Since the trailer for Kong: Skull Island has been released, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this take on a classic property. Unlike many, I actually liked the period elements of the 2005 film, and tend to pay attention when there’s a revival of Kong interest in pop culture.
The new film has a surprisingly Apocalypse Now vibe, which I wasn’t expecting, and I’m not totally sure that a “war film” approach to King Kong is going to inspire me. However some of the underlying concepts seem to work in Kong mythology, like describing Skull Island as “a place where myth and science meet” and presenting the idea that “monsters exist”. Stuffed with A-list actors, and with seemingly high production values based what’s been released so far, it may surprise me and I may turn out to be a fan in the end.
However, whatever reservations I may have about the upcoming film, Boom! Studios have been publishing an ongoing comic series, Kong of Skull Island that’s definitely in my wheelhouse in terms of storytelling. Written by James Asmus, with art by Carlos Magno and cover art by Nick Robles, the the first collected volume arrives this week. Recently, I was asked to include more recommendations on the site regarding what trade editions are good value for fans, so I’m taking a look at this fresh and relevant collection.
This collection includes the “authorized origin of Kong”, which in itself is an interesting feature. But first up, I am very happy with the art style chosen for this series. Magno is working with a classic pulp aesthetic with an almost illustration-like linework to his inking that for me conjures up the long history of Kong, the style of old adventure comics like Conan, and even the sense of being told a visual story rather than watching a film. It would have been quite an obvious choice to pick a photo-realistic, overly rendered style for this comic, and it might have even been an entertaining, visually beautiful comic, but Boom would have missed an opportunity to really capture Kong tradition. Magno’s linework with colors by Brad Simpson that are often steeped in earth-tones and chalky jungle colors create an excellent atmospheric experience for the reader. There are also so many monsters in this book, many of them dinosaurs, that monster fans are going to find it a visual feast.
Having been familiar with James Asmus’ writing previously, I suspected that the story on this run would be well-crafted, part of my decision to look into this trade in the first place. Handling a large cast of characters with as much room for development as he can fit into a non-stop action story, Asmus proves me right. It was no doubt an interesting challenge for him to try to make sure the writing and dialogue balanced out the constant struggle and carnage in a story built on wave after wave of monster attacks upon two native civilization groups, but he has certainly managed to do that. We have a diverse range of characters in terms of gender, age, and skillsets, too, which keep the story interesting as humans struggle to find ways to survive in an overwhelmingly dangerous environment.
All in all, I highly recommend this volume. It goes far beyond a pre-film tie-in comic and well into developing the wider realm of Kong mythology. However recent films have handled or may handle Kong, the comic has gotten it right for fans.