Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Damsels in Distress are EVERYWHERE!

cover painting by George Wilson

It just can't be helped. If you are a member of the Greystoke family, then you are always going to have Damsels in Distress underfoot. You can't go anywhere or do anything without yet another Damsel in Distress popping up and in need of rescue. "Awwww, I just stopped in to buy a quart of milk and that woman in the potato chip aisle is getting attacked by a hungry lion! Darn it, I suppose i need to do something about that."

For instance, in the story "Alien Jungle" (from Korak #21--February 1968), we discover that Tarzan's son Korak can be kidnapped by aliens and taken light years away from home--only to still stumble across a damsel in need of rescuing.

In this story (written by Gaylord Du Bois), Korak and his ape friend Ahkut encounter some aliens tramping through the African jungle. The aliens have stun-guns, paralyzing the two friends and taking them into their flying saucer.

Korak can't move, but he's still conscious, making careful note of the control settings as the ship takes off. Soon, though, they are on an alien planet. Korak and Ahkut manage to make a break for it, capturing a stun-gun as they do so.

Here's where the Damsel in Distress enters the picture. Tarzan finds a human woman being menaced by a giant ant. After the ensuing rescue, the woman--named Ateena--begins teaching Korak the local language and takes him to her band of resistance fighters.

It turns out the aliens have been enslaving the humans native to this planet, using their stun guns to maintain military superiority. When a swarm of giant ants rampage through the human camp, Korak tries his captured stun gun on them, discovering that they are immune to its effect.

That gives him an idea. They can use a fungus the ants like to lure them to the alien city, then lay down insulation over the electrical barrier that surrounds the city, and watch the ants rampage amongst the villains.

This works. The aliens, unable to fight the ants with their stun guns, flee in confusion to their space ships. Korak and Ahkut rush one of the ships and capture it, with the human setting the controls they way they were when the ship was on Earth. Which seems a pretty uncertain way of piloting an interstellar craft, but since it works, I guess it was a reasonable plan after all.

But, though Korak manages to fly the ship, he turns out to be lousy at parking it. It ends up in a swamp. All the same, he manages to crash-land in a swamp, bringing him and Ahkut home. As they say--any landing you can walk away from is a good one.
I like this story. It's an entertaining variation on Korak's usual jungle adventure. We're still in a jungle. It just happens to be an alien jungle were you are more likely to be eaten by a giant ant instead of a lion.

Russ Manning does his usual top-notch job with the art. I especially like his designs of the jungle and the giant ants. In both cases, they are familiar enough so that we immediately recognize them for what they are, but there are enough bizarre details to the designs to make them appropriately alien-esque. 

The story packs in a lot of action and a lot of story in its 17 pages. Last week, I whined about a Phantom story being too short to properly flesh out its plot. If I were going to complain about "Alien Jungle," I might raise a similar point--there are moments where the storytelling does seem a bit rushed. The ants attacking the aliens, for instance, is covered in two pages when it really should have been a much longer battle with an epic feel to it.

But "Alien Jungle" is still satisfying. You get the feeling that Gaylord Du Bois was doing the best he could in the confines of a limited page count, while Manning's art helps gloss over the flaws.

Next week, we'll leave the jungle behind and travel to war-time Germany, where one of Sgt. Rock's soldiers will get a day in the limelight.

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