In Review: Kong of Skull Island #1

Outstanding reading for fans of monsters, action, and the original giant of cinema.

The covers: Roaring to this book’s premiere are six different covers, each with a very different tone. The Regular cover is by Felipe Massafera and it is a beauty in blue. Under a full moon, Kong rears up before the villagers’ defensive pyre. They raise their spears to the monster that looks as though he’s going to tear them apart. One villager in the foreground looks at the reader with something resembling shock and awe. Really cool Kong on this and the fire really allows for some neat highlights. The first Variant is by Nick Robles. This is like a film poster. A three-quarters head shot of Kong is the dominant image in the sky. Below him, to his left, are two yellow-orange images of a pair of gigantic apes battling. To his left are two villagers, one looking like a priestess, the other a seer. In the foreground is Skull Island, surrounded by an ocean of orange. This is really cool, too. The image I chose to accompany this review is the Variant cover by Eric Powell. This has Kong on a cliff fighting with a dinosaur, most likely a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I loved when Kong fight the dinosaurs, in both films, so this one struck a chord in me. Plus, the coloring is beautiful with its yellows and light grays and greens. I love this. The Midtown Comics Exclusive is by Ryan Sook, who is one of my favorite cover artists. This has a shy, thoughtful Kong face emerging from darkness, considering the reader. Below him is the jungle with its tiny temple gates, dinosaurs, and snakes. Beautiful. Paul Pope is responsible for the Gecko Books & Comics Exclusive cover, with colors by Jason Wordie, which is a bust shot of Kong roaring as he beats his chest. The background is a vibrant red, making this catch any passerby’s eye easily. The final cover is a Coloring Book Variant wraparound cover by Carlos Magno. The details on this illustration are insane!  Kong is fighting a dinosaur before a temple. They’re surrounded by the jungle and several feathered dinosaurs are running about and on him. The energy this gives off is great and the texturing done on Kong and the jungle is staggering. This is one to track down. Overall grades: Regular A-, Robles Variant A, Powell Variant A+, Midtown Comics Exclusive A, Gecko Books & Comics Exclusive B-, and Coloring Book Variant A+

The story: This is the first installment in a six issue series. Being the origin story of how Kong got to Skull Island, my predictions for this book are that the natives got him there and that it will end with the arrival of the Venture. I was guessing that the majority of the story will focus on the humans of the book, with Kong making some appearances. That said, I’m really paying to watch the giant gorilla in action. Writer James Asmus gave me exactly what I was expecting, though I do wish there were more Kong scenes. The Atu and Tagu are the two designations of the villagers. The Atu are the upper class, while the Tagu are the laborers. The book opens with the annual battling of the Kongs, when the giant gorillas (Yes, there are several) are brought together to fight for sport in an arena. During a battle Asmus neatly works in what people are doing, giving some backstory to characters that will become important and showcasing one group’s religion. The fight takes a turn when the volcano emits a plume of smoke, causing one of the Kongs to begin to attack those in the stands. What follows was very smart, foreshadowing Ann Darrow’s importance and how the giants are kept in line. The story then tells of a forbidden romance, jealousy, and anger between the classes. I was growing concerned because I wanted more ape action, but Asmus surprised me by having an action occur on 14 that I hadn’t thought would occur until much later. Pages 17 – 19 were awesome. Asmus had some things appear that made me extremely happy. These individuals seemingly are what gets the Kongs on the island and it had me grinning like a seven-year-old. Asmus looks as though he’s on the right track to make this a monstrous winner. Overall grade: A-

The art: I was completely unfamiliar with the work of Carlos Magno before opening this book. Having now seen what he can do, I have to track down everything else this artist has done. Holy smokes, you’ve not seen anything until you’ve seen this Kong. Lush and detailed are completely inadequate to describe what’s he done on this initial issue. The first page begins outside the arena where the Kongs battle. There is a cast of thousands making their way into the stadium, while the story focuses on a conflict between two sets of people. Everything is fully rendered, the details in the characters amazing, and the intricacy in their costumes stunning. This is only Page 1. Pages 2 and 3 are a double-paged spread shown from the ground’s eye looking up at the giant apes battling, with worshipers next to them, and a crowd of spectators. This is a “Wow!” illustration. But Magno continues to make this an amazing book. The next two pages have two large panels that are close ups of the gorillas fighting and seven smaller panels are inserted within them to show what some people are doing during this fight. For such tiny panels there’s an incredible amount of detail, with characters’ clothing and ornamentation stellar, and the emotion that he’s able to squeeze into such small spaces wonderful. When the volcano begins to erupt on 5 it’s an outstanding drawing. Magno is also talented in putting in some subtle visual tension, such as the third panel on 9, with both characters equal in size, but, from that angle, looking like dueling gods. The settings are incredibly rich, such as the top of 10 and 11, and when the reader turns the page it’s a double-paged masterpiece that will leave him or her agog. There’s an action sequence on 18 and 19 that’s beautiful and terrible to look upon. Every page has something to make a reader believe in the awe of Skull Island. Overall grade: A+

The colors: This is very stylized coloring job from Brad Simpson. I wasn’t prepared for that, but after going through the book more than once, it works just fine. It comes off as stylized because all the scenes involving the villagers on their island use browns and oranges. In the real world, which all comics are set in, these would be the dominant colors. There are also some oranges and yellows, but Earth tones define the color scheme. Even the sounds are yellow or white. When the evening comes, the colors go to blues and violets. This was a good change of pace from the daytime scenes, and visually showed the reader the change in time. These colors worked for this issue, but now that the setting seems to have moved to Skull Island I’m anticipating a lot more greens and darker blues; sort of a Paradise in Hell. Overall grade: A-

The letters: Narration, dialogue, sounds, screams, and the “To Be Continued…” are brought to life by Ed Dukeshire. I wanted there to be lots of sound effects in a book featuring Kong, or Kongs, and Dukeshire made them great. I’m hoping to see more as the book progresses. The dialogue font is a strong script that makes normal speech seem strong, and when it’s italicized to show emphasis in the characters’ speech it looks really powerful. Overall grade: A

The final line: Outstanding reading for fans of monsters, action, and the original giant of cinema. I was floored by every page and am eagerly awaiting to see what follows. Overall grade: A

To find out more about this book, go to http://www.boom-studios.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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