(Submitted by Prince Adam…Thanks, Super Friend! 🙂 xoxo)
“From James Asmus (Thief of Thieves, All-New Inhumans) and Carlos Magno (Lantern City, Planet of the Apes) comes the authorized origin of Kong. Two fractured and combative civilizations are forced to unite when their island is destroyed. Washing up on the shores of Skull Island, they must defend their people against an endless horde of dinosaurs and monsters. With the help of Kong lies hope for survival. Collects issue #1-4” (Boom Studios)
I know this is based on the original novels but seeing as I haven’t seen Kong: Skull Island yet (I will now on Blu-Ray), I thought it might be advantageous to read this first. I’ll say this right off the start, I like this book. Now, while you don’t need a Kong origin story to enjoy the character, it is nice to have one. To know how he came to be and how he ends up on Skull Island. While Kong eventually becomes the last of his kind, before that he was part of a group of genetically manipulated and selectively bred apes. Sure, the creative team could have gone deeper into this but if you’re willing to accept Kong as an exceedingly large ape, you don’t really need much more. These apes were created by island dwellers, who have since split away from each other on separate sides of the island. When they come together to try and reunite their people again, they have two Apes known as Kong’s fight, as a form of entertainment and as a way for the winning Apes tribe’s to show superiority over the other. Writer James Asmus uses the way each tribe treats their Kong’s, to drum up specific emotions of the reader, for each tribe. The Atu treat the Apes as barbaric animals. It’s also mentioned but never shown, that they sometime whip and throw rocks, to get the Apes, to follow their commands. Meanwhile, the Tagu, specifically their Kong trainer Ewata, treats their Kong with compassion and respect, more like a human. We know who PETA would side with. Any human with a conscious in fact, should side with the Tagu tribe. It’s not only the treatment of the Kong that caused a schism between the groups. Religious and political ideologies also cause conflict. While the kings of both “royal families” practice traditional sacrifices and believe in multiple gods, Prince K’Reti believes in one God. This difference causes tension amongst the power brokers of the tribes, but trickles down to the tribes people as well. Even politically there is disparity. The Tagu are open and honest with their tribe, collaborating on political decisions. Meanwhile, the Atu hierarchy decides what they feel is best for the group and implements their decision. Case in point, the real reason the tribes have come together. Tribal scholars have informed both tribal leaders that volcanic lava is rising. The Tagu leaders want to warn their people, allowing them to prepare to evacuate the island for a new settlement. Yet, the Atu have already secretly started making evacuation plans, without informing their tribe as to why. Both tribe leaders make a pact to marry off their children, K’Reti and Usana, as a way of appeasing the gods and pooling their resources to get off the island, There’s only one problem, K’Reti is already secretly married to the aforementioned Ewata. Despite this, for the good of his people, he agrees to the marriage. When Ewata learns of the marriage, witnessing the royal ceremony, she is furious, resenting and giving her husband the cold shoulder.
I love how the story gives you the impossible with two giant genetically bred apes fighting. It gets us hooked on the spectacle, before grounding the story in real conflict such as religious and political differences. The people in the story may be tribal but here in 2017 real world, these issues are tenuous as ever. Keep in mind, the single issues of this book were published around the U.S. election. I don’t think these themes being at play in the book is a coincidence. I didn’t care for the secret marriage/arranged marriage love triangle between K’Reti, Ewata & Usana. It was a little to soap opera for my taste. The story gets extremely interesting, when the island begins to shake and the volcano is on the verge of eruption. The boats at the Tagu/Attu’s disposal are only enough to fit about half the inhabitants on the island, along with the Kong’s. There’s some heartbreaking and down right cruel moments as it is decided to who stays and who goes. As the survivors depart they veer off course and stumble upon Skull Island. Many of the characters are fearful of Skull Island. That’s because native storytellers have whispered about it being inhabited by monsters, as told by wounded and feverish survivors. I love how mysteriously the wrier treats Skull Island and that he makes its legend a tale told passed down through generations. It’s worth noting that the whole story we are reading is being transcribed a told by a native story teller, as we are reading it. I thought that was cool. There are monsters on Skull Island in fact. Specifically dinosaurs. There is no explanation as to how or why dinosaurs have survived on this island, however, once again, I say who cares. Is it really hard to believe dinosaurs exist in the same world as giant apes? I think not. Also, given that this story is being transcribed by native storytellers, it makes sense that they wouldn’t know the how’s or why’s about the dinosaurs.. The third act of the book sees the Kong’s and the newly united tribe fighting side by side, as they beat back the dinosaurs. The book ends with the Tagu/Atu temporarily gaining control of the island, with the hint that more monsters await them. We also have a murder mystery taking shape and a hint that Kong and crew will soon face more traditional human hunters we’ve become accustomed to in the books and films.
Art is drawn by Carlos Magno and I like it. The Tagu & Atu tribes have a Mayan look about them and it’s fascinating. It really solidifies the idea that these two tribes haven’t had any contact with the modern world. The only issue that I have with this section of the art, is that both tribes look identical and it makes telling them apart visually, nearly impossible. The Kong’s clashing together is the big, bombastic Earth shattering moment you’d expect and is deserving of the splash page it’s drawn on. These two particular Kong are distinguishable from each other but when they cluster together in a group, they too become indistinguishable from each other. The wide shot image of the volcano on the verge of eruption look as dangerous and foreboding, as two giant apes fighting. I loved the first view of Skull Island. There’s a mist in the air, the tide is rough and the skull formed in Skull Island, protruding and sticking out like a sore thumb, commanding attention on the page. The final battle between the Kong’s and the dinosaurs is the highlight of the book. The rage and the chaos of the Kong’s as they trample over rabid dinosaurs, get bitten by pterodactyls and then turn around and rip off T-Rex’s heads is pulse pounding and fun to behold. This is the closest thing to a Jurassic Park/Planet of the Apes crossover we will ever see, So I am going to continue enjoying this for as long as we can. This comic book was initially supposed to be a mini series but was since extended to a maxi series. This makes me happy because while it’s not anything ground-breaking, it’s amazing ape madness and a ton of fun! A definite must buy! I can’t wait to read more of Kong’s origin and see what happens next!