Sheena: Queen of the Jungle #1
Written by Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo
Art by Moritat, Dimi Macheras, and Casey Silver
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Reviewed by: Mikey Wood

So, SHEENA’s back.

In 1937 Jerry Iger and Will Eisner’s jungle-girl character, Sheena, debuted in the British comics magazine Wags and made her U.S. debut in Jumbo Comics #1 in 1938. Since then she has, seemingly, been a constant presence in comics and entertainment appearing in numerous comic titles, prose novels, two television series (in 1955-56 starring Vargas Girl Irish McCalla and in 2000-02 starring Gena Lee Nolan), and a feature film (1984’s Sheena, Queen of the Jungle with Tanya Roberts.

Now, Sheena has entered the twenty-first century courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment. Dynamite seems to have cornered the market on pulp characters publishing comics based on everything from Western heroes (Zorro, The Lone Ranger) to crime-busters (Green Hornet, The Shadow) and everything in between with varying degrees of success. This reviewer eats Dynamite pulp comics up like candy so it’s only fitting that I give their Sheena a try. The character made her Dynamite debut in the Tarzan crossover Lords of the Jungle and now has seen her way to her own title written by Marguerite Bennett (DC Comics Bombshells, Josie and the Pussycats) and Christina Trujillo with art by Moritat (The Spirit, Hellblazer) and Dimi Macheras and the results are…

Okay, let’s take a quick sidebar and say that there are, seemingly, only a handful of “jungle hero” stories one can tell in our modern times. The most common of these stories is the “looming threat of industry resulting in the destruction of our jungle paradise” story. We’ve seen it a dozen times and, really, that’s always been the heart of jungle hero stories from the first Tarzan novel in 1912 all the way through to James Cameron’s Avatar: The modern world encroaching on and thus threatening the old. Nature versus industry. Animal versus man. It is a very REAL threat, to be sure. Always has been. All one needs to do is read about how the white man all but wiped out the Native Americans in the mid-to-late 1800’s or the way the logging industry destroyed the Amazon to know that the threat is real. The only problem with it is that, as far as comic book fantasy stories are concerned and unless something really interesting is done with it, it’s a threat that is all but completely played out.

And that, really, is the main problem with this first issue of Sheena. It spends a lot of time setting up a story we’ve seen a dozen times before. Yes, the visual dichotomy of a four-propped drone being taken out by a stone-headed spear is an intriguing, one but what follows simply isn’t all that interesting. Sheena spends the first few pages providing exposition while flipping around through the trees (strangers have entered the jungles and she doesn’t like it) before we see her arrive at her village just in time to see a group of mercenaries hired by a strip-mining company threatening the village elder with the obligatory “Get out or we’ll FORCE you out” speeches while, at the same time, looking for a missing surveyor which I’m sure will come into play later.

Sheena decides to go looking for the missing surveyor resulting in more flipping through the jungle and more exposition and more set-ups of future plot elements indicating a possible supernatural angle yet to come into play. It’s a lot of set up which is par-for-course for first issues. I will say that Bennett and Trujillo are wise enough to have Sheena speaking to her various animal friends so the expository speeches aren’t just a buxom woman in a leopard skin bathing suit talking to herself like a madwoman. But for every positive there is a negative, a few of which could be solved with some story editing (for example: Sheena pulls film from an roll of 35MM film and sees a negative image of, I assume, her parents. That’s not how rolls of 35mm film work. A good story editor would know that).

As for the art, I should mention how much of a fan of Moritat I am. I really enjoy his work. It reminds me a bit of Jordi Bernet with a very European sensibility. His run on the criminally overlooked The Spirit from DC’s First Wave imprint was beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, his work here is lacking. It looks rushed and incomplete. This could be a result of the inking or the coloring which, while credited to Moritat and Casey Silver, is not the usual quality I usually associate with Moritat’s work. It makes me wonder how much of the art was contributed by Moritat himself and how much was from the others. The panel layout is sloppy and the backgrounds are almost nonexistent. It’s all-around disappointing considering my excitement when I saw Moritat’s name attached to it.

As much of a supporter of Dynamite’s books as I am, I, sadly, have to admit that this first issue was a miss, for me. I do plan on reading the next issue, though. I will at least give the story a chance to stretch its legs as is sometimes necessary but, unless they take this in an interesting direction, I can’t see this title as being much more than standard jungle hero fare.

RANK: C-

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