• Brothers of the Spear, Vol. 3

    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: November 27, 2013
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    This third volume trade paperback collects the core of what would amount to the final episodes of the long-running serial for the Brothers of the Spear series.

    An excellent introduction from Stephen Bissette fills in the details of history of series, continuing the foreword texts from the previous two other TPB editions. Brothers of the Spear ran from 1951 to roughly the end of the 1960s, primarily in the backs of issues of Dell Comics’ run of Tarzan. Writer Gaylord DuBois handled scripting duties while the initial art was handled by Jesse Marsh. Artwork duties transitioned later to a student of Marsh’s named Russ Manning who would go on to handle the majority of the series’ run, through basically Tarzan #156. Some later episodes would crop up in issues #160 and #161 and then, later, two final stories in 1971.

    The story of the series is the relationship between fair-skinned young king Da-Nel and his brother of the spear, the African young king Natongo. Each episode runs the basic same formula: Someone is trying to take over their peaceful kingdoms or some crazed animal is loose and, in either case, it’s up to the ever-capable young kings to dispatch the problems quickly, efficiently and mercifully. They’re accompanied at some times by their queen brides, Tavane and Zulena, respectively. Their kingdoms of Abu-Zulu and Tungelu are rich, self-sustaining, prosperous lands and, as such, are envied by many evil outsiders. So, sometimes, the attacks are forthright and brutish; other times, though, the enemies attempt far more clever plots to capture one or more members of the royal families. But, again, in each case, usually Dan-El always has a plan involving cunning or superior strength. Natongo aids him at just the right time and vice versa, with even their queens getting involved.

    The forces of good always triumph, despite the odds and the evil cunning of bad men, in this series. Noteworthy, though, is the mixed-race relationship of these good friends, nobly sworn to always protect and look out for each other. Given the time period in the U.S. when this was created this idea is handled well without ever being blatant about it in any way. Indeed, even the strong females in the stories are often more than just hapless bystanders, constantly under threat. Though they are sworn to their husbands they are also fierce about their loves, often enough rushing into a battle or leading a charge of a supporting army whenever their men are in danger or run off on their own and then go missing. The stories are so straightforward as to mask these underpinnings, proving that capable, rational people can be in strong relationship and build a better world together, one where trappings of race or gender fall away quietly.

    Marsh’s artwork is good, not rushed but very solid. However, stylistically the series comes into its own once Manning takes over those duties fully. The lush environments become much more vivid, shadows become more menacing, battles become more thrilling and the overall tone of the action is much more fluid and kinetic as well.

    For fans of serialized, harmless but forward-thinking comics Brothers of the Spear vol. 3 represents a welcome change from the norm. Handsomely-collected here in yet another hardcover volume by Dark Horse Comics, it’s well worth the time and money.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      I've always had a soft spot for Russ Manning's art.