s Ka-Zar #1, an issue that continues to portray Shanna as a strong and fear-worthy woman while toning down Ka-Zar a tad. It should be remembered that before he was Lord of the Savage Land he was Lord Kevin Plunder from a moneyed family, and our hero is starting to miss some of the aspects of true civilization (cue Green Acres theme).

While that same civilization is actually plotting his assassination Ka-Zar is trying to teach the native Savage Land tribes baseball. It is during this time that Shanna shows up and the game is “called on account of she-devil” as Ka-Zar puts it – the tribesman literally run away from her in fear simply because she is present. Talk about a reputation.

As we see some of Mr. and Mrs. Plunder’s treehouse domestic life we are also introduced to their baby son Matthew (tied dinosaur intestine is only effective 99% of the time, after all). And as the villains bare down on our hero near the book’s conclusion we are left with a giant cliffhanger; it is Issue #1, after-all.

As a book by itself I think it’s passable; the art is typical 90s style – dark and exaggerated with long lines of grit – which would be better appreciated if there was more than one actual panel with Shanna fully visible. For the character who best benefits from the style of that era she is almost always in the background, shadow, or behind something. I’d be tempted to pick up more issues, but I can’t say that a book ostensibly about Ka-Zar’s midlife crisis interests me terribly.

The cover to my copy of Shanna The She-Devil: Survival of the Fittest #3

We’re going to do a little dimension hopping now and head over to Issue #3 of 2007’s Shanna The She-Devil: Survival of the Fittest. Since the above comic lacked a bit of Shanna art this one will make up for it in spades – even if Ka-Zar isn’t in it.

This is also not actually the 616 version of Shanna – this series is the sequel to Frank Cho’s alternate universe version of the character he wrote and drew for in 2005’s Shanna, the She-Devil. She’s actually a genetically modified woman who was nicknamed Shanna in the story as an homage to the “comic book character.”

Confused yet? Don’t worry about, just look for both Mr. Cho’s series and this one and enjoy the art. I can’t say a lot about the plot of a series I’ve only read the third issue of, but I enjoyed what I read and Khari Evans’s pencil work may be a little rough but it is still damn sexy. Unfortunately, this is the only issue of either run I’ve been able to pick up myself.

Mr. Evans is no Mr. Cho, but he doesn’t have to be. If you want some more Ka-Zar/Shanna Frank Cho goodness we just have one more dimension to hop to;

The cover to my copy of New Ultimates #1

When it comes to art Frank Cho really outdid himself for the New Ultimates series. The issues he did are beautiful. I won’t dwell too much here on this fun romp by Mr. Cho and Jeff Loeb, as many parts make it worthy of a dedicated and expanded Review at a future time. But I will say that while the Ultimate versions of Ka-Zar and Shanna are sexy and get to kick a whole lot of ass…that’s really all they do in the series. Major plot and story development is mostly left to the rest of the cast while “Sha-Zar” beat the crap out of Loki’s monstrous hoodlums in Central Park.

Not that that isn’t entertaining.

The cover to my copy of Incredible Hulks #625

Recently the 616 Ka-Zar (and Zabu) showed up in the The Incredible Hulks series. Hulk and son travel to the Savage Land when Ka-Zar calls them in after a village of refugee Sakaarians is slaughtered. Throughout the story arch we discover that Miek the Betrayer is behind everything. Once his machinations have been dealt with by Ka-Zar, Hulk, Hulk’s son Skaar, and the Warbound everyone decides to head home…well, almost everyone. Skaar has different plans…

The cover to my copy of Skaar: King of the Savage Land #1

Skaar stays behind, deciding that the Savage Land is a better place for him. Of course, as Skaar: King of the Savage Land #1 illustrates, that means that Ka-Zar now has a gamma-powered teenager running amok in his world and he has assigned Moonboy and Devil Dinosaur to keep an eye on him. This all goes to hell when Shanna and Matthew (now a young boy himself) arrive and Skaar ends up nearly killed by a dinosaur while showing off how much he doesn’t need any help.

Fans of mind control and body possession get to see more of that with Shanna again in this issue. Skaar’s recklessness accidentally frees a strange being from an alien ship, who immediately possess Shanna’s form and decrees itself ruler of the Savage Land (bringing our list of comics full circle…poor Shanna).

The series is ongoing as of this writing, and I highly recommend it. Ka-Zar’s fall from grace, the battles between beast, robot, friend, and foe, and the comic relief provided by Moonboy and Devil Dinosaur are all great. The art by Brian Ching and Rick Ketcham is lush and incredibly sexy, and I’m sure whatever happens in this series will directly effect the upcoming Ka-Zar #1. I look forward to enjoying the rest of Skaar: King of the Savage Land.

So there we have it, some random moments from Ka-Zar and Shanna’s wild career through Marvel. When done well they are two of my favorite characters to follow, and I hope these examples have helped get people a little more excited for the new series – I know I am!