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Kong: King of Skull Island
Reviewed by Rick Klaw, © 2005

Format: Book
By:   Created and illustrated by Joe DeVito and Written by Brad Strickland with John Michlig
Genre:   Fantasy
Released:   January 2005
Review Date:   January 31, 2005
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

The original 1933 film King Kong was an immediate financial success. An inevitable sequel soon followed with the humorous but tepid Son of Kong being released late in 1933. King Kong eventually became the second most viewed movie in history (second only in theaters to Gone With The Wind and on TV to The Wizard of Oz). Over the last seventy-odd years, several Kong related projects were produced including an awful 1976 remake and the cult favorite King Kong Vs. Godzilla.

The planned December release of Peter Jackson's re-imagining of the original epic has spawned new Kong-related fictions.

Conceived by artist Joe DeVito, Kong: King of Skull Island purports to be both a sequel and prequel to Delos W. Lovelace's novelization of the original King Kong conceived by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper. Kong opens with Carl Denham, the man who brought the giant ape to New York, returning to Skull Island months after the great ape's demise. (Apparently for the purposes of this sequel, Son of Kong never happened.)

In 1957, Denham's son Vincent elicits the aide of Jack Driscoll, hero of the original story, to uncover what happened to his father on his last visit to Skull Island. Leaving his wife Ann (the Beauty to King Kong's Beast) at home, Driscoll joins Vincent on an adventure that reveals the origin of King Kong (he's part of a race of Kongs!), the natives of Skull Island, and the fate of Carl Denham.

Throw in lavishly painted full color images from creator DeVito and Kong: King of Skull Island should be an unforgettable thrill. Sadly, it is not.

I have never read a Brad Strickland novel, though according to his bio he has written or co-written 60 published books. Odds are I will not seek out another. His writing turned a potentially thrilling story into something forgettable.

The plot was slow and predictable. It jumped from viewpoint and place at inappropriate times and for no apparent reason. As soon interesting events began to unfold, Strickland moved to another character, plot point, or place. I'm all for cliffhangers, but when they become commonplace, the impact dulls.

Award-winning artist and sculptor Joe DeVito supplied painted images to correspond with the tale. While DeVito's art style is a little too realistic for my tastes, I found the illustrations striking and very well done. I wish the artist and writer had communicated more, though. In some scenes, the paintings and descriptions do not match.

Overall, Kong: King of Skull Island is a subpar King Kong sequel with some excellent illustrations. If you are looking for a book with superior ape and dinosaur images, then this is the book for you. Otherwise, watch your King Kong video and wait impatiently like the rest of us ape freaks for the Peter Jackson remake.

RevolutionSF Ratings:

  • Art: 8/10
  • Story: 4/10

RevolutionSF contributing editor Rick Klaw is an expert on all aspects of ape fiction. His essays on gorillas and pop culture have appeared at KongIsKong.net, SF Site, and RevolutionSF, and he is a frequent guest at conventions where he often speaks on simian matters. Beyond ape matters, Klaw is a columnist, interviewer, and reviewer. His first book of essays — Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century — features a kickass gumshoe gorilla cover!

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