Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Andy Bentley on the New Gods: The Forever People #6

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at the New Gods. I make a brief comment about Final Crisis, which I weirdly look back fondly on while also remembering that I did not like it that much at the time. I almost want to add it to favorite comics. I should read it again.]

“The Omega Effect”

The Forever People continues to be my favorite title with it’s fast action, frequent Darkseid appearances, and focus on the quest for Anti-Life. The action pics up moments after the end of the last issue with Godfrey’s Justifiers attempting to secure the Forever People’s Super Cycle. The Super Cycle has a security system which allows it to transform into a defense station equipped with a powerful canon (add Transformers to the franchises Kirby has touched). Godfrey sends new recruits to help tackle this issue and Kirby expresses his objection to man’s penchance towards war through his character’s words.

Follower: They’re really eager to destroy! What’s the secret, Godfrey? The helmet? The uniform? The creed?
Godfrey: Earthmen are given all those things at birth!! I merely justify their readiness to use them!!

The scene shifts to the Forever People who are utilizing Sonny’s ability to wield the anti-life equation to incapacitate the remaining Apokoliptians in Happy Land. Mark Moonrider destroys the CPU and the perverse amusement park begins to crumble -attracting the attention of the police. Darkseid and Desaad watch from below and are none too pleased. Darkseid realizes it is time to unleash the Omega effect.

The Omega effect consists of energy beams that emit from Darkseid’s pupils and never miss their target. When they connect, they transport the victim to another place in space/time. The beams connect with each of the Forever People save Serafin. Desaad whines like a baby for Darkseid to finish his dirty deed, but Darkseid believes the threat has passed. How many villains have fallen into this trap? Serafin has little time to mourn his compatriots as the police begin to enter the room. He avoids them and commandeers an aero-van with the help of his cosmic cartridges. The story ends with a fantastic panel depicting Serafin hunched over in the direction of the sunset with an army of Justifiers waiting below to attack.

There is a final backup story set in New Genesis pre-war involving Serafin and Big Bear. Not too much of note here, however the final pin up does need explanation. It’s a self portrait of Kirby at his desk! The copy on the page urges the reader to explore Kirby’s older work at DC and Kirby himself says “there’s one in this mag!”. It took another look at the cover for me to realize that the original comic was 48 pages and had a backup reprint of the Simon/Kirby Sandman material he produced in the 40’s. Too bad, I would’ve liked to have read it.

Before I began this journey, I thought Forever People was to be the title I would have to push through. It looked to be about 4 space hippies who spouted out-of-date phrases and would preach peace and love to combat Apokolips’ hate. Instead, it’s four young but seasoned New Gods who are in direct conflict with Darkseid and have prevented him from obtaining his ultimate goal. Their personalities are more real and mature than the Newsboys and the Harries and the plot structure varies much more than the other titles. The title contains the main themes of free will and oppression, but it also has the strongest feeling of rebellion. Godfrey is the symbol of religious oppression and Darkseid is the ultimate authority figure. He demands all follow and obey without question. The Forever People realize they don’t have the power or stature to overthrow Darkseid, yet they push him to the point of retribution.

Final Musings

Apparently I’m the only one who liked this title: Forever People had the quickest drop in sales and the lowest sales overall of the four titles, including Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. Well, to each his own.

Darkseid’s appearance seems to slightly shift panel to panel. His helmet moves from more of a bullet shape to more of a Darth Vader style. His height and bulk wax and wane and he sometimes has pupils.

The Omega effect is a great visual, and has been attached to almost all incarnations of the ruler of Apokolips.
erafin as the lone survivor jives with his cowboy getup. His get-out-of-jail-free cosmic cartridges did bother me slightly, but with this solid story I was willing to let it slide.

Some dialog seems to indicate that the Omega Effect is an ability which Darkseid has learned to harness rather than an inherited power. Could other beings wield it?

Another great panel: Darkseid walking through the burning remains of Happy Land.

Fun Fact: Vykin was the first black super-hero to appear in a DC comic book, preceding Kirby's Black Racer by approximately 7 months.

[Some Final Crisis fans thought it was a cop out for Batman to be revealed fine in caveman days or a caveman planet or something after he died one issue before at the end of Final Crisis, but if you look here that is what the Omega Effect IS, that is the way it is used for the first four times. (And as a brief sidebar -- it also makes sense that DC wanted to show Batman not killed at the end of Final Crisis because I dead Batman means an undead Batman Black Lantern, which surely no force on earth could even think of stopping. He would literally take over the universe and BE the next Darkseid.)]


Mikey said...

Can I just add that I reread Final Crisis in hardcover (with that ridiculous Alex Ross painting on the front) and it struck me as being far more uneven than I thought when I was reading it in monthly (ha!) single issues.

Counter-intuitively, I think the irregularity of the shipping worked in its favour as it kind of metastasised the actual irregularity and inconsistency of the content, internalised it and made it a virtue. Reading it all in one sitting actually makes it all the more apparent.

Having said that, I still think that the wildly fluctuating tone and pacing is actually totally in keeping with narrative and plot. The story gets more and more...discomfiting - in form, tone and content. And the same goes for the inconsistencies in art. To give one of the more superficial examples, the point in Final Crisis where Superman confronts Darkseid: Darkseid's appearance changes from issue to issue and, by this point, from panel to panel - just as it does in Kirby's original.

I find it amusing that Morrison started Final Crisis confidently stating that he'd found a way of squaring away DC editorial's inconsistent treatment of the New Gods, culminating in a series about Orion's death that totally contradicted and undermined what was meant to be the company's major event. He said that he'd found a way of actually absorbing this into the plot. Well guess what, by the end of Final Crisis we've found a way of doing that with Morrison's own tonal shifts, the art screw ups and the shipping problems.

I think everyone would agree that Kirby's Fourth World saga is inconsistent, and arguably the better for it. It seems totally appropriate to me that Final Crisis is equally flawed. Life is all about struggle, after all.

Dougie said...

It's interesting that of all the Kirby/ DC concepts, Forever People is the one with the fewest attempts at revival. I dropped the Big Chill storyline in the mid-80s after the first issue. I like the intimations of immortality and equality in the title, however.

Andy said...

The knowledge of the Omega effect is another example of why I feel Morrison's story should have been marketed as a New God's tale rather than another Crisis. Have Didio and others promote the New Gods saga in interviews and sell the Omnibuses in soft cover. I plan on re-reading through Final Crisis once I'm done with Kirby's saga and will do a follow up essay (If Geoff is interested)

As for a black lantern Batman. Man oh man. Can Johns and DC resist the temptation? The conundrum is that Darkseid apparently has an Omega Effect and an Omega Sanction. One transports, the other kills. Morrison seems to indicate both in that Superman has a skeleton, yet it appears Bruce has been transported back in time. The authenticity of the bones in the Bruce Wayne grave have yet to be verified, however Black Hand is quite fixated on the skull and we even see 2 rings come from the mouth. I guess we'll have to wait and see...