Superhero comics wouldn’t be the force they are today without Jack Kirby. His explosive stories and artwork revealed new possibilities for the comic-book medium, and the superhero genre benefited most from his ideas. For Kirby’s centennial year, DC Comics has gone above and beyond to honor the legacy of the groundbreaking creator, releasing new series and one-shots that spotlight a huge range of Kirby’s DC characters. (Just last week, DC announced that Kirby’s The Demon would be returning in November with a new miniseries by writer Andrew Constant and artists Brad Walker and Andrew Hennessy.) The celebration started with The Kamandi Challenge, a year-long miniseries that has different creative teams telling single-issue stories that take the cliffhanger of the previous issue and send the plot in a new direction.
The eight chapters thus far have included names like Neal Adams, Marguerite Bennett, Amanda Conner, Steve Orlando, Jimmy Palmiotti, Ivan Reis, Peter J. Tomasi, and James Tynion IV, and this week’s issue features a pair of creators whose reverence for Jack Kirby has been apparent from their earliest days in the industry. Writer Keith Giffen and artist Steve Rude have always been driven by Kirby’s influence, and this exclusive preview of this week’s The Kamandi Challenge #8 showcases just how well they capture Kirby’s voice and visual style. Like Kirby, Giffen turns to ancient mythology for his story, and the circumstances of Kamandi’s world put a new twist on the source material as Kamandi is mistaken for Odysseus and thrown in the middle of a conflict between humanoid goats and wolves.
Those two tribes are impeccably designed by Rude, who holds on to the essential animal qualities of the goats and wolves but maximizes their expressive potential. His costumes take cues from ancient clothing design while incorporating the bold graphic elements that made Kirby’s work so powerful. The most impressive thing about this preview is how the artwork creates a propulsive momentum that never stops. The pace could easily slow down after Kamandi crashes on the beach, but that last panel of the goats’ silhouettes bursting into view energizes everything again.
The first shot of the goats in the light has a dramatic composition that is echoed by a similar shot of the wolves later, setting up a conflict that erupts in the final page, which has some especially striking uses of silhouettes in action. John Kalisz’s minimally rendered coloring keeps the focus on the linework, but he also understands that a vibrant palette heightens the sensational nature of Rude’s artwork, especially when it’s channeling Kirby so aggressively. This is a creative team that really understands what makes Kirby’s work engaging and thrilling, and they rise to The Kamandi Challenge with aplomb.