Thursday, April 4, 2013

Animal, Man!

Kamandi Volume 2: written by Jack Kirby and Gerry Conway; illustrated by Jack Kirby, D. Bruce Berry, and Mike Royer with Joe Kubert (1975-76; collected 2012): Kirby's last lengthy comic-book run was a popular post-apocalyptic saga that occasionally seemed like a funny-animal version of The Road Warrior. DC's second new Omnibus volume finishes Kirby's run on the mid-1970's series that saw young human Kamandi making his way back and forth across a radically changed "Earth After Disaster."

Animals are now intelligent. Really intelligent. And occasionally bipedal. Various kingdoms occupy the Earth, from relatively benign pockets of apes and tigers and dogs to extremely dangerous groups of ... well, flying sharks, for one. Some animals, including dolphins, work to preserve the endangered species known as man; others, like the bizarre lobster/clam coalition, collect humans for their 'Air-quariums.'

Kamandi's quest for knowledge -- he ultimately seeks the cause of the Great Disaster -- takes him from place to place, each offering both action and some form of commentary on our own world. Action sequences and general weirdness abound. Two standout issues feature a cult of apes who worship Superman's costume as they wait for the Day of His Return; another puts Kamandi and friends on-board a Soviet space station with a hideously altered cosmonaut who's somehow survived the unknown stretch of centuries since the Great Disaster.

Plausible much of this is not -- but it is fun. Canada's become a wildlife haven defended by the united species of Europe against poachers, a haven that's home, among other things, to a seemingly endless parade of giant, mostly benign insects. If you've ever wanted to see a talking, bipedal bulldog in 19th-century British military dress leading a boy, a metal man, and a giant bipedal ant into battle, this is the comic book for you.

It's interesting to note the tonal shift as Gerry Conway takes over the scripting duties from Kirby in the last three issues collected here. Kamandi becomes much more self-pitying, and the animals become much more stereotypically villanous. Narratively speaking, it's a bit jarring. All in all, though, highly recommended -- and probably really enjoyable if one is six or seven years old.

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