One afternoon I walked into my local awesome shop and, sitting on the shelf all packaged together under a combined $30 tag, was a collection of all seven issues of Frank Cho’s Marvel Knights series Shanna the She-Devil. For those who don’t know, Marvel Knights books typically take place outside of the established Marvel 616 continuity. As a huge fan of Frank Cho’s work I couldn’t have been more excited about the chance to finally read this series, and see his take on the legendary jungle woman.

But did it live up to my own hype? Be warned, spoilers lie in wait ahead.

And raptors. Lots of raptors.

The cover to my copy of Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #1

The series starts in medias res with a military group that has crash landed in the dinosaur-filled Savage Land (not named), and they are searching for supplies. This search has brought them to a large, hidden, Nazi complex.

Inside the complex the men, with medical officer Doc, discover various large tubes filled with liquid and the curled up bodies of blonde women. Their presence activates the tubes, and all but one of the experimental women are dead – and this remaining one almost dies when she starts to drown in the tube. Ultimately, Doc is the one to save the strange woman from her liquidy fate, and she is laid aside, unconscious from her ordeal.

As the men explore the complex they find a few things; food, a box they assume is medicine (everything is in German), a dead scientist, a lone female scientist survivor, and raptors.

Quite a few raptors, actually.

The men attempt to defend themselves, but a few are killed by the creatures. Just as Doc is about to eviscerated by one he is saved when the strange woman wakes up and snaps the creature’s neck.

The cover to my copy of Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #2

Issue Two picks up four months later. The German scientist – Dr. Elsa – and the genetically enhanced woman – named “Shanna” after the comic character – have joined the men at their makeshift fort.

Shanna has become the de facto protector of the fort, because she has the strength of roughly a dozen men and is extremely resistant to injury. She’s also incredibly smart, having learned and mastered English in five weeks. All of this is wrapped up in a buxom bombshell body worthy of any pin-up.

Elsa is very secretive about the lab, but her pride for Shanna’s abilities cannot be kept in check. Doc is concerned that Shanna is more of a perfect killing machine than an actual person. This concern is escalated when Shanna nearly beats a man for talking crudely about her body, and then throws another man off a waterfall for spying on her while bathing. When this man is hunted by an aquatic creature, and Shanna silently refuses to help him despite Doc’s desperate requests for compassion and assistance (he’s eventually saved when the creature is shot), Doc fears that Shanna is truly little more than a cold, inhuman creation.

Things are made worse, however, when the medicine pack the men picked up at the Nazi complex turns out to be a boobytrap, and it releases some sort of airborne disease.

The cover to my copy of Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #3

Doc organizes a team of four – himself, Shanna, and Fodder1 and Fodder2 – to get the antidote from the Nazi complex. Dr. Elsa (one of the infected) explains that their chances of survival are already slim, but if they don’t get the medicine before eight days pass there will be no survival.

Shanna herself thinks the trip is pointless, but an impassioned speech from Doc convinces her to…well, at least to shut up. We don’t get to learn much of what she thinks of Doc’s thinking because, while pissing, Fodder1 is eaten by a T-Rex.

After a hard battle between Shanna and the creature (and some minor assistance from Doc), the She-Devil spears the creature through the chest using its own momentum, and it rolls down a hillside. The remaining trio is able to reach the complex.

The cover to my copy of Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #4

Inside the complex, good ol’ fashioned German engineering allows the team to find the antidote quickly and efficiently, along with dynamite and a vehicle. But Shanna also finds her dead tube-encased sisters, and Doc wonders whether this will reinforce in her mind that she was created to be a weapon, or show her the value and fragility of life and humanity. The stoic Shanna gives no clue to either.

The truck gets stuck on the way back to the fort, and Fodder2 is eaten by the same T-Rex that attacked last time. Shanna saves Doc from being its third human snack. They attempt to coordinate an offensive against the creature but, well, it’s a T-Rex and things quickly fall apart. The Lizard King manages to pin Shanna beneath a fallen tree and is about to finish her off when Doc gets a bolo made of lit dynamite around the T-Rex’s neck.

It’s head asplode.

That being the end of that, Doc and Shanna take the vehicle as far as they can until it runs out of gas, and they get out to walk the rest of the journey.

The cover to my copy of Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #5

Shanna and Doc’s travel is interrupted by a sea of raptors traveling through a canyon. Shanna recommends backtracking, which adds three days to their journey. Doc rejects that plan, as that means it will be too late to help anyone at the fort; backtracking is a death sentence to all those infected. Doc says they will have to fight through the raptors, and his reply to Shanna’s claim that it is a “stupid risk” is that saving human life is worth risks, even stupid ones.

Using the dynamite, Doc opens up a hole in the raptor herd. Shanna leads the way, wielding a pair of machetes.

The cover to my copy of Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #6

Thanks to the confusion caused by the dynamite, and the fact that Shanna is a genetically-enhanced uberFrau, she and Doc make it to the other side of the raptor sea.

But, of course, a landslide sends them back into the canyon, where Doc’s leg is trapped under a boulder. Even Shanna’s strength and quick thinking can’t get the rock off Doc’s legs before the raptors notice them.

Although Shanna intends to take a defensive stance against the flood of carnivores, Doc realizes even she is outnumbered. Knowing he’s a dead man no matter what, Doc gives Shanna the antidote and tells her to take it back to the camp. But he make one more request; he doesn’t wish to be eaten alive, and asks that Shanna kill him before she leaves.

Shanna refuses, saying she can’t do it, but as the raptors close in and Doc’s pleas become angrier the issue ends with Shanna swinging the machete, followed by a spray of blood.

The cover to my copy of Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #7

Issue Seven begins with Shanna having already returned to the fort. The men are thankful for the medicine, and are assuring her that she made the right decision regarding Doc.

Shanna doesn’t stick around long, however, as she knows the raptors have followed the scent and are heading straight for the fort. A lone bridge connects the island-built structure to the main shore, and after multiple injuries and attempts to destroy it, Shanna finally cuts off the only path the deadly lizards have to reach her home.

Finally having a moment to herself, Shanna goes to Doc’s quarters, where she collapses down and starts crying over her decision. Moments later, however, Doc arrives. He’s walking on crutches because of his hastily machete-amputated leg thanks to Shanna’s decision to save a life instead of end one, and the man has finally been patched up. Shanna embraces him in tears, thrilled that he survived the ordeal, and Doc knows Shanna’s humanity is intact and she’s going to be okay.

THE FINAL VERDICT: The best $30 I ever spent; unless you can’t stomach dinosaur violence, there’s no reason not to pick this up.

According to sources, this series was originally going to be a MarvelMAX series with nudity, but the decision was made to have Mr. Cho redraw some panels to cover the private bits. If the mythical uncensored trade ever comes out, I will certainly go buy it to see Mr. Cho’s original art, but I don’t think the lack of nudity hurts the story (other than the occasional panel where one may think, “Oh, yeah, that wasn’t meant to be covered…”).

Nudity or no, I feel Mr. Cho’s artwork is some of the best of the generation. It has a realistic style that is bent just enough to be amazing hand-drawn work that clearly comes straight from mind to pen. From the military men to the dinosaurs to Shanna, everything is drawn beautifully, with incredible detail. And there are few artists who are able to blend seething female sexuality with respect and poise like Mr. Cho can. Shanna is always first a woman, a character, who then happens to be incredibly sexy. It’s an idea many artists end up reversing, and it makes all the difference.

Mr. Cho’s storytelling skills are top notch here, using a narrative tool to help tell the tale, but it is also used to ramp up the tension when Issue Seven starts. The development of Shanna, and the sincere interest that Doc displays for her, are great examples of character building. Doc especially comes off as a guy I would love to hang out with, and his endangerment is made all the more intense because of it.

Because this is America, the aforementioned nudity was censored, but the fairly detailed human and dinosaur dismemberment remains. Limbs are tossed, organs are spilled, eyes are ejected; pretty much exactly what one would expect from dinosaurs eating each other. But if you have a low tolerance for that kind of violence you may have trouble getting through some issues that are pretty much nothing more than that.

Again, easily the best $30 I have ever spent. It’s a quick read for seven issues, since Mr. Cho dedicates many pages to showing the savageness of these ancient creatures, and succeeds in displaying to us what a threat they are without needing many words. Having such art uninterrupted by word balloons is great. The story is timeless, the art is beautiful, and the protagonist is a hot woman who spends most of her time in a bikini. Don’t hesitate to buy this series.