Hello, my friends. Even when the outside world is chaotic, savage and full of various things that we struggle to wrap our heads around, there’s still that glimmer of hope that we must continue to strive and survive through in order to live in a better tomorrow. On that note, I welcome you back to another entry of my series of reviews known as…
Unlike our previous entry where a past mainline film was expanded upon via branching narrative paths, we once again return to the central purpose of this subsidiary series where lesser known DC characters get their chance to shine within a short animated story. For this entry, we’ll be traveling to the end of all-known existence as humanity’s last hope will be forced to endure a series of trials in order to gain some significant ground on helping the human race recover. As such, I present you with a world-shattering piece called…
Originally released on April 27, 2021, this 18-minute animated venture was also included as a Blu-Ray bonus feature for “Justice Society: World War II”. As I always say, you can click the link if you’re interested in knowing my thoughts about that mainline feature. For everyone else who’re staying put, let’s venture towards a ravaged planet and find out what harrowing tasks await our main man.
We open in a post-apocalyptic world where our titular survivor Kamandi (voiced by Cameron Monaghan) has rowed his way to a destroyed city. Armed with a rifle, he makes his way into the sewer system before he ultimately reaches the central chamber. He soon discovers that his anthropomorphic tiger friend named Tuftan (voiced by Steven Blum) has been captured by a group of mutated and fluent rats who plan on eating him later.
After they head over to another part of the room, Kamandi manages to rip out of piece of rebar and use it to break his comrade out of his cage. However, the newly-broken lock hits the ground and alerts the rats. As such, he and Tuftan are forced to flee for their lives.
Kamandi manages to distract their pursuers with some gunfire before he assures Tuftan that he has an escape plan. As if on ironic cue, the rats tackle them just as they reach the outside world as they all end up falling down a hill. Not only that, but all of them immediately find themselves captured by a group of gorilla soldiers, to which Tuftan criticizes his friend for his poor plan.
Later, Kamandi and company are being taken away within the paddy wagon. Just then, he notices another familiar face amongst the prisoners in Ben Boxer (voiced by Armen Taylor), who was originally supposed to help out with the initial escape. After Ben tells Tuftan that he’s not exactly “the last jabbering man”, Kamandi then proceeds to share his backstory. Long ago, his father worked within this once-populated city “for a secret organization”. Sadly, the world would get ravaged by the Great Disaster. Kamandi and his dad would hold themselves up in a bunker called “Command D”, which is where he got his name. As the lone survivors of the entire human race, they had to ration their supplies while Kamandi was kept busy with comics & info reels, thus getting as educated as he could get.
Eventually, his dad would pass away. Before his death, he told Kamandi that he’s “the last boy on Earth” and that for the sake of humanity, he must survive. From there, the flashback ended with him heading out into the world.
Back in the present, Kamandi, Tuftan, Ben and the rats arrive at the gorilla group’s main base. As they’re led into the central chamber, they soon realize that they’re at the sacrificial mercy of the Ape Cult. From there, their leader named Golgan (also voice by Steven Blum) emerges and proceeds to inform the captured “candidates” on why there’re here.
Back when the Great Disaster ravaged the entire world, it seemed to have brought a permanent end to everything on Earth. Fortunately, a god-like being called “The Mighty One” emerged and used his vast powers to prevent the planet from being completely destroyed.
However, this task was too much for even a grand figure like him as he ultimately fell. Even though he vowed to return some day, too much time has passed since then with nary a sign of his return. Golgan then says that it’s possible that he has come back in the form of another individual, ranging from those who’ve been forcibly gathered from across the land to those amongst themselves who’ve gone through rigorous training in order to prove their worth. As such, an example of the latter emerges as Zuma (voiced by Adam Gifford) boasts about himself prevailing in the upcoming trials. When Tuftan then asks what will happen to those who ultimately fail, Golgan then shows how they’ll be “forever honored” in sacrifice.
From there, the group gets led towards their first challenge. Golgan then says that the Mighty One was able to “walk on the very clouds themselves”, to which Kamandi realizes that he and the rest of the group are expected to make it across the massive pit. Zuma easily manages to leap across before a trio of rat men are forced to follow suit. However, the gorilla guards gave them no chance to make the attempt as they end up being forced over the side and fall towards their doom.
Tuftan then proceeds to jump across to the other side, but he awkwardly lands and almost falls in as he manages to cling onto the side for dear life. Kamandi manages to take one of the guard’s spears and uses it to hop over and help his comrade out.
Afterwards, he sees Ben and the three remaining rat men being pressured into jumping. Thankfully, he notices a long-enough banner pole as he uses the spear to cut it down and help them safely cross. Zuma calls him out for cheating, but Kamandi says that he just wants all of them to survive. Meanwhile, Ben notices that Tuftan’s leg is in bad shape. He attempts to stand and put pressure on it, but he’s unable to since it’s fractured. Despite the unfortunate injury, Kamandi refuses to leave Tuftan behind as he and Ben help their wounded comrade.
For the second challenge, Golgan wants them to head down the corridor and open the door. The rat men recognize the easiness of said task as they make a mad dash down the hallway. Unfortunately for them, several rifles emerge from the walls and proceeds to shoot them down.
Afterwards, Golgan says that neither weapon nor element could penetrate or piece the Mighty One’s body. As such, Ben steps in and transforms himself into living steel. As he proceeds to head down the corridor, Kamandi, Tuftan and even the hypocritical Zuma use him as a mobile shield against the bullet barrage.
After the guns cease their fire, a green mist begins to pour in as Ben scoffs at this water-filled attempt to stop them. However, Kamandi sees a nearby pipe getting eaten by it before he tries to warn Boxer that it’s corrosive acid. Unfortunately, Ben begins to get badly singed by it.
Fortunately, Kamandi notices a nearby valve that controls the out-pouring acid as he runs through the dangerous gas and suffers some acidic burns on his arms. Thankfully, he’s able to shut the harmful gas off as the door opens before he heads inside and uses some running water to wash off as much of the harmful acid as he can. With Boxer only partially-damaged, the group proceeds to move on.
They ultimately reach the final challenge as Golgan explains that the Mighty One was able to tame the fiercest creatures ever made. Ben and Tuftan manage to reach their hiding spots before the grand beast emerges as a giant, mutated bug that’s under the Ape Cult’s control.
As it leaps towards its potential prey, Kamandi tells Zuma that they have to work together. However, Zuma isn’t willing to cooperate as he grabs Kamandi and throws him towards the beast. From there, he’s forced to flee for his life. Zuma then attempts to take advantage of this distraction as he leaps onto the massive beast and tries to subdue it, but he’s ultimately thrown off.
The giant bug then attempts to attack him, but Kamandi manages to leap in and save the surprised Zuma as he mentions that his grandfather taught him to be compassionate towards others.
He then sees the ape soldier controlling the giant bug and realizes how he can bring this conflict to an end. He ultimately manages to leap onto the creature’s back before he uses a pipe to rip the controlling collar off of its neck. As a result, it repays him by playfully licking his face.
With Kamandi prevailing as the ultimate winner, Golgan tells him to go towards his reward. After returning to the main room, Kamandi reaches his prize: a familiar suit containing the Mighty One’s symbol, which turns out to be Superman.
Golgan then approaches him and says that he has three traits that he shares with the valiant hero: wisdom, sacrifice and having mercy for his enemy. As the Ape Cult begins to worship him, Kamandi says that he’s not the Mighty One. However, the suit has given him proof that he’s still alive somewhere. As such, he intends on finding him.
Later on the surface (which is revealed as the remains of Metropolis), Kamandi is about to ride off on his giant bug named Click-Clack in order to search for Superman. Golgan reminds him to specifically look for an orphan before Kamandi rides off. And so, the story ends with Tuftan & Ben each commenting about their comrade before Golgan mentions that our hero is heading towards his biggest challenge yet and that it’s vital to everyone that he succeeds.
Briefly, we’ll get to my character analysis as I comment about humanity’s last hope himself: Kamandi. Despite having to live within a post-apocalyptic world, he maintains a youthful optimism while being calm and cool throughout this venture. More than likely, this is because he’s adapted to his surroundings throughout the majority of his life. At the beginning of this venture, he never expected to do more than just rescue his friend Tuftan from a group of Rat Men, let alone even expect to come across Ben Boxer in the way that he did. By the end of the three trials, he displays the recommended strength and quick thinking required to survive. Not to mention, each challenge shows him displaying compassionate concern towards our other three supporting characters in Tuftan, Ben and even Zuma. No matter how much these individuals are either in favor of or in opposition of Kamandi, they each get saved from certain doom thanks to the instilled and heartfelt upbringing of our main hero. By the end, he gets rewarded for his efforts by getting a better outlook upon the world, especially with the knowledge that Superman is potentially alive somewhere within the ravaged remains of Earth. Despite this short ending with him venturing off to find Kal-El in a somewhat open-ended manner, Kamandi’s newfound and energized optimism could potentially be the spark that helps the human race begin to slowly turn things around for the better. Unlike his vocal time as Superboy, Cameron Monaghan gives a performance that’s more mature, driven and heartfelt, while still maintaining a certain level of youthful charisma & confidence that was also present when he previously voiced the Teen of Steel. He makes enough of an impact to make the viewing audience care about the character, especially with it being a somewhat-obscure, non-powered hero who’s limited by his situation in how he can be presented throughout the greater DC landscape. For what he has to work with, he makes the most out of it and presents an admirably good display towards the Last Boy on Earth.
The featured story here is actually somewhat based off of a 1975 issue of Kamandi’s original series. Though this short does have a similar structure, the comic presents its tale much differently. The 29th issue (which saw Jack Kirby write, draw & edit it alongside inker & letterer D. Bruce Berry and was based on a suggested idea from Steve Sherman) saw Kamandi and Ben Boxer coming across the Tablet of Revelation, which told of the Mighty One and his attempt to save the world following the Great Disaster. While the animated short saw Superman ultimately falling and vanishing due to the immense burden, the comic just mentions that he finished his work and ended up creating “miles of stone so huge that it became a new land for all creatures”. From there, Golgan & his Ape Men show up and automatically assume that Ben Boxer is the reincarnated Mighty One. However, Zuma doesn’t believe it and proceeds to fight Ben. Golgan ultimately breaks up their scuffle before saying that Boxer can prove that he’s the Mighty One if he makes it through the Demonstration Course within Nashnil. While the animated short saw Kamandi, Tuftan and the Rat Men being forced to participate in these harrowing trials as well, the comic only has Ben and Zuma participating. There’s also some tweaks to the challenges, such as the “Proof of Flight” launching its participants into the air with a catapult, though the comic only shows Zuma doing this. One similarity that the short shares with the comic is that Boxer does shift into his metal form in order to withstand gunfire. While the animated outing made that the second challenge and ultimately took Ben out of the competition via corrosive acid, the comic had that as the final task and only used a gattling gun on him. As for the challenge that got swapped out, the middle task in the comic had Boxer and Zuma attempt to nudge a massive boulder called the “Daily Planet”, to which only Ben was successful. Also, the ending following the conclusion of the challenges was different in the comic. Once the “Vault of the Super-Suit” was opened, a jealous Zuma blindsided Boxer with a single punch before he made a mad dash for the outfit while Kamandi chased after him. Once they reached Superman’s costume, a struggle ensued before Kamandi pulled the suit out from beneath Zuma’s foot, causing him to fall and perish within a fire pit. While seeing the outfit provides an encouraging feeling towards him in that Superman is potentially alive, the comic ends with the costume getting placed back inside the vault in the event that Kal-El finally comes along to reclaim it. From there, Kamandi takes his leave with Ben as they head towards a new continent called “Landbridge”. Because I haven’t read the entirety of the original comic series, I can only infer how this story was handled there compared to the animated short. This singular adventure felt more like a chapter within a long-running, over-arching series, while the featured film keeps it more self-contained. One major advantage that this short has is that it actually focuses on Kamandi having to overcome these challenges, as opposed to someone else going through them while he watches from the sidelines. Plus, having more individuals taking part in this adds some much-needed tension, as it provides some potentially lethal form of elimination. Also, the surprise that Superman is the one who’s ultimately described as the Mighty One makes for a genuine surprise for those who haven’t read that issue. It’s especially true since the comic version of the Mighty One’s past deeds shows him just similar enough to Superman, while the animated short only shows him as a regular-looking being without the cape or the familiar symbol on his chest. In that vein, the whole venture comes across as genuinely surprising throughout the entire ordeal. Aside from our main hero, Tuftan and Ben Boxer (the former of which was added to this tale) serves their roles pretty well, despite the fact that they each suffer injuries that ultimately take their effective helpfulness out of the picture. I would’ve liked it if they each found a way to assist our main hero despite their physical setbacks, but Steven Blum (in a dual role with Golgan) and Armen Taylor were neat within their roles. As for Zuma, he’s the closest thing to a villain here, displaying a self-righteous arrogance throughout the majority of this tale as he believes that he’s the reincarnated Mighty One. He believes that his physical might makes him right, while being hypocritical about what’s cheating and what’s not. By the end, it takes a humbling act during the final challenge where Kamandi saves him from Click-Clack in order for him to see the error of his way. While he does remain on the sideline for the rest of the short, he’s more calm & cool in terms of his behavior. Adam Gifford brings the right amount of boastfulness to his role and makes him entertaining, despite his boastful pride. In terms of this animated short loosely adapting said comic book story, it’s nicely paced throughout and delivers its theme of maintaining hope within a bleak world, just like Superman. He travels around the ruined Earth as humanity’s last hope, since the Great Disaster has made the human race nearly extinct. While he does all that he can to strive and survive, he’ll unexpectedly come across the definitive proof that the ultimate symbol of hope is possibly out there somewhere. Kamandi is humanity’s lone remaining pulse, but it gets a necessary recharge now that he heads out to potentially find Earth’s greatest hero. Finally, I appreciate the animation style that was used here. It presents itself in Jack Kirby’s style and it flows really well with no jarring stutters at all. It’s also backed by some nice colors that originally came with the King’s classic artistic technique. Despite the harrowing setting, the color spectrum is never that modern tone deafness of having a bleak and muted palette just for the sake of it. I can’t really find any major problems with this aspect of the short, so I’ll wrap up this part of the review by mentioning that it’s as solid as it can be in presenting Kirby’s featured creation.
Overall, this is a post-apocalyptic venture that’s nicely written & thrilling throughout. With likable characters, an engaging story, fluent animation and harrowing situations, it presents one of DC’s singular creations in a respectable fashion and delivers a taste of what his classic comic series is like through the creative hands of modern animators. It’s also not too gruesome towards its audience, despite the dangers that’re inherent within this world and the three challenges. As such, older children should be able to take this in and learn about this unlikely comic book character. In the end, Kamandi and company make the most of their time in this spotlight as they strive and survive their way towards a confidently made entry within this series. If this peaks your interest, then give it a watch as you restore your self-sense of hopefulness within our continually chaotic world.
Next Time: For a group of outcast soldiers, they’re going to find themselves in the most unlikely of places for their rescue mission. It’ll be a primal time out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for our main group known only as “The Losers”.
Kamandi (created by Jack Kirby) is owned by DC Comics.