[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Written by: James Tynion IV
Artist: Carlos D’Anda
Kamandi and Vila are offered as sacrifice to a behemoth Jaguar by its loyal Sun Cult of smaller (although still quite large) Jaguars. All is not as it seems however, and the surrealistic circumstances of Kamandi’s new reality are beginning to sink in.
Kamandi Challenge #4 feels a little like the 1984 classic Romancing the Stone, except with less Danny DeVito and more of a gigantic Jaguar Sun God that wears a functioning F-22 Jet Fighter as neck bling.
The book has a light-hearted, adventurous feel to it and the artwork reflects the quick pace of the story, where Kamandi and Vila as they book it from the inside of an animatronic belly to the jungle canopies, to sky and desert within a few short panels.
Overall this issue feels like the mid-section of some intense trial of endurance; Kamandi can easily deal with the deadliest of threats as easily as popping on the kettle and munching on a biscuit, rather his only weakness is getting a straight answer from any of the anamorphic creatures he stumbles across. So, the real challenge is keeping himself going and keeping Vila safe while he consistently fails to stay out of dangerous situations. The circumstances are chaotic and the environment feels like the Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic aftermath of a nuclear war in Bojack Horseman.
It’s 2017 and you can’t get away with harbouring a female sidekick and have her say practically nothing but the protagonist’s name for the whole issue, especially if a) She is injured, b) He is topless, or c) Both, which unfortunately the situation we find ourselves in with this issue. Vila is a living plant thing like Ivy or Swamp Thing, and deserves more time than she’s been given. And you can’t avoid it by saying that she was created specifically to serve Kamandi because that is also pretty weak. I want to follow lead characters who have the charisma to attract like-minded and capable allies, but what I’m seeing instead is justified slavery which is every bit the oxymoron it sounds.
The villain-of-sorts of the issue also felt notably out of touch. A scientist decrying the anti-scientist rhetoric of the rest of his society maybe shouldn’t be your bad guy when half the world is protesting in defence of science.
Professor Cano tells Kamandi that he was smarter than his peers in the Jaguar Sun Cult and resented them for rejecting his rational ideas in favour of their primitive sun cult, so his response was to build a giant robot of death to demean and dominate the ignoran-no wait you see this just doesn’t feel great.
I love an evil scientist as much as the next Rick and Morty fan, but Professor Cano just didn’t have that effect and worse than that turned a character of little importance into a source of major irritation.
Fast, fun but without much depth and not above succumbing to the lesser clichés that come with the story matter and not necessarily to the issue’s credit. However, lots to look forward to, with more action in store and hopefully more of a hook than the Planet of the Apes, “God damn you all to Hell!” ending I think most readers would be expecting.