DC Comics has been taking chances with new types of comics, such as the recently excellent New Talent Showcase #1 and another interesting book out this week, The Kamandi Challenge. This is a 12 issue series that randomly pairs artist and writer on each issue. That sounds like a cool way to see talented artists work together that may never have otherwise. Is it good?
The Kamandi Challenge #1 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
Inspired by the work of Jack Kirby, the KAMANDI CHALLENGE will take place over 12 issues with 12 randomly paired creative teams. Each team will explore a different piece of Kamandi’s world, as laid out by Jack Kirby in the original series, moving the Last Boy on Earth across the map! Check out this first issue with a prologue from Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen, and the first quest by writer Dan Abnett and artist Dale Eaglesham.
Why does this book matter?
Dan Abnett is a good choice for the first story writer as he’s been all over the DC universe as of late, writing good, character driven stories. Kamandi couldn’t have a better writer to steer the ship to start. Artist Dale Eaglesham should give the Jack Kirby character justice due to his ability to draw detailed backgrounds, characters, and scenes.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Just an average boy.
This issue is a heck of a lot of fun with a throwback feel, but also a good balance of key details to make sense of the world Kamandi is thrust into. This issue opens with an intro of sorts by Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen which perfectly realizes the young boy who we can relate to and the chaos that confuses him and the reader. From there it cuts to Abnett and Eaglesham’s portion which runs the rest of the book at 22 or so pages. The pace of the book is breakneck with new elements introduced, action dropping on a whim, and new reveals. By the end I couldn’t believe they were able to fit so much in a single issue.
The setup of the issue works perfectly for an intro to the character and the world as he’s truly a fish out of water. I’d never read the Kamandi series before, so this might follow that series perfectly, but I found the mystery of what is going on incredibly compelling. Kamandi opens the issue a young boy, but after the intro is somehow older and stronger and capable of fighting off a giant ape. He’s just as surprised as the reader is and that keeps your attention all the way through. Abnett manages to infuse key details to make this feel unique and interesting. Themes like war, how we treat our pets, and respecting elders are used. One could argue it’s similar to Planet of the Apes, but so far the science fiction angle is still up in the air.
The by Didio and Eaglesham is fantastic. Didio uses an old school look that’s reminiscent of Kirby right down to the thick jaw of the hero. When things get weird, Didio brings that old school charm with cosmic spots and energy flowing this way and that. Eaglesham meanwhile has a more modern, highly detailed look that’s jaw-dropping good. From Kamandi about to be chewed out by a giant gorilla and his fangs, to the talking animals, everything looks sharp and believable. Scope and size are easy to register and there are some nice homages to Kirby in there too. It’s not easy to draw a humanoid animal that’s believable, but Eaglesham does it.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This issue is certainly light on character work, though given the source material maybe that’s intentional. Who Kamandi is as a person isn’t quite clear as he spends the majority of the issue with his mouth agape and completely shocked at what is going on. He serves as a perfectly ordinary person so the audience can relate and be there wit him. The spectacle around him is the real entertainment, but a bit more in regards to who this person is would have been helpful.
Hey wait! I know that guy!
Is It Good?
The Kamandi Challenge is an exciting page-turning extravaganza. It’s entertaining in a modern way while paying respect to Jack Kirby and the fun his stories bring. The pace is so fast it’s easily satisfying every page of the way.