Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Last Challenge On Earth!

Kamandi Challenge was a series which I've dutifully collected since it first dropped early last year. I read the debut and the second issue but after that merely picked them up and tucked them away until I could read them all. I just did. The series is at once a success and a failure. It fails to supply a story which makes much sense beginning to end, but it does offer up some really curious and times even compelling installments.

The story is set in the world that Jack "King" Kirby created long ago. It puts the "Last Boy on Earth" into a wild world filled with sentient animals of all kinds. In the original run Kamandi (named after the bunker in which he grew up called "Command D") runs afoul of Tigers, Apes, Rats, Bats, Leopards, Dogs, Sharks, Robots, and Mutants while trying to find out what the world has become other than what Charlton Heston might have called a "Madhouse". It's this future that a mob of creative talents attack with gusto as they do two things at once -- tell a story about Kamandi in this weird dangerous world and leave their successors a cliffhanger to solve. It's a parlor game transformed into a publishing event and it's an uneven experience.

Too much of the story is just a jumble of random events as Kamandi dodges left and right and up then down encountering animals who have taken bits of human lore and fashioned ersatz civilizations across the globe. He's constantly under attack and constantly assisted by well-meaning animals who find in the talking human a figure of friendship and inspiration. He seeks to find his Mother and Father and by the end of this quixotic saga he does just that, though not in the way anyone anticipated.

It's a raucous roller coaster ride with moments of anticipation, quick thrills and decent entertainments, but when the ride rolls to an inevitable stop it feels a bit unfinished. The whole is far from equal to the sum of the often very well-crafted parts. We have great artwork from Neal Adams, Steve Rude, Keith Giffen, Walt Simonson, and many others. Sadly we have quite a bit of mediocre artwork by artists I will not identify. As a curiosity intended to celebrate the centennial of Jack Kirby this is less a monument than a parade of testimonials. Each taps into some aspect of the total, but none really evokes the real adventure for any length of time and for me the ending was overwrought and a little too on the nose. This story needed more real plot development and less showmanship and it deserved an ending and not a stunt.

Is it worth your time. It was worth mine, but I'm a Kirby nut. I cannot really recommend it to anyone who isn't already in that camp.

Here are the covers.

They do make me want to read the original again and that's not all bad. Not all bad by half.

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