In 1999, DC and Dark Horse came together to cross over two of their respective properties in Batman and Tarzan. Written by Ron Marz and drawn by Igor Kordey, they proved that crossovers between companies could work and work well. Having Marz write the series, a veteran already having written many books by this point including Green Lantern, was a good move on the company’s part as he seemed to understand the characters quite well, delivering one of the best Tarzan, not to mention Batman, tales of the time.
Set sometime during 1939, Tarzan is in Gotham at the opening of a new exhibit sponsored by none other than Bruce Wayne. The exhibit features rare objects from the jungles of Africa procured by one Finnegan Dent. Wayne and Lord Greystoke meet and exchange pleasantries and later that night, meet again, this time in costume as someone has broken into the museum and stolen an object of great wealth. The two of them stop said person who also happens to be a princess of a city from which the objects were stolen by Dent. Deciding to stop Dent form further pillaging, Batman and Tarzan head off to the hidden city of Memnon in Africa. There, they face Dent in a battle for the fate of Memnon and its future.
What is there not to love about this series? Thanks to Marz and Kordey, the book is heavy on the pulp and noir influences. Gotham is all shadows and darkness and the men are bigger than life with danger crawling just under the skin. The women are beautiful and the villain evil and boastful. The jungle is wild and dark and there is even a hidden city in this tale to top it all off. It recalls Allen Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, not to mention the many pulp serials of the day starring Batman, the Green Hornet and more. There is a bit of misdirection in the title, but it remains accurate at the same time.
Kordey is the perfect artist for this book. He draws Tarzan like few can, wild and untamed with every move like that of a jungle beast. He looks raw and fierce, even when dressed up in his Sunday best, and ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. Kordey’s Batman is quite similar, but more restrained. His moves are calculated and precise whether it is just walking across a room or battling a random thug. Batman is also menacing under Kordey’s pencil and not a character that you would ever want to meet. During Kordey’s time on the X-books, some of the issues looked rough and uneven and to be fair sometimes he was doing two or three books a month. On this series we see none of that, only true professionalism and everything about it is lush and gorgeous to look at.
The comparisons in the book were many and whether spoken or implied, it was nice to see the contrasts between the two worlds. Both men have their jungles, one wild and one urban. Tarzan lost his parents when he was quite young as did Batman and both grew up to be protectors of their land. Tarzan has no qualms about killing his enemies as he knows that only leaves the door open for future misfortunes while Batman believes in justice, possible redemption and the sanctity of human life. The two differ greatly on that point with Batman being idealistic and Tarzan realistic.
Lady Jane makes a brief appearance in the book and though it was only for a few pages, it was a pivotal moment as it illustrated another point of difference between the two men. Where Tarzan has found a measure of peace in his life with her, accepting his parents’ loss, his inheritance and being a member of a bigger world than just the jungle, Bruce has not. He cannot forget his parents’ murder and he cannot let it go because it drives him. His city needs him, and even if he would like a piece of what Tarzan has, without that purpose, that endeavor, what will happen to him, to the city? It is something that he may never find an answer for.
This crossover was old-time adventure at its best. It was like reading the Shadow or Doc Savage or any number of characters in true good guy vs bad guy fun. Ron Marz should have written more stories featuring characters other than superheroes as he has a good voice for them. Though Dark Horse might have lost the licence to publish Tarzan books, Marz could still potentially write the Ape-Lord at Dynamite which would be nice to see. If you want to read this book it will most likely never see print again but is worth hunting down the single issues. If in the mood for some escapism, this book is for you as it will lead you into the jungles of man and beast alike.
5 out of 5