Friday, July 6, 2012

King Of Skull Island!

Joe DeVito's and Brad Strickland's sequel/prequel to the classic 1933 smash monster flick King Kong is always diverting and sometimes compelling reading. The artwork by Joe Devito is fantastic, lush and at times bristling with energy and drama.

The story of Kong - King of Skull Island concerns Vincent Denham, the son of the great showman who tragically brought King Kong to New York. The year of the story is 1957, though the tales which weave together to form this narrative fall across many more years than that.

We are presented with essentially two narratives which become three and interlace through the saga. Vincent is a palentologist who finds a map to Skull Island and gets Jack Driscoll, who operates a small fleet of ships, to take him to Skull Island to perhaps find his father Carl Denham who disappeared decades earlier while transporting the body of King Kong back home. The two quickly get separated at the island and we follow Driscoll as he makes several discoveries about the nature of the island, the natives who live there, and the ultimate secret of the Kongs. Simultaneously Vincent is told a grand epic saga by an old woman named properly enough "Storyteller" and she reveals how Kong came to be the last of his kind and why it is exactly the natives sacrifice to him in such a seemingly savage manner. We also learn why Kong reacts to Ann Darrow in the way he does. There are lots of secrets and even a few pirates before it's all said and done.

Lots of grand elements, but somehow this tale never fuses completely for me as I read it. I suspect the creators were trying to accomplish just a smidge too much making the whole affair topple a bit as it unfolded. I craved to see more of Driscoll's exploration and some of the ancient saga related by the Storyteller seemed to go on at greater length than completely necessary. The writers try to turn a twist on the nature of the dinosaurs who populate the island, but I'm not quite sure this works as it was supposed to.

And finally there is a treatment of the original characters which alas seems too sympathetic and not especially true to their personalities. Driscoll seems fine, but Carl Denham who we see briefly doesn't ring true. Certainly the King Kong disaster would change someone, but the story didn't really deliver on that front for me.

I've read the Markosia Comics adaptations of this story, but to be brutally honest, those were so poorly crafted that the story was downright difficult to decipher. It's good that finally I can get some sense what DeVito and Strickland were trying to accomplish.

All King Kong fans should seek this out. It's an imperfect sequel to what might well be the perfect monster-adventure film, but it's still entertaining.

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