‘Kamandi Challenge’ ends with a major ode to Jack Kirby.
Kamandi Challenge has been one of the most interesting experimental comics to come out of the big two this year and it also ends this week. If you look at the cover you’ll note DC claims they’ve “solved it” in this extra sized finale written and drawn by many different creators.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
After the out-of-this-world end of last issue, fan-favorites Gail Simone and Ryan Sook bring us our hero’s next adventure in the world of the great disaster. With the fate of his parents revealed and one final threat to overcome, can Kamandi figure out a way for animals and humans to peacefully co-exist before their battles for ultimate power result in the destruction of the entire planet? Find out in the stunning conclusion of our tale! Plus, a bonus epilogue from comics legends Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.
Why does this matter?
This is a series where every issue features main protagonist Kamandi escaping (or trying to, anyways) death, finding adventure and discovering new things… and then fall back into death-defying danger once more. That allows each new creative team a chance to pull Kamandi out of danger and then throw him back in. A cool concept which is wrapped up this week in a very big Jack Kirby tribute.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Kamanda was a surprise twist.
This issue opens with Gail Simone, Jill Thompson, and Ryan Sook taking over as they introduce Kamanda, the last girl on Earth. Wait, what?! That’s right, there’s another survivor and she ends up pulling Kamandi out of a near death situation. Simone uses this to add a bit of romance, but also a fall within a fall as she cuts away from this to where we left off the last issue. Don’t worry, it all makes sense (or about as much sense as this series allows anyway) as it goes from surviving a fall from space, fighting off guerilla style rat men, discovering where all the humans went, and finally battling to save the planet against a giant Celestial looking robot. The joy of reading this series has always been seeing how the creators can throw a curveball at you and this issue has many more than one. Simone drives home a lot of surprises, including an interesting twist that suggests this world may be the same one DC heroes inhabit.
The issue closes with a 12 page epilogue by Paul Levitz and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez that reintroduces Jack Kirby as a character. I say this, because in the very first issue a man named Jack bumps into Kamandi back in his hometown. Much is revealed by Kirby as he serves as a guide to Kamandi. It’s interesting to see the creators make Kirby a character all his own and he’s essentially a god. Given how many worlds and characters he created they aren’t making this up, though I doubt he was floating around like he does here. This series was always a love letter to Kirby and his greatness and this is a fitting end to the year and the series as a whole. It also offers a few answers as far as Kamandi’s name, his powers, and a satisfying ending to his adventure.
The art as a whole is good shared by 3 artists (and four color artists!). The pencils by Thompson in the opening portion of the book are very clean and suit the much younger look of Kamandi and Kamanda. Sook’s portion has thinner linework and more focus on detail that looks great with the jungle scenes and giant battle at the end of the story. Garcia-Lopez wraps up the issue in a style that’s more old school not unlike Neil Adams’ work. This epilogue is capped off with an excellent full page spread of Kamandi falling into a portal as Kirby’s hand–made of stars–draws all these wild creatures and characters falling with Kamandi.
It is not recommended to fall like this.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This issue delivers a lot of what makes this series great, but it’s also way over the top and borderline nonsensical. It’s not going to be for everyone. I’m still processing how I feel about Jack Kirby being a character in this book, but I think some may be even more mixed on this than me. There is a deus ex machina ending here to be sure, which isn’t the most satisfying ways to end things, but given it’s a tribute to Kirby it’s fitting.
Is It Good?
If you’ve enjoyed Kamandi Challenge up to this point you won’t be disappointed with this finale. The extra size and price is also fitting given you get two stories here.