The giant ape gets his own origin story in Kong of Skull Island. Will the savage apes be able to survive an island plagued with other giant monsters? And what of the humans that tame the beasts? Is it good?
Kong of Skull Island Vol. 1 (BOOM! Studios)
Based off the work by Joe DeVito, who sought out the approval of Merian C. Cooper’s estate to create an origin for the giant ape, Kong of Skull Island starts off promising, focusing on conflicting nations who pit giant apes against each other in combat. It’s a pulpy premise that quickly gives way to subpar plotting and character work. Nearly every twist and turn in the plot can be easily predicted and, with few exceptions (a Kong charging to avenge his mate’s death being one) these moments lack both the fun sense of adventure one would expect out of a King Kong story as well as any satirical element that would aid the trope-heavy narrative.
Coming away from Kong of Skull Island, readers will be hard-pressed to name any of the broad cast of characters. There’s nothing distinctive about them beyond their culture, which is unfortunate as it’s nice to have a Kong story that focuses on the islanders as characters rather than nameless savages for a white hero to vanquish. Yet, in spite of the human-heavy narrative, the characters never escape being two-dimensional archetypes.
I feel like this offering is a bit small for a regular gorilla. And you’re going to appease Kong with that?
But while the script ultimately fails to deliver, the artwork by Carlos Magno is everything one would want from a series with “Skull Island” in the title. Magno’s lines, with its rough edges and jagged etchings, create a savage world, especially in the scenes that focus on the Kongs. Though rare, the scenes where the Kongs fight each other or the saurian foes that plague Skull Island are the true reasons to give the book a try. Magno gives his ape characters a true ferocity and sense of power, using wide low angles to capture their sweeping power and scale.
Is It Good?
This first volume of Kong of Skull Island is plagued by missed opportunities. The ape action is spaced out too far, and the human sections between them simply aren’t worth the investment. If the narrative had taken more risks in trying to defy tropes, this could have been a fascinating read, but instead it comes off as little more than a monster B-movie. Fortunately the artwork by Magno and Simpson is stellar, and the sequences of monster action are fun to read. But it’s hard to say those moments of visual brilliance are worth the dull pages that occur between them.