[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods.]
“Earth...The Doomed Dominion!”
New Gods #10 brings Mantis and his army of bugs to Earth which validates Orion’s warnings to the police department of impending doom. The conclusion to the battle is rather simple with a few interesting details.
As Mantis begins the march of the oppressed bugs towards Earth, the defector Forager is already there and causing quite a stir. He has pinched some food from a local bakery and is bounding across the city with the police in pursuit. My thoughts immediately drifted to Spider-Man who also crawls around in a half red suit, often on the wrong side of the law. Eventually the police capture him and take him to police HQ where Orion and Lightray are being detained. Forager recognizes Orion who greets Forager with disgust. Forager proclaims he is not a bug, and one of them. He removes his mask to reveal his human visage which convinces Lightray. This clears up some of my confusion on race and species on New Genesis, but also raises some more questions. However there’s no time for that with Mantis approaching. The district attorney orders the trio to stay, but Lightray whisks them away in a flash of light. The three hide above on a rooftop until Mantis and his horde approach. The battle begin in a kinetic splash page between Mantis and Orion and Forager and the bugs. Lightray realizes the numbers are against them and flies off to look for another option. I’m again struck by how well Orion and Lightray compliment one another. If the New Gods do in fact exist after Final Crisis, I’d like to request an Orion - Lightray book. Lightray discovers a Sonic R&D building which houses a transmitter that can reach the entire city. He requests their services to transmit a special frequency that only the bugs can hear. This turns the tide of the battle as Mantis and the bugs double over in pain, clutching their ears. They return to New Genesis via a boom tube as Orion, Lightray and Forager stand triumphant.
The issue wrapped up rather quickly without addressing some topics I assumed were coming. I was expecting to learn whether Mantis was acting on his own accord or if this was a distraction set up by Darkseid. The prejudice shown by New Genesis towards the bugs in the first issue seemed cruel, yet there was no admonishment of this behavior in this issue. The sonic ray was a bit convenient, but demonstrated Lightray’s intelligence. Lightray would be a great candidate to end the battle between New Genesis and Apokolips.
This issue marks the end of the penultimate Omnibus. The stories within this collection featured some of the most powerful work from Kirby at DC which made the more average ones that tougher to navigate through. Stories like “The Pact!” and “Himon!” offered exciting background to the current battle and fleshed out characters making them more dynamic and identifiable. This momentum often didn’t carry over to subsequent issues. By the third Omnibus, I was ready for the battle to advance towards direct conflict between the two planets rather than the small skirmishes we’ve seen before. These expectations are again a product of my perspective as a reader of dated material. to me, Kirby is spinning his wheels but as Mark Evanier mentions in the afterword: Kirby imagined a much longer series than the one it ultimately became. So he’s plotting for maybe over 100 issues when in reality it doesn’t get to that number. And why wouldn’t he? All the characters he created at Marvel were about 10 years old and still amazingly popular.
Sales of the Fourth World titles were not nearly as robust as Spider-Man or Fantastic Four. Evanier mentions a key factor was distribution of the books which was still limited primarily to newspaper stands. This hindered a series like The Fourth World which carried story elements over from issue to issue. Kirby’s cartoonish style is another factor. Readers have seen his style many times over while Neal Adam’s more realistic work in the pages of Deadman and soon Batman are completely new and groundbreaking in the early 1970’s. Kirby’s pencils may have been considered passe by some readers back then. For me, discovering comics in the 90’s Image era postponed my appreciation of Kirby’s work a good 10-15 years.
Looking forward to the final chapter, I’m excited, but nervous. I do not know how this series ends. I’ve heard rumors it gets messy, which would make sense given the sales numbers on the books. My hope is that Orion battles Darkseid, Miracle finally puts on that magic show, and that the Forever People... well one more funny outfit on Big Bear should suffice.