Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Andy Bentley on The New Gods 9: New Gods #2

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series see the label at the bottom or the toolbar on the right.]

“Oh Deadly Darkseid!”

New Gods continues to be the main stage title for the Fourth World opus as it brings in elements from Forever People and Jimmy Olsen while continuing to expand the reader’s knowledge of New Genesis and Apokolips.

We get a quick recap of the history of the old gods where Kirby directly uses the word ‘holocaust’ to describe their demise. Kirby is of Jewish heritage and the holocaust of World War 2 figures significantly into Darkseid’s regime. We see a truly amazing rendition of New Genesis with children frolicking on a device so wild, it belongs in a Dr. Seuss’ book. Kirby the narrator explains that all of New Genesis is covered in the greens of grass and forest save for a giant advanced floating city above it! A modern reading of this structure could be a go green initiative from our New Gods rather than a class system which is probably how it was intended. It’s also how Asgard is handled in the current Thor title which is of little surprise knowing Kirby’s resume. The story on New Genesis ends with Highfather and Light Ray clumsily explaining the nature of Orion’s gift/curse under the guise of Light Ray asking to join Orion on Earth. Again the ‘show, don’t tell’ theory is ignored which is a shame because Kirby shows quite well which makes the telling more unnecessary.

On Earth, Orion and the humans rescued from Apokolips have just walked into a room to find a stoic Darkseid awaiting their arrival. Orion charges at him, proclaiming that he broke the trust between the two planets which gives Orion the right to finish Darkseid off. Again, Darkseid is unharmed as his minion Brola stuns Orion with a shock-prod. Brola was cleverly revealed to the reader in the first panel and his visage reminds me of Kang the Conquerer, another Kirby creation. Orion and Brola duke it out with unnecessary banter until Orion puts him through a wall. Darkseid saves Brola from death and teleports back underground. Darkseid shames Brola for his failure but quickly moves on to his next plan: a machine that can spread fear into the minds of humans. Many of Darkseid’s key components are brought to the forefront: fear, control, lack of free will.

Back above ground, the humans gather around Orion and shout their names out as if they were game show contestants. Dave, the alpha male of the pack, proclaims Darkseid is number one in his top ten nightmares which is just a very odd thing to say. Orion thankfully interrupts by revealing his motherbox to the group which explains the danger Earth is in from Apokolips. Darkseid’s minions are on earth and growing in number every day. Page 15 is a full page shot of Mantis who now is branded a ‘digger’ who’s power level rivals Darkseid’s. He seems to be awake and not hibernating as he was at the end of Forever People #2. Page 16 is a full panel and description of the Hairies and the Wild area. Are the Hairies the minds that Darkseid seeks? Motherbox interrupts it’s own exposition for more pressing matters: the city (again unnamed) is in chaos with it’s people in a grip of an unknown fear. Orion answers the call with the power of the Asto-force at his side. The source of the invisible fear wave has been cleverly disguised within a illustrated eye on a billboard ad. This calls to mind the use of subversion within advertisement and the paranoia of ‘big brother’ watching over us . Orion makes quick work of the device and Darkseid is unable to find the minds he seeks. In his anger he overtly praises Orion which heavily points to the fact that Orion is Darkseid’s son. Back at the apartment (possibly Orion’s?) the group of Apokolips survivors pledge their help towards Orion’s cause while Orion yet again ponders his place in life and his future.

On this Ninth issue I finally made the thematic connection to Kirby’s The Fourth World and Lucas’ original Star Wars Trilogy.

Source = The Force
Apokolips = The Death Star
Darkseid = Darth Vader
Orion = Luke
Power of the dark side = the anti-life equation

Even the opening page where Orion is Ambushed by Darkseid is reminiscent of when Darth Vader gets the drop on Han and Leia in Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. I'm sure I’m not the first, nor the last, to make this connection, but is this just a coincidence? I’ve never seen a quote from Lucas about it, but there’s a great article on it here: I’d love some feedback on this.

As Geoff has pointed out, the geography of these books is very ambiguous which I assume must be deliberate. The Wild area is off even the character’s radar, but in this era of comics, most editors would be adamant about giving the reader a setting of the story. Is the City Orion is in the same one the Forever People occupy? Are they all in Metropolis, the only city that has been name checked?

A final note: Kirby’s art seems to be growing in size every issue. The panels are getting bigger as is the size of our characters on the page. It is symbolic of the growing tension and scale of the story and is a thing of beauty to watch.


Christian said...

I wish people introduced themselves in real life as they do in Kirby comics. Then I might actually remember everyone's names.

Andy said...

I might have to just start doing that Christian.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Nice. I especially like the line about game show contestants. Man, I love this stuff. I don't think George Lucas has ever acknowledged a Kirby inspiration, but it's definitely been noticed by people.