Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: The Jungle Book (trade paperback)
By Mark Miller
This trade paperback collects Zenescope Entertainment Grimm Fairy Tales presents The Jungle Book Issue #1-5 and cover gallery.
We open with a tale of four randomly kidnapped children inside a crate that was taken onto a pirate ship I’m assuming to be sold, which crashed onto a mysterious island where all the animal species that inhabit it are at war with one another, until the children show up. Each tribe of animals takes one child as a way to keep peace amongst the island. Though is it noted by Bagheera, the black panther, that the children are not to be harmed, and it would be wise if the children remain in their own corners of the island with their tribes and never meet, let alone know of each other.
Fast forward to 15 years later, we are introduced first to Mowgli, the child of the wolves often referred to as ‘Little Cub’ since she was the smallest child of the four and none of the tribes felt would survive (typical thinking in the animal kingdom since the runt of litters almost never survives). Mowgli is a temperamental, curious hottie, and often trains in combat skills with Baloo, a giant black bear. Then we meet Bomani, a tall & muscular boy, and cub to the tiger tribe led by Shere Khan. He often wears tiger paws equipped with claws as gloves that were the actual paws of a fallen tiger warrior in hopes that it would shower Bomani with the blood of the hunt, but Bomani is seen as failure to the tiger tribe.
A plot is afoot though as Shere Khan and the tiger tribe continuously watches the wolf pack, planning an attack of revenge from the battle 15 years ago. The truce made when the children crashed onto the island is broken in an instant when the tiger tribe begins to kill the wolves while Bomani stands behind and watches.
Eager to prove his worthiness amongst the tribe, Bomani attempts to enter the fight only to be berated by Shere Khan. Mowgli abruptly leaves her training session with Baloo and arrives back to her clan too late, her mother wolf and many others within the wolf tribe are dead. For the first time in 15 years, Mowgli and Bomani see each other and have eye contact, while Bomani is shocked and curious that there is another on the island like him, Mowgli simply sees a murderer. Letting her anger and need for redemption take control of her, Mowgli leaves her corner of the island that she’s lived on since a child to seek out Shere Khan, the tiger tribe and Bomani. She winds up getting quickly captured and dragged off by a tribe of monkeys, led by Bandor Log. This is where we all meet the third child, Dewan, ironically dressed like a pirate. Though he doesn’t speak much, he comes off as playful and dangerous, a lot like the Mad Hatter.
She escapes after a fight with the monkeys and with the help of Baloo, only to be intercepted by Dewan during her escape. He gives Mowgli a teddy bear, then we see Mowgli have a flashback of when they were children and he gave her the same teddy bear, the first and only thing she remembers so far of the other children and her all too brief past. Dewan parkours away into the island, and we notice that Bomani is watching everything, letting his curiosity of Mowgli lead him to follow them since she started her journey through the island.
Bomani’s stalking is thwarted as a gigantic snake, Kaa, coils around him. Needless to say, Mowgli is infuriated to see him. He begs and pleads for Mowgli to save him as Kaa’s grip begins to slowly suffocate him, reiterating over and over that he did not kill any of her wolf family. While listening to Bomani, Mowgli also gets entrapped by Kaa. Baloo attempts to help the two by breaking the tree that Kaa is in, but Kaa gets his body wrapped around Baloo as well. In comes a jackal and various small animals to save the day, though some of the small animals begin to get eaten by Kaa. As Kaa is about to start chowing down on Mowgli, another child named Akili of tribe Tavi, referred to as the Giantess by the small creatures, makes her presence known. In awe of first seeing Bomani, then Dewan and now Akili interact with Mowgli; Baloo mentions in a whisper that all the children meeting will not bode well because this means the borders of the jungle are fading. With the help of Akili and the Tavi tribe, Baloo, Mowgli & Bomani escape Kaa’s grasp and he goes slithering away, hoping to shed his skin from the battle. Mowgli begins to chase after Bomani, still accusing him of killing her wolf family. Shere Khan looks on, pleased with Bomani’s chase with Mowgli as he is unintentionally leading her to the tiger tribe.
During the chase, we take a quick flashback to Mowgli with her wolf mother learning the rules of the jungle, the laws all the tribes abide by to protect order, because without order there is chaos and chaos in the jungle is dangerous.
1-No animal shall change its hunting grounds without warning; the borders must be observed.
2-No animal is take more than their rightful portion from the jungle for themselves and their own; selfishness is not the way of the jungle.
3-It is forbidden for animals to kill for anything other than food.
Obviously these laws are important to the story because not only has Shere Khan and the tiger tribe broken them, but Mowgli did as well in letting her anger & need for vengeance lead her into the other parts of the jungle, and makes her no better then Shere Khen.
The chases ends, Bomani and Mowgli both then realize the chase led them straight to Shere Khan. Khan admits to her that he in fact is the one that killed the wolf tribe, and that Bomani had nothing to do with it. Mowgli attacks Khan, while Bomani, in his curiosity of Mowgli & feelings of disappointment within the tiger tribe, seems to have a change of heart and stops the rest of the tiger tribe from interfering in the fight between Mowgli and Khan. Meanwhile, Baloo, Akili and the Tavi tribe look on as the fight begins to grow worrisome. The fight grows in intensity and winds up at the edge of a cliff, both Shere Khan and Mowgli fall; Baloo, Akili, the Tavi tribe, the tiger tribe and Bomani look on in shock and horror. But alas, Mowgli climbs her way back atop the cliff, bruised and bloody, but Shere Khan doesn’t. The remainder of the tiger tribe attempt to attack her but Baloo stops them. Akili offers herself and her tribes as an ally to Mowgli and what is left of the wolf tribe for the impending war that Mowgli has unleashed by killing Khan and allowing the other ‘cubs’ to meet. In the end, as she retells this story to new wolf cubs born from the only two surviving wolves of the tribe, she sees how her need to avenge her mother wolf started something bigger because now Bomani has lost a parent as well, and he will continue this cycle that she started.
I remember when word of this title came out; people were all abuzz, complaining about beloved lead character Mowgli being a girl. Well, to those people, read this book. It is not simply taking a known character and making it female, there is so much to it to it than that. This is a beautifully written story.
In addition to being a great read, the artwork was wonderful. It complimented the narrative very nicely, as well as complimented the exterior cover art (I have a pet peeve about comic book issue cover art never really matching up with the interior artwork, unless it’s a variant cover). At the end of this book, Zenescope gives us their famous cover gallery, in which all covers from The Jungle Book single issues (alternatives, con exclusives, web exclusives) are beautifully featured.
I really enjoyed the moral of the story, in that everything is a cycle, one vicious circle. One’s actions lead to consequences that are someone else’s actions, yet those were yours as well. Like history repeating itself, a lesson that should be learned by everyone. I cannot wait for more of this story. I wonder what would the grand fight on the island be like? Which other animal species that were without human cubs will side with whom? Will Dewan and Mowgli end up in some type of ‘The Blue Lagoon’ relationship since he was sweet to her regardless of his crazy Monkey raised ways, and he is the only child she remembers? I’m not curious about it because I’m a hopelessly romantic pervert, but they do have to breed! Besides, they are human; they have instincts just as much as those in the animal kingdom they inhabit! Back to the subject at hand, in this book Akili was initially attracted to Mowgli, so though she has offered her allegiance to Mowgli & the wolf tribe, would she take it back & betray her if Mowgli and Dewan get into a pseudo-relationship? Also, what’s the deal with the black panther, Bagheera? The tribes seemed to listen to him when it came to ending the war once the children came onto the island, and in these issues he is overseeing everything like the Watchers in the Marvel Universe. So why isn’t he doing anything? He must know full well that Shere Khan’s, Mowgli’s and now Bomani’s actions will lead to another war, so why isn’t he stepping in to say or do anything about it…unless it’s what he wants?
*Fun fact* As I read the book, I was humming along to the ‘Bare Necessities’ from Disney’s The Jungle Book.
4 out of 5 nerds