[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. I make a brief comment below.]
In the last Mister Miracle review, Geoff and I questioned Kirby’s ultimate definition of the anti-life equation. This issue of Forever People provides the most concrete depiction of the equation yet, however I’m not convinced Kirby will not change the rules further down the road.
The latest human to wield to power of command is ‘Billion dollar’ Bates, a stereotypical southern business tycoon who has gathered massive wealth and power by using his power of persuasion in business dealings. Early on in his career, he searches out a satanic cult known as The Sect who defines his ability as an otherworldly power. The Sect consists of an underground race of pink, hairless humanoid beings dressed in blue robes. In the prologue, several unseen people infiltrate the Sect and plan something involving Bates. In the following captions, Kirby explains Bates has built a massive compound above The Sect which is protected by his own private military. The caption is composed as a limerick, with much alliteration. It flows well - better than certain text pieces in past issues.
The Forever People beam into the compound, apparently on coincidence. Bates’ military moves beyond the shock of teleportation and begin to fire on the cosmic teens. Big Bear makes quick work of the troops and Bates decides to step in and unleash his power, commanding the kids to stop and follow his every command. They are soon imprisoned below and the Forever People agree that this power must be dealt with before Darkseid takes hold of it.
Above, Bates has captured several investigators into his massive wealth. He delights in telling them about his rise to power and taunting them while their unable to retaliate. Both the investigators and the Forever People are brought below for the ceremony to unleash Bates’ power upon all of mankind. Bates again goes on a rant, citing the Forever People as examples of humans who are inferior because they lack the discipline his power will provide. The Forever People surprisingly cite the novel 1984 as a similar situation (who knew New Genesis had the classics?) however it more resembles the main Kirby theme of youth and optimism versus the rigid structure of the establishment. The leader of the Sect brings forth the stimulus hat (which is more of a crown) to amplify Bates power and places it upon his head. Predictably, the hat doesn’t do what is intended and instead fries Bates brain, leaving him unconscious. The leader of the Sect jumps forth to capture Bates when his lifeless body suddenly flies out of the room! Several peruse while others realize the Forever people are no longer in chains. The Sect leader removes his hood to reveal he is in fact Desaad of Apokolips and proclaims they’ve been tricked by Beautiful Dreamers mirages. The Forever People reveal themselves from above now holding the body of Bates. They’re about to leave when a rather large Sect member intervenes. It is Darkseid in disguise and he is about to force the Forever People’s surrender when a trigger fingered guard mistakenly shoots and kills Bates. With the game now a wash, Darkseid proceeds with an odd ruse, pretending to dress down the Forever People as a drill sergeant would while using his invisible Omega Beams to to transport the Forever People above ground. Desaad again questions Darkseid’s decision to spare the youth’s lives, but Darkseid believes there is profit in watching them evolve. The two disappear in a flash, and the Forever People leave as well, taking solace in the fact that they at least prevented Darkseid from taking control of Bates Power.
An odd issue - It took a second reading to determine whether The Sect was ever real or just a creation of Darkseid. The ruse of the Sect is quite an elaborate way for Darkseid to approach Bates, however is Darkseid is susceptible to Bates’ command, subterfuge becomes logical. The happenstance of the Forever People’s arrival is far too convenient, but I like the constant teleporting. It often leads to new and interesting scenery. I’m always surprised with the amount of face time the forever People have with Darkseid. I would have assumed the opposite: Orion would be foiling Darkseid’s direct attempts at gaining the anti-life equation while the forever people would be dealing with his minions on Earth.
Bates had the ability to control a persons action through his command. From the loose definitions provided in past issues, that appears to be the equation for which Darkseid obsesses over. However there are still many issues to go...
-Bates is a dead ringer for the rich texan from The Simpsons
-As I’ve mentioned before, the character of Darkseid has been shaped in my brain by Superman: Animated Series. I often hear Michael Ironside’s voice when reading his dialog. The faux intimidation of the Forever People at the end of the issue felt out of character. The animated version of the character would have said maybe 7-10 words and Omega Beamed them right to their faces. Yet this is the original conception of the character in the creator’s hands. Who am I to say he’s out of character? However, I would argue that the animated version is a distillation and modernization of the character which improves upon the original source. But again, another topic for another time.
[I agree -- here and at the fairgrounds, Darkseid appears in disguise, which just does not ring true for me. It is a harsh truth of storytelling but the definitive version is the one that is most memorable, not the one that came first: most people will always associate The Birds with Hitchcock rather than the original short story author. Obviously Kirby deserves the bulk of the credit for inventing the concepts, but one of the things that made Kirby great was -- intentionally or no -- he rushed around chaotically in his stories giving later writers a lot to play with and streamline. I think it is no insult to Kirby to prefer a post-Kirby Darkseid.]