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The Kamandi Challenge #1 is a Freewheeling Tribute to the King of Comics

Comics Reviews Jack Kirby
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<i>The Kamandi Challenge</i> #1 is a Freewheeling Tribute to the King of Comics

Writers: Dan Abnett, Dan DiDio
Artists: Dale Eaglesham, Keith Giffen, Scott Koblish
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 25, 2017

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Comics legend Jack Kirby, the man who created most of the Marvel Universe and significant portions of DC’s ‘70s mythos, is perhaps finally getting the credit he deserves. Marvel was arm-twisted into paying its founding father more attention (and his family more money) by settling a 2014 lawsuit before it reached the Supreme Court. DC was ahead of the curve on giving Kirby credit, paying him royalties for Super Powers and other projects back in the ‘80s. Now, DC is kicking off a new Kirby lovefest with the Kamandi Challenge.

The pitch of the maxi-series features rotating creative teams; each takes a turn at the wheel before driving the story off a cliff for the next team to resolve. Based on the first issue, which features Dan Abnett working with Dale Eaglesham and DC publisher Dan DiDio writing a framing story with Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish on art, this is going to be a must-read for Kirby-ites, and a should-read for anyone who likes their comics fun and unpredictable.

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The Kamandi Challenge #1 Interior Art by Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish

Kamandi, inspired by Planet of the Apes, was one of Kirby’s many weird concepts launched at DC in the early ‘70s. “The last boy on Earth,” Kamandi, exists in a post-apocalyptic world hilariously (and literally) mapped by Kirby, with descriptions such as “Territory of Polar Parasites” (Russia) and “Kangarat Murder Society” (Australia, ouch). Across 40 issues, Kirby ventured to very few of these regions, but that’s always been his M.O.: building worlds vast enough for the rest of us to play in for decades.

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The Kamandi Challenge #1 Interior Art by Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish

The narrative scaffolding, by DiDio, Giffen and Koblish, has plenty of direct and indirect tributes to Kirby. More importantly, it gives Kamandi a new origin, a quest and a bevy of mysteries to explore in Kirby’s wacky world of hyper-intelligent animal people and the lone human survivor. The second team of Abnett and Eaglesham takes the baton and runs further into this strange saga, and the shift in creators doesn’t feel disjointed: Abnett and Eaglesham deepen the story and heighten the stakes, adding info about the politics and class system. The tiger population discovers an “instrument of the gods,” which only Kamandi recognizes for what it is (no spoilers). Man, how could activating something called “the instrument of the gods” ever go wrong? We’ll find out in the second issue.

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The Kamandi Challenge #1 Interior Art by Dale Eaglesham & Hi-Fi

This improvisatory approach resembles the same zaniness Ryan Browne employed in his wonderful Blast Furnace, which he wrote and illustrated one day a time with no planning. The Kamandi Challenge involves more creators and pages, but retains that loosey-goosey, anything-can-happen feel, which is appropriate for a Kirby tribute. The King was known for ultra-fast pencils that also drove the plot: he was a master of off-the-cuff storytelling.

If you love Jack Kirby, you have to buy this. If you appreciate a free-wheeling, multi-collaborator approach to storytelling, this will please you. If you need to read a normal comic, move along, there’s nothing to see here. This is anything but normal—thank the King.

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The Kamandi Challenge #1 Interior Art by Dale Eaglesham & Hi-Fi

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The Kamandi Challenge #1 Interior Art by Dale Eaglesham & Hi-Fi