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The Kamandi Challenge Challenge, Part 2: Cameo City

 

We’re back with another edition of the Kamandi Challenge Challenge! The Kamandi Challenge Issue #2 dropped this week, and Ace of Geeks is here to report on it. This issue’s overall theme: “Huh, neat…wait, what?”

This issue is written by Peter J. Tomasi, with art by Neal Adams, colors by Hi-Fi, and lettering by Clem Robins. Let’s start by talking about the art. The Adams style is unmistakeable, angular and heavily shaded. Like most people, I know Adams from his work on Batman, so seeing him drawing animal-men is something of a treat. Hi-Fi’s colors compliment this nicely, keeping the world around Kamandi colorful, but subdued, and allowing the characters to be what pops; the visuals bring across a sense of former and rising grandeur amid some kind of massive devastation or desolation, a feeling that the current civilization is growing up around the ashes of the old. I like it.

Now, the story. The story is where this gets weird, which is to be expected with a challenge comic, but, wow does it get weird. We left off in Issue #1 with Caesar having activated the nuclear warhead, to Kamandi’s horror, so it’s only natural that this issue begins with Kamandi trying to stop the thing from going off. The opening moments have an appropriate level of Kirby pomp and bombast, with characters making big, declarative statements and shouting commands and comebacks as they battle over whether or not to let the bomb go off. Perfect. We get a nice, dynamic little action sequence, but of course in the end Kamandi’s efforts are futile, and the bomb ticks down to zero, only to..not explode, but instead disgorge a giant ape who hid in there as part of a Trojan Horse scheme?

In the ensuing chaos, Kamandi sneaks back into the Museum of War where he fought the bird-men last issue, and this is where the story takes its really weird turn. The bird-men go flying into battle against the giant apes, carrying “relics” from the Museum of War that are drawn from the first moment as items associated with DC superheroes, and that’s cute and definitely made me smile. But then Kamandi finds…the New Gods’ Mobius Chair?! Naturally, this gets him into trouble, and from there, we get another cameo from the main DC universe, a fairly lethal-looking cliffhanger.

Now, all of that sounds like I’m about to get really critical, but honestly, the truth is that I did not consider how weird this all was until I sat down to review it; I was too busy having fun. It was only after the fact that I started thinking “Wait, why did the ape wait until a countdown was finished to attack? Why introduce the Mobius Chair and just have it teleport them a few miles? What is even happening?” And for something like a round-robin Kamandi story, I think that’s an expected level of weird. Issue #2 is big, silly, weird fun, with lots of in-jokes for DC fans and deliberate homage to Kirby’s Old Testament style of writing. There are some weird turns and tangles in the plot, and some bits aren’t explained, but it’s such a fun journey I have trouble faulting it.

My only really heady complaints are Kamandi’s dialogue, and the ending. Tomasi writes Kamandi as quipping and a little ironic, which clashes heavily with the vision of Kamandi I’ve seen to date — more Peter Parker than a man out of time — and it grated on me a little bit. It’s possible that’s actually a valid Kamandi portrayal and I’m just a newb on this one, and if so, OK, fair cop. The ending, though, that has nothing to do with the Kamandi mythos. Ending by literally telling us Kamandi is going to die next issue feels unfair, like a middle finger raised to the next creative team. I worry it’s a sign that things are going to go off the rails: the next team will have to contrive a way to save Kamandi and possibly fire back at the narration from Issue #2, and then they’ll feel they need to up the stakes on their cliffhanger, which will mean Issue #4 needs to also save Kamandi and find a way out of their cliffhanger, and on and on down the line.

On the other hand, that kind of narrative arms race can be fun to read, in the same way this issue was fun to read, and given that I had fun, I’m willing to call this issue a success. I’m definitely intrigued to read Issue #3, and that’s the bottom line, I think. Plus this story is just so gloriously weird…I feel like the King might approve.

And that’s it; another Kamandi Challenge Challenge down. Let us know what you think, and we’ll see you next month!

Tyler Dent Hayes
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Tyler is a professional writer of speculative fiction and an enthusiastic lover of comics, tabletop games, pro wrestling, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, literary criticism, ice hockey, and basically every genre of fiction and music, but especially anything about superheroes, mythology, or both. Hailing from the wilds of Mendocino County, Tyler is lucky enough to have attained an advanced degree in talking about writing and to have married his favorite person in the world. He blogs about writing, life with anxiety, and occasionally movies and comics at his website, www.tyler-hayes.com. He'd love to play Sentinels of the Multiverse with you if you're interested.

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