[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at the New Gods.]
This issue introduces readers to Forager, a character I have only seen in the Justice League cartoon series. In the episode, Twilight, Forager bravely rescues Wonder Woman and Batman in New Genesis yet he seems to have a self esteem issue. “I’m just a Bug” is the line I remember from him. Forager appears to be defeated by a social class system where the New Gods in the golden floating city above look down upon the lowly people below. A heavy handed metaphor, but that’s the way Kirby likes them. In the end, he is commended by the New Gods for protecting the children of New Genesis. By the end of this issue, Forager has arrived on Earth to seek out Orion which leads me to believe similar accolades from the New Gods are on the way.
The opening soliloquy by Kirby explains that “micro-life” emanated from the great clash between the New Gods bringing forth Forager and the race of Bugs that he belongs to. Kirby uses the words “Toxic” and “Festering” to describe this race of... well what exactly are they? They appear to be humans in superhero outfits that resemble insects to varying degrees. They have a hive type of culture where drones are sent out to hunt for food by a queen. However Forager is different than the rest of his species. His mentor (and consigliere to the Queen), Prime One, explains that Forager is more evolved because he questions the nature of their lives and sees a future where their race could roam New Genesis free of persecution. Prime One seems to suggest that their prison is self made and that the bugs must overcome their own fears first. However there is definite contempt for their species by the New Gods as we see flying drones sent by High-father that spray a sort of pesticide that kills the food crazed bugs.
This rumination on the way of the world is interrupted by a familiar face. Kirby has brought back Mantis who’s powers fit the insect theme nicely. Mantis has been rabble-rousing the Bugs into a war with the New Gods in order to carve a spot on the planet for themselves. This sets up a Magneto/Professor X type of conflict with only Forager on the side of peaceful integration. He returns to find his mentor, Prime One, about to be executed by the queen. It is explained that this is ritual, yet it feels like he’s being killed for his views. Forager leaps to save him but is restrained by the royal guards. Prime one offers one last command to Forager: Find Orion. With his Obi-Wan Kenobi gone and his people set to murder him for heresy, Forager attempts to escape to the surface of New Genesis but is instead pulled into an boom tube pointed towards Earth. Where Orion is. Very convenient.
During all this, Orion has been healing his wounds from Kalibak on the rooftop of one Eve Donner. Eve is a playwright who compassion towards Orion turns to pity after she sees him shouting at the heaven’s for Darkseid. Once healed, Orion and Lightray take off towards Dave Lincoln’s apt where the authorities are ready to take the two in. Whether they will oblige will be revealed next issue.
Orion has the smaller part of this A + B story, but it does setup a contrast and comparison between him and Forager. Forager’s savior, Orion, is as one sided and visionless as the bug culture. Both men seek freedom from tormentors, and are looking to escape their heritages. Orion is abrasive and unlikable whereas Forager’s intellect and optimistic spirit are refreshing and could motivate others. Maybe a little Forager will rub off on Orion next issue. We shall see.
-The caste system of New Genesis bring me back to the question of races on these planets. Are bugs a subspecies descended from the gods? If so, why have they forsaken them? If the bugs lacked a human resemblance, how different would the story be?
-Prime One refers to the New Gods as “Eternals”. This word was obviously bouncing around Jack’s head as he would go on to create The Eternals over at Marvel in ’76 which explored many of the themes seen in The Fourth World saga.
-Forager’s design is just plain awesome. Like many other action figure enthusiasts, I am anxious to get ahold of the new figure of him. A Wal-Mart exclusive: