Who was King Kong before he was the King of Skull Island? We may never know…
Prequels are an inherently tricky prospect, because you’re building a follow-up to a (presumably) popular story which means automatic constraints on what you can do plot-wise. Make no mistake, Kong of Skull Island is a prequel (of sorts) to the King Kong story people know by heart. As far as I know, there’s no absolute, set-in-stone plot line for Asmus to incorporate so he’s working from his own imagination.
It’s not what I would call a rounding success. The story centers on two tribes of people sharing an island who have matches between giant apes (called Kongs, cause why wouldn’t King Kong be called that?) for sport. Their home island having finite resources for two tribes and a dozen giant gorillas, they’ve built ships to transport them to feeding grounds as well as find other islands with more plentiful resources. Naturally, this brings them to Skull Island.
None of this is particularly bad, but it veers towards the Force/Midiclorians territory. The story suggests that King Kong’s species isn’t native to Skull Island, that their purpose was basically cock-fighting set-up by an indigenous people, who themselves have a hard time sharing an island when they know others are within reach. On top of all that, there’s no certainty that Kong has entered the story yet, or if we’re seeing his parents even.
On art, Carlos Magno manages to depict a universe fit for King Kong. You’ve got giant stone buildings and arenas, torches, chiefs wearing cloaks and feathers. It hits that sweet- spot of cinema history that’s iconic, even if it’s not politically correct. His style is lush and detailed, with a pulp feel appropriate to the material. Bold lines and minor hatching give the world weight and a layer of grit, which helps when the story contains 4-5 creatures that just eat a human being like a potato chip. With Brad Simpson’s colors, this issue does look and feel like a King Kong story should: ancient and lost civilizations, epic monsters.
It’s too bad it doesn’t really feel compelling, the human characters are hard to distinguish which impairs the human love triangle and which one is supposed to be a prince or a priest. The monsters also don’t really figure into the plot aside from forcing the humans to carry them on a boat for food. The dialogue they use, while I know is not actually English, is still presented as a remarkable modern facsimile to it which I find annoying. This story takes place prior to 1933 I’m guessing and the human characters sound just like us except more prone to metaphors of love and history? Obviously their culture is well-maintained and they’re not dumb, but I would’ve liked Asmus to try to find a more natural vernacular for them to use.
For me, this is one of those first issues that doesn’t land and make a strong case to come back next month. I’ve read worse comics, but with so many new number ones hitting soon I can’t find a reason to stick with this.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent