Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Andy Bentley on the New Gods: Orion and the New Gods #5

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


For the second time, an Orion issue opens with Metron drifting through Space in his Mobius Chair. This time, he is on the precipice of a Kirby creation that has become a staple of the DC universe, the source wall. He encounters beings of giant proportions who have failed to pass the wall and access the source of all creation. These giants have had their wax wings proverbially melted and are either strung up or disembodied. Humbled by this encounter, Metron warps back to New Genesis, leaving readers to wonder about the awe inspiring “source”. The source wall is clearly a god metaphor, however I wonder if it isn’t Jack’s pencil that exists beyond the fourth wall (for more info, type “duck amuck” into daily motion).

The title page brings us back to Earth where Dave Lincoln, Orion’s cop buddy, is getting a dressing down by his Sergeant, Dan “Terrible” Turpin. Turpin knows something odd is going on in his town, but recognizes a gang turf war when he sees one. Lincoln dummies up to protect Orion’s identity and then makes his way back home. There, the remaining little helpers of Orion suddenly realize they’ve been ignoring their day to day lives since returning from Apokolips! Victor and Harvey leave to return to their loved ones and Claudia remains with Dave, but still wonders what mere mortals can do against the hordes of Apokolips.

Up until now, Kirby’s stories and characters have lived in a vacuum so it’s quite a surprise to see external forces like families and day jobs putting a damper on their adventure. As a rule, I require a genuine amount of realism in my stories. If there’s a superhero fight downtown with property damage, then I expect pedestrians, emergency response teams and media members at the scene. I don’t need the reality of The Wire in all my fiction, but a little goes a long way. In the direct to DVD movie Superman: Doomsday, it felt like the only inhabitants of Metropolis were Superman, Lois, Jimmy, Perry and a handful of cops. It took me out of the moment and I started to question many other aspects of the film.

The story then shifts to Orion who has been poisoned and captured by Slig, one of six aquatic denizens of Apokolips. Slig can mutate organic beings with one hand and shock and destroy with the other. He boasts of his power and of the creation he and his brothers are about to unleash. Slig makes the classic error by leaving his captive hero alone so Orion can direct his astro-force power into his bracelets and escape. He makes his way through anthropomorphized aquatic mutants who’s appearances do resemble the designs of the Masters of the Universe toy line. Once he’s donned his classic astro-force harness, it is time for round two between Orion and his captor. Orion is direct and brutal in this battle, ripping Slig’s helmet and squeezing Slig’s mother box-like device. The device disappears to avoid destruction and inexplicably destroys the illusion covering Orions scarred face. Slig, clearly beaten, rises to laugh at Orion. He taunts the anti hero over his dark secret that continues to haunt him. This puts Orion over the edge as he bashes Slig with his helmet, picks up his lifeless body, and hurls him to the depths below. Unfazed by his actions, Orion dons his war helmet and astro glider and plunges into the ocean. He is determine to find and destroy this creation of the six which is revealed to be a immense armored piranha with many tusks and fins on the closing page.

Ahh but there’s more! Kirby again treats us to an 8 page introduction to a “new” New God but with less satisfying results. Fastback has the youth and speed of Light Ray and the color scheme and aero discs of Mr. Miracle. He’s seen avoiding authorities much to the delight of the other youths. His luck eventually runs out and he is pulled back to the ground. There, the other youths change his appearance like a pit crew at an indy race and shove him on stage to perform a hymn for Highfather. The final two panels indicate that Fastback has a wonderful voice and that Highfather would like to see him practice more. That’s it. More Lonar, less Fastback please.

Final musings

Dan “Terrible” Turpin - Add him to the list of past Kirby characters resurrected (Detective Comics #64, June 1942). Turpin becomes something far more layered in Superman: the Animated Series...but we’re not there yet. As for his current status (from Wikipedia) Dan Turpin returns in Final Crisis #1 (May 2008). He had been called back from retirement to investigate the case of several missing kids; this evolves into investigating the death of the New God Orion. Orion passes on several cryptic phrases to Turpin, telling him that "He is in you all!" before finally passing away.

In the second issue, he follows clues given to him by Renee Montoya and The Mad Hatter, investigating The Dark Side Club and journeying to the devastated city of Blüdhaven. There he meets up with Reverend Good, and begins to realize that "there's someone in my head."

In the fourth issue, Turpin, after much inner struggle, is turned into the new host body for Darkseid.

In the sixth issue, Batman uses a gun loaded with a Radion bullet, which is poisonous to the New Gods, to shoot Darkseid in the shoulder. After Darkseid is claimed by the Black Racer, Turpin appears to regain control of his body, breathing "In us... in all of us..." in apparent recognition of the meaning of Orion's last words. However, Superman later addresses the body as though Darkseid was still in control of it, and Turpin then vanishes, meaning it remains unclear what exactly the fate of Turpin is.

Morrison has mentioned Batman and Robin will have some David Lynch aspect to it, but I don’t think you can get more Lynch than that. Characters drifting in and out of the narrative, becoming two characters in one body, whispering obtuse warnings.
Orion the damned - The fight with Slig had been the most defining moment for Orion so far. There appears to be no redemption for Orion, he is merely a warrior. He fights on the side of light, but his morals and rules of combat are Apokolips all the way. Also remember, The Punisher and Wolverine are still several years away from creation making Orion an important figure in the comic book anti-hero movement of the 1970’s.

The Source Wall - A perfect case of less is better. I’ve heard Byrne uses it at some point, and I know Jeph Loeb *groan* had Superman imprison Darkseid on it. It takes away from the etherial nature of it. Slig dying at the end of the issue means his soul is returning to the source which gives the issue an effective balance.

1 comment:

Joe Gualtieri said...

Slight correction-- there's no Source Wall in any of Kirby's Fourth World. It first appears in, of all places, X-Men/Teen Titans by Claremont and Walter Simonson. They extrapolated it from Kirby's work, but it's not part of the original series.