Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Kamandi Challenge #12 Review and **SPOILERS**

The Challenge Was Inside Of You, All Along

Writers: Gail Simone, Paul Levitz 
Artists: Jill Thompson & Ryan Sook, José Luis García Lopez & Joe Prado 
Colorists: Trush Mulvihill, Laura Martin & Andrew Crossley 
Letterer: Clem Robins 
Main Cover: Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair 
Cover Price: $4.99 
On Sale Date: December 27, 2017


Now we come to the payoff: the final issue of Kamandi Challenge, where we are supposed to figure out what the ding-dong dickens is going on in this comic book. It’s had its ups and downs, if you define “ups” as “head-scratching moments of insane anthropomorphic action” and “downs” as “the sheer boredom and tedium of Tom King’s issue.” Whether a series is good or bad, however, must be considered based on its conclusion. So let’s find out what my considerations were in my review of Kamandi Challenge #12, right here!

Explain It!

It may have escaped the notice of those who have regularly read the reviews of this series, but Jim and I (Reggie) have been reviewing every other issue in this series since it began. It’s been good to have someone to bounce this thing around with, because had either of us done this by ourselves I don’t think we’d have hung in with as much enthusiasm as we’ve got. Reviewing this series in tandem also gave me another perspective (Jim’s, namely) and I got to see this series somewhat through his point-of-view. For instance, I never expected and never looked for a cohesive story in Kamandi Challenge; I figured the “challenge” was each creator digging out of the hole left by the previous one, and it would primarily be a Kirby love-fest of talking gorillas in armor shooting laser rifles. Jim, on the other hand, clued in to the “story” of this series, that Kamandi was looking for his parents, who had somehow survived the cataclysm and lived on this weird planet Earth separate from their shirtless boy. And that was proven, several issues ago, when Kamandi’s mom showed up—despite her actually being an android. Still, it proves that there is a narrative thread here, one that should be tied up in this issue.
We begin with the origin story of Kamanda, which is identical to that of Kamandi’s, except she’s a girl and comes from the bunker known as Command-A. Floating along a lazy river, she comes across Kamandi and imparts some cryptic words, before we rejoin Kamandi in the waking world, still plummeting to Earth with his two armored talking gorilla buddies from the end of the last issue. The larger gorilla, chieftain of their tribe, wraps both Kamandi and the other ape in his arm and falls with his back to the ground, so that when they land, only he dies from the fall. This isn’t how gravity really works, but I’ll go with it. After the fatally wounded space-terrorist Misfit launches his Terrornaut, a giant robot that will wipe out all life on earth, Kamandi teams up with some battle-scarred anthropomorphic rats that combine to form a giant rat Kaiju, and they trade a couple of punches.
It’s not quite enough, and Kamandi, in charge of the whole shebang, remembers Dr. Renzi’s Cyclotron Heart from…oh, five or six issues ago, and how it creates small nuclear explosions to keep working. So Kamandi figures that a larger Cyclotron heart will destroy the Terrornaut—so somehow he makes this happen and wipes away the robot, yet Kamandi and the rats remain unharmed. I don’t really understand what happens in this scene other than “the good guys win.” At the end, the rats say they knew Kamandi was coming because they read it from prophecy—a box full of comic books, including some issue of Kamandi from way back in the day. And then, Jack Kirby shows up.
This last bit was intended to be written by Len Wein, and I have to assume that she he expired veteran writer and one-time DC Comics President was tapped to wrap this up. So the idea is here that Jack Kirby is a Mr. Mxyzptlk-style imp that can grant Kamandi three wishes with his magical pencil. And Kamandi is actually some teenage jerk in the present. And, uh…it’s pretty demeaning to this series, y’all. It’s not so much the inclusion of Jack Kirby, but his portrayal as a magical genie that adds to the kind of sappy disappointment that is this ending. I’d have much rather preferred Gail Simone expand her story a little bit instead of wrapping it up with a Macguffin. The art, by venerated Bronze Age artist Jose Luís García Lopez, is incredible, but the story falls kind of flat. And I didn’t expect to be bowled over by the ending to this “story by secret committee” type of writing experiment, Too bad. A better homage to Jack “King” Kirby might have been a more straightforward post-apocalyptic Kamandi story, simply continuing a winning formula of talking dog-people and dire escapes.

Bits and Pieces:

An exciting and decidedly silly battle is cut short to pay some awkward homage to Jack Kirby, and that pretty much defines as well as concludes this series. You could do worse than a back-up drawn by José Luis García Lopez, though. That's for sure.


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