[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]
”The Paranoid Pill”
This issue has a great opening that combines Kirby’s sci-fi concepts and unique visual artistry. The narrator poses a tree-in-the-woods-type riddle as a boom tube transfers several blank humanoid forms known as animates into an empty office building. The narrator goes on to suggest that life or existence could merely be energy devoid of form that could inhabit blank bodies such as these animates. The theory becomes reality within the panels as the chosen animate’s face shifts and molds to reveal the alien visage of Dr. Bedlam!
Unfortunately Dr. Bedlam doesn’t live up to this auspicious entrance and by his exit is just another of Darkseid’s flunkies sent to dispose of our rebellious Mr. Miracle. I rather enjoyed Bedlam’s direct approach of just calling Mr. Miracle on the phone in order to do battle. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Dr. Octopus ring Spidey to duke it out. Scott accepts his terms for combat and prepares for the type of mental assault Dr. Bedlam is capable of. Oberon once again asks too many questions and is brought into the action. Kirby fantastically illustrates a wigi board session where mother box conjures up hidden fears. Terrors and nightmares fill the mind of the escape artist and his assistant which drives Oberon dangerously close to passing out. Scott realizes Oberon is not up to the challenge and suits up to face him one on one.
Dr. Bedlam’s plan is a simple one: Mr. Miracle must escape from the top of the Chandler tower which is filled with people that have been infected with Bedlam’s paranoid pill. The use of innocents angers Miracle and he attacks Bedlam only to realize Bedlam is merely inhabiting an animate. Miracle soars past the raving people who believe he is a demon and makes his way to the elevator. His escape from the gunman inside was satisfying as it didn’t rely on a magic power of mother box. The masses become too much to handle and they trap Miracle in a box because, in self serving logic, the comic is about an escape artist. The box is chained, then thrown down the stairwell and the reader is left to wait a month to find out how Miracle will be able to avoid his impending doom!
The animate concept is somewhat similar to the Cylons in the new Battlestar Gallactica
Dr. Bedlam’s visage is very cool and creepy
Dr. Bedlam’s paranoid pill seems quite similar to the Scarecrow’s fear toxin
Miracle has faced his abusive adoptive caretaker in Granny Goodness, and a deviant physician in Dr. Bedlam. What does that make Darkseid and will this family of familiars continue?
Quotes from Mary Howitt’s “Spider and the Fly” and Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” are spoken by Dr. Bedlam and Mr. Miracle respectively.
This brings us to the end of the 1st Omnibus. A bit of a mixed bag to be sure. Kirby’s art and storytelling are still amazing and should be studied by any aspiring artist. He has a wealth of ideas and characters carried over from years at Marvel and they work with varying results. When Kirby waxes poetic about life, the cosmos, and the evil that men do I’m enjoying every panel. However when he falls into traditional comic book affairs that have no consequences and act on their own internal logic, I’m left wondering why I’m not reading the latest Green Lantern issue. The Fourth World like O’Neil and Adam’s Green Arrow/Green Lantern run of the 70’s is straddling the bridge between modern comics storytelling. Yes the Fourth World is a continuing odyssey, but we’re making too many irrelevant pit-stops. I ache to know more of New Genesis and Apokolips, to see a face off between Orion and Darkseid, to see a full scale assault on Earth with epic battled akin to the Lord of the Rings. Instead the New Gods on Earth are attacked by a new Darkseid minion each issue. Here’s hoping that book two will break that trend.