Kamandi Archives, Volume 1 (Oct. 2005, DC Comics)
Written, Drawn, and Edited by Jack Kirby
Inked and Lettered by Mike Royer
Karen: This hardback archive edition collects the first ten issues of Jack Kirby's post-apocalyptic series that began in 1972. I had read two random Kamandi comics in the past but otherwise had little contact with the character, beyond his rare appearances in other books. I got the general concept -the last boy on Earth (well, not actually true), a world now ruled by intelligent, mutated animals. But I'd never really read the series and I was curious about it. Knowing it was at least slightly influenced by Planet of the Apes, one of my favorite film series, also encouraged me to look into it. Finally I saw this archive edition at a reasonable price and grabbed it. Instead of going over each issue I'll discuss my general impression of the series.
Karen: My overall impression is one of many ideas but little structure. As usual Kirby excels at coming up with new creations. He populates his new world with all sorts of animal-men, each with their own characteristics: the gorilla men are crude and brutal (not to mention ugly in a manner not unlike the Toho films' King Kong); the tiger men are aggressive conquerors; the lion-men are valiant conservationists who try to preserve mankind; and so on. In a twisted parallel to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the only intelligent humans surviving on Earth don't worship atomic bombs -they are atomic bombs! These mutant humans possess some sort of atomic power that allows them to change form into metallic supermen. They come from a place called 'Tracking Site' which for an unexplained reason resembles a miniature version of Earth floating somewhere above South America, and was apparently run by scientists and engineers from NASA before the Great Disaster struck. This Great Disaster is never spelled out, and actually as a mystery could serve to drive the story, but at least in these early issues, is relatively untouched. That's the maddening thing about it all: there's so much here that tantalizes, but never seems to really go anywhere.
Karen: I will say that the art is solid, with Kirby still producing some very strong work. I got the feeling he was enjoying himself creatively on these first ten issues. There are some wonderful epic vistas and imaginative character designs.Some of it definitely feels derivative though. Besides Planet of the Apes, Kirby also borrows from King Kong with a story involving a giant man ape ('Tiny') who becomes fond of Kamandi. Actually, Kirby recycles some of his own concepts if you think about it -the animal men have a lot in common with the New Men of the High Evolutionary from Thor back at Marvel, for example.
Karen: Kamandi himself is a cipher. He leaves his underground bunker (Command D -get it?) where he lived with his grandfather, to explore the world above, a world he had only known through stories and microfilm records. When he returns to his home he finds his grandfather killed by invading wolf-men. He decides to continue his explorations, but there never seems to be any rhyme or reason to his travels. He never expresses a personality beyond being something of a hot-head. There's no emotional life to the character. I'm not saying every comic character has to be a Peter Parker and cry in his beer every issue, but there has to be some sort of inner life, something going on that drives the protagonist and makes the reader take an interest in them. There's just nothing there with Kamandi. He's a blank slate. He seems to exist only as a vehicle to move from one place to another, from one idea to the next, so that different concepts can get shown off. He has no stake in anything.
|It wouldn't be right to leave out this Kirby collage from issue 9|