While a repetitive and slow in its middle, it builds up to a purposeful end.
Kamandi Challenge has always been an ode to Jack Kirby, or more generally, an ode to an older time in comics. This is adventure comics at its best with every story a jumping on point as each issue ends in a cliffhanger the next issue must solve. That’s the challenge in the title, after all. This week, writer Tom King teams up with Kevin Eastman and Freddie Williams III to deliver another chapter in the Kamandi adventure.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
After the epic battle among the animals of last issue, Eisner Award-nominated writer Tom King and legendary artist Kevin Eastman (making his DC interior art debut) weave a suspenseful tale of Kamandi lost at sea! Imprisoned alongside a menagerie, Kamandi devises a plan to escape. Will they ever see land again? Or are they trapped in the veiled Vortex forever?
Why does this matter?
This series has been great fun from the start and has been hosted by the best talent DC Comics has to offer. This issue pairs Batman writer Tom King with the exceptional artists who have made some of the best IDW comics sing.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The situation is not looking good.
This is a tough issue to crack in part because the very last pages really sell the entire package. At face value it’s devoid of color, slow and repetitive. But then, in a bit of a shocking twist, Tom King makes this an incredible ode to Jack Kirby. I’ll say no more to avoid any spoilers, but I was left a bit dumbstruck and moved.
The plot of this issue is rather simplistic as Kamandi is trapped in a room with a variety of humanoid animals. A mysterious robot shows up and steals a baby each day and for many days this occurs without any chance of preventing it. The issue is a test of patience, but also resolve because Kamandi never gives up. It’s an alternative style story that action fans will deplore, but if you give it a chance it’s actually quite meaningful.
The art team does an impeccable job with two things: The mysterious robot and the animal characters. The robot is freaky looking and well designed with a stature right out of a 50’s B movie. It’s cold and heartless and serves as a totem of fear and the unknown. The animals are the opposite with incredibly well rendered facial expressions and acting that pull you into their plight and make you feel for them. Looking at the image below you can see an elephant imbues a sense of humanity that’s touching. And that isn’t easy!
A caring elephant.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Upon my first read I was somewhat bored and annoyed with how repetitive this issue is because of the nature of the story, but also a scene that has Kamandi literally listing off what happened in each issue prior. Maybe it was my lack of patience, but to read Kamandi list off the things that happened that I already knew was frustrating. It reads like filler and left me even more annoyed. Thankfully King pulls it out at the very end.
Is It Good?
For a series that honors Jack Kirby this might be its most moving issue. Tom King knocks it out of the park in the last few pages and will make you miss the genius of Kirby.