Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mister Miracle #9

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. I am not going to lie to you. I literally just forgot to blog today, which is why this is going up after midnight. Sorry.]


Like “The Pact!” before it, “Himon!” opens with a note from Mr. Kirby thanking us, the readers, for indulging his efforts on this issue. I’m at a loss as to what I’m indulging, as I found Himon to be as enjoyable as “The Pact!” before it. Kirby finally gives us the details of Scott Free’s escape from Apokolips which delves heavily into freedom of creative expression- something that if you have been following along, is a common theme in Kirby’s work at DC.

“Himon!” takes place after “The Pact!” but before the first issue of Mr. Miracle. The prologue sets up the issue’s villain, Willik, who is in the slums of Apokolips looking the legendary peaceful objector to Darkseid’s regime named Himon. Willik rounds up the people of the area and demands Himon step forth. Believing Darkseid’s subjects would willingly die for his regime, he sets the entire crowd afire to weed out the rabble rouser. With this act (and one further in the story), Willik becomes a more dangerous villain that any of Darkseid’s colorful flunkies we have seen before. His costume is not flashy, he has no gimmick or powers, yet he proves he will murder innocents for Darkseid rather than just threaten it. Kirby’s Fourth World is often said to have one foot in the past and one in the future. Willik is the villain of the future.

Himon is rooted out, but disappears with gadgetry familiar to the likes we’ve seen from Mr. Miracle. He reappears in a dilapidated residence where he has been tutoring youths who are interested in creating and exploring rather than just blindly serving Darkseid. Among them is a conflicted Scott Free. Scott has excelled in Granny’s ranks and is on the fast track to Darkseid’s elite, yet there is an instinct buried that makes him question this authority. His thoughts are interrupted by the sudden appearance of Big Barda. Barda is there to collect a Auralie, a young fury in training that would rather explore the art of dance with Himon. Barda chastises Scott for besmirching his rank with the likes of Himon and storms out with Auralie. Soon after, an angry mob is upon them and Himon and his pupils use their custom made mother boxes to “phase out” as to not be detected. Kreetin, one of Himon’s less skilled pupils, cannot get his device to function and is caught. The benevolent Himon sacrifices himself for the boy who slinks off into the shadows. Kreetin is met by Metron who scolds him for his behavior and it is suggested that Himon, like Scott, originates from New Genesis.

Himon is placed in an elaborate death trap, the likes of which he has been escaping for some time now. This constant escape from death is what has built him up as a legend amongst the people of Apokolips. He escapes this one as well and makes his way to Metron. Through conversation, the reader learns that the two consider themselves equals and have been guiding Scott Free together - like Yoda and Obi Wan guide Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. Himon regrettably admits to creating the X-element that bore the boom tube which was co-opted by Darkseid. Himon argues to push Scott further however Metron believes Scott must come to this conclusion himself.

The next page reveals that Kreetin was picked up by Williks men. He’s brought before Willik, accused of fraternizing with Himon, and executed for such actions. He’s then hung up by his shirt on a chandelier of other dead suspected followers of Himon. Again Kirby appears to be referencing the persecution of Jews and Jewish sympathizers in WWII. Scott and Barda are brought in front of Willik next. Willik is suspicious of Scott’s allegiance and reveals to Barda that Scott has been growing out his hair despite Granny’s rules. This is a great piece of business as it relates to the rigid restrictions of hair in the US military and the fashion of the 70’s to grow your hair longer than what is usually accepted. Barda is not there to be accused but rather for Willik’s amusement. Willik savors Barda’s horrified reaction when he reveals that he’s shocked her pupil Auralie to death to punish her for publicly dancing. This is the most tagnible and violent act Kirby has written so far. Scott and Barda lunge forth in anger as Willik and are met by Himon (in disguise as Willik’s servant) who leads them briskly out of the building. Himon replaced Willik’s dinner with a Bomb which destroys the building and seemingly kills Willik. Himon gives one last pep talk to Scott, explaining that the source which speaks through the mother box is power enough to combat Darkseid and that Darkseid fears Scott because he is a free thinker. When asked what he dreams, Scott says he hears a voice asking Izaya to sing which readers know are the final words of the departed wife of High father from “The Pact!”.

The last and most powerful scene occurs some time later in the midst of Scott’s successful escape from Apokolips. With only his Aerodiscs (and a little help from Barda and her Furies), he is able to evade all of Darkseid’s minions. At this point, the gravity becomes locally increased and Scott is forced to crawl towards the opening boom tube that beckons him. Metron and Himon stand to each side. Himon rooting him on while Metron sits silently.

Then, the devil himself appears.

Darkseid stands behind Scott, with Kirby crackle fizzing behind him. Darkseid’s voice booms above them with some pride over he effort that it took Scott to get there. Darkseid offers Scott one more chance to stay yet Scott continues to crawl towards the open boom tube. “LET ME BE SCOTT FREE -- AND FIND MYSELF!” Scott shouts and he jumps forth into the unknown. Metron and Himon begin to phase out but leave Darkseid with a proclamation: the war will end with a battle between Orion and Darkseid in Armaghetto, the slum the issue opened on.

The strengths of this issue are not unlike those of “The Pact!”. Both provide backstory with key details to the universe Kirby has created and give a tangible motivation for Scott Free and High Father. Scott’s motivation to be independent is an easily identifiable one for the teenagers that were reading comics in this era. Part of the evolution into adulthood is to cast off your parents and become an independent individual and this transition can often be a painful one. But the most significant addition to the saga is the demonstration the evil of Apokolips at an intimate level. We’ve heard of the past war between the planets and we’ve seen Darkseid and his followers intimidate and instill fear. But we’ve never seen what happens if you cross them and the murder of Himon’s followers gives you that perspective. You can learn of a car bombing, or a plane crash and certainly feel remorse, but you won’t feel a fraction of what you would feel if you were to learn about the people who lost their lives during a tragedy.

Himon gives us an endgame to the saga in the prophesied battle between Orion and Darkseid. I’ve heard rumors that Kirby’s Fourth World fades away rather than burning out. Let’s hope we at least get to see this battle in the final volume.

Final Musings

I’m still a bit confused by Himon’s motivations. Is he on Apoklips only to motivate Scott Free to escape? He knows his escape will break the truce, is the ensuing war a means to an end to setup the Orion/Darkseid battle?

I’m also still confused as to the allegiance of the female furies. They’ve defied Darkseid’s regime by order of their captain several times now. shouldn’t some punishment be dealt out?

Himon looked way too human and quirky to not be a caricature of someone Kirby knew. Sure enough, he was modeled after Shel dorf, founder of the San Diego Comic Con.

This appearance of Metron is a good segway back into the He-Man/Kirby connection discussed a while back. I found the 1st appearance of Zodak on the cartoon and put it up on youtube here.

Zodak is a cosmic enforcer who does not interfere in the conflicts at hand and rides through space on a flying chair. Oy ve. Further research into the matter revealed that this characterization seems to have come from the early DC comics of the Masters of the Universe.

On a similar note, Darkseid’s offer to Scott is so close to Vader’s offer to Luke in Empire it’s uncanny.

In “The Pact!” Darkseid says Desaad gave him the X-element. I hope we get to see how it was passed from Himon to Desaad.

Armagetto is so silly it almost verges on clever. If Klingon’s have their own language, I think Kirby should have his own as well.

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