Pop Culture
Apr 14, 2022, 06:28AM

Absurd Peace

Kamandi no. 28 shows his power to change identity at will and to capitalize on the prejudices of his enemies.

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While Kamandi no. 1 provided an explosive introduction to Jack Kirby’s colorful dystopia, the mental and emotional complexity of The Last Boy On Earth didn’t become clear until Kamandi 28 (April, 1975). If there’s a single Kamandi story that proves the series had strong political influences it was 28’s “Enforce The Atlantic Testament.” Here we learn the extent of Kamandi’s power as a strategist, his power to change identity at will and his ability to capitalize on the shallow prejudices of his enemies. The protagonist wanders in and out of conflict gracefully, driven by shock, curiosity, introspection, anger and cunning, modulating between these extremes at a lightning pace.

This issue concludes a storyline that took root in Kamandi 26 and 27. The previous books found the young survivor teamed with close ally/metallic mutant Ben Boxer in an attempt to save the untouched wilderness The Dominion Of The Devils from the clutches of Sacker’s Company. This oligarchical corporate entity is controlled by a humanoid Snake named Sacker, one of Kamandi’s toughest opponents. Name an exploitive money grubbing scheme—slavery, imperialism, gambling rackets, animal abuse, crimes against the environment—and Sacker’s Co. has had a hand in every one. Appearing like a cross between a boa constrictor and The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns, the conniving snake man was the ultimate post-apocalyptic “robber baron.”

Sacker and his mammoth private security force of leopard men trash The Dominion’s lush paradise of giant vegetation and insects all for rampant industrialization and profiteering. Concurrently armies of Prussian gorilla men, French wolf men, and British bulldog soldiers oppose the destruction for their own imperialistic aims in a spectacular battle described on the front cover of 27 as “a beastly Gunga Din.” That description’s power is matched only by the Charge Of The Light Brigade-inspired blurb Kirby slapped on to 28’s cover: “Into the valley of death rode the six hundred… BULLDOGS, DYING LIKE MEN!”

Under siege by Sacker’s army, canine warrior Captain Pypar and his nameless ant-man servant stumble across Kamandi and Ben and command them to serve as work animals in the “Britannek” army. Despite the bulldog bruiser’s obnoxiousness, the duo realize that whoever opposes Sacker can’t be all bad, so a shaky but important political alliance is established. Pypar is an insane caricature of a career military man. Self-obsession, toxic masculinity, and a psychotic/suicidal commitment to duty are his only personality traits. The pompous bulldog annoys his “beasties” of burden; eventually they wander off for a stroll into the tropical brush. There Kamandi and Ben decompress while marveling at the beauty, danger and the strange fragility that lurks throughout this wilderness. Most citizens of Earth A.D. refer to the area as The Dominion Of The Devils due to its monstrous lifeforms and close proximity to a fiery/naturally occurring “radiation barrier” that burns across the border of Canada and the Upper Midwest U.S.

“Enforce…” reaches its climax as Kamandi stages a surprise non-violent attack against Sacker’s thugs. The psychological onslaught preys on the leopards’ fear of wild human animals and their refusal to believe that such creatures can be intelligent. “RUFF RUFF!” “YAAAR!”—these are the terms of humanoid/mutant diplomacy in the upside down society of Earth A.D. Kamandi bellows out the bestial grunts while jumping on to a box of grenades and brandishing a shotgun that’s fired only for dramatic effect. The Situationists would’ve loved Kamandi’s chaotic spectacle; Sacker’s leopard lackeys were traumatized and distracted by it. The bulldogs and their allies then get the upper hand, an easy path to victory thanks to Kamandi’s diffusive nonsense.

At the center of any conflict there’s a strict definition of right and wrong that causes individuals to sacrifice their lives, safety and sanity. Polarized forces oppose one another in desperate attempts to solidify these objective ideals. Who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” will define the outcome of whatever war, debate, or skirmish happens to control war’s populist political dynamic. Strip away the concepts of objective right and wrong and you’re left with a situation where it’s impossible to lose or win anything. Kamandi’s decisive actions hinged on objective morality’s absence and how that could bring combat to a screeching halt. Jack Kirby used this plot twist to turn “Enforce The Atlantic Testament” into a glorious comic book monument marking the intersection of peace and absurdity.


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