Saturday, June 18, 2016

Kamandi - Mysterious Island!

With the twenty-first issue of Kamandi The Last Boy on Earth the series enters into its second half under the control of its creator Jack "King" Kirby. By the end of this second score of issues Kirby will be gone and before that his influence on the series will be diminished. But more on that as we progress.

The story picks up on the shores of what is called "Monster Lake" which had during the Great Disaster absorbed much of what was once Chicago and the lands around. Kamandi comes upon a battle between a creature called Ahab and a weird mob of soldiers apparently from the sea. Kamandi assists the lone warrior and discovers he is the trained guard human for an intelligent Dolphin named Inspector Zeel. He and Ahab are heading to a place called Seaway and Kamandi joins up with them. Along they way they battle a giant crab, encounter giant frogs fleeing ferocious packs of wild humans. The humans break the water-bearing container Zeel depended on and the trio press on but are on their last legs when they finally find Seaway.

Seaway is in fact a community of Dolphins who use humans as labor and press some into battle as squires. Kamandi is delighted to find Ben Boxer, Renzi, and Steve living and working in Seaway, the trio having been rescued by the Dolphins when the team was forced into the ocean off the shore of Florida.

Boxer informs Kamandi that the Dolphin society is under threat from their arch-foes the equally intelligent but more ferocious Killer Whales. The most deadly agent of the Whales is mysterious human named "Red Baron". As the story closes Kamandi joins Ben and the others as they rush out into the water to fend off the attack of the Red Baron.

The Red Baron is confronted and rebuffed but not defeated. Ben rescues Kamandi who had been struck by the Red Baron and then they lick their wounds.

Soon Boxer and his comrades decide they must use their mutant might to fend off the Red Baron's attacks and use their atomic powers to transform themselves into metal and rush to battle where a great explosion appears to end the fighting for all. Kamandi then encounters one of the Killer Whales and is attacked and left to drift in the great lake.

Coming ashore Kamandi is startled to find a massive mansion on a small island.

In that massive house he encounters a Monkey named Flim-Flam and three humans named Jukie, Lukie, and Dukie. It turns out the mansion in which they are all stranded is "haunted" and the power in the place takes possession of first one then another of the mute humans. Finally Kamandi is able to discover the secret of the power and determines it is not supernatural but the residue of long-ago experiments in mind control.

Kamandi and his new allies look for a way to leave their remote island but before they begin three metallic figures walk out of the sea.

Once again Kamandi is reunited with his friends Ben Boxer, Renzie, and Steve. The trio have had a hard go walking along the forests of the sea bottom after defeating the Red Baron. Now this new group of allies look for a way to get back to Seaway and find a hovercraft, but a deadly sea creature blocks their way. They get it operational only to find that after they start the come under attack by deadly flying Sharks. This forces them to enter the fog-enshrouded barrier to a new weird and deadly zone.

The Kamandi adventures have a slam-bang pacing which keeps the reader breathless. Kamandi himself jumps headlong into danger and uses his wits and sheer bravado often to survive. He is also blessed with a great deal of good luck. In this sequence he is reunited with the Ben Boxer team and already this feels more akin to destiny than mere good fortune. These characters find one another across the broad landscape of the ruined Earth and always greet each other with good cheer and comradeship. In fact it's evident that at this point Kamandi is finding as many friends as enemies in this apocalyptic world.

The artwork takes a hit sadly as D. Bruce Berry is simply not as adept at adding the drama to Kirby's pencils that Mike Royer had done. The closest analog to Berry that I can think of is Chic Stone who was a key Kirby inker at Marvel for a few years. Both Stone and Berry offer an open style, but Stone was able to give the work more energy than Berry accomplishes. Perhaps that  is also reflective of how loose Kirby's pencils have become in the intervening decade.

More to come.

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