Back in 2004, artist Joe Devito had an idea for a sequel to one of science fiction’s classic successes, King Kong. The result, Kong: King of Skull Island, was an illustrated novel that not only adhered to the flavor of the original, but also reignited the excitement through lavish illustrations.
Thanks to rise of eBooks, Kong: King of Skull Island is being released in a digital edition. Even better, on some platforms like the iPad, the story is being released as a “motion story” that creatively augments he reading experience with DeVito’s beautiful illustrations. I had the chance to check out the iPad version of Kong: King of Skull Island.
Here’s my take…
The story (conceived by Joe DeVito and written by Brad Strickland) picks up after the events of the original King Kong. In the brief prologue, Carl Denham secrets away the dead body of Kong back to Skull island, only to disappear. Twenty five years later, Denham’s son Vincent, a paleontologist, finds a map of Skull Island hidden by his father. Vincent is desperate to know the truth of Kong’s existence (lacking clear proof of what really happened) and also, of course, to learn what happened to his father, so he contacts Jack Driscoll to arrange a trip back to Skull Island.
Even that brief description is a bit misleading, as this is just a loose framework on which to tell a story that took place on Skull Island many years before. Some of the dots start to connect with what we already know to have happened, but there are still some pieces missing. Indeed, Kong: King of Skull Island ends on a cliffhanger to be continued in Part 2, Kong: King of Skull Island. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the iPad version contains an abbreviation of the story that was released in 2004, and it sometimes shows in scenes that seem too short. That said, the story — even when considered as the first part of the full story — was engaging and comes with lots of nostalgic value.
The real score in the iPad app is viewing DeVito’s outstanding artwork. Not only does the app contain many color illustrations, but it also contains many pencil sketches. All of the art is superb and looks great on the tablet-size screen. In some places the art is enhanced by virtue of the app using overlays (text in the foreground, art in the background) and clever use of transparency to create some eye-catching visual effects.
Overall, the app looks fantastic. There’s not much more to say that the images sprinkled herein cannot say better than I could.
The design of the app is very good, but not perfect.
First the good: It includes a page of instruction that tell you how to navigate between and within chapters, as well as dismissing the foreground text allowing you to just feast your eyes on the visuals. There is also a gallery section where you can view all the art in one place. As mentioned before, the chapter art uses clever overlays and transparency in creating interesting effects that enhance the reading experience. A single tap brings up a table-of-contents slider and a double tap toggled the foreground on and off.
The biggest problem was that it was altogether too easy to switch between chapters (which required a left/right swipe) when all you wanted to do was scroll up or down within a single chapter. Maybe my fingers need to be calibrated, but it happened frequently enough to be more that a minor irritation.
Despite the navigation annoyance, Skull Island: Kong Returns was still lots of fun. Not only does it broaden the story of Kong, but it stays true to the feel of it. And Joe DeVito’s artwork is superb. The integration is so seamless that it’s hard to tell whether this is a story graced with some awesome artwork, or some awesome artwork augmented with a story. Not that it matters…the whole package was a treat.