[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at the New Gods, where he takes on the last of the Forever People. On a personal note, I wish I had a good reason for not updating the blog yesterday but the truth is I just plain forgot. Sorry about that. Also -- what is the origin of this "five guys become / summon one guy" thing as seen in The Forever People, Voltron and Captain Planet?]
“Devilance The Pursuer”
This marks the final issue of the Forever People and with it Kirby provides at least a temporary resolution for the teens from New Genesis. The story features the return of a forgotten character and even a brief appearance by Darkseid and Dessad, but the issue is one long chase scene that provides very little in new concepts or deep characterization.
The final antagonist for the Forever People is Devilance The Pursuer, who bears more that a passing resemblance to the Manhunters, the robots the Guardians of the Universe retroactively used to police the space sectors before they enacted the Green Lantern Corps.. This is no coincidence, as Kirby would go on to create these cold and unrelenting soldiers in DC Comics 1st issue Special #5 in 1975. Devilance, like the Manhunters, is clad in red, carries a staff, and has an undeniable will to capture his prey. He shows up on the Forever People’s doorstep and tracks them over many lands to a final showdown on an unknown island. The FP’s take him on one by one to varying degrees of success and it isn’t until the return of the Infinity Man that the group is able to take the Pursuer head on.
Mark Evanier points out in an afterword that Kirby essentially forgot about the alter ego the FP could summon for several issues but then decided to have him return for the finale. He’s a bit of a redundancy, as the FP already have many superpowers amongst themselves. Perhaps he is a metaphor for teamwork, as Serafin mentions that they must combine forces to take down this lieutenant of Darkseid. The other world which Infinity Man has been confined to is easily the most visually interesting part of the issue. His travel across the horizon with flaming meteors reminded me of the cover image by Fletcher Hanks in the amazing collection, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! Once summoned, Infinity Man and Devilance have it out on a remote island and the energy dispersed causes a massive explosion which detonates the island and its inhabitants. Darkseid and Desaad watch from afar on Apokolips and delight in the resolution. Like Captain Marvel, when the superhero is summoned to Earth through a magic word, the alter ego must balance the equation by traveling to the limbo from which the hero came (a concept Alan Moore ran with quite effectively in the pages of Miracleman). With Infinity Man destroyed in the blast, the Forever People are cursed to wander the world the Infinity Man had inhabited, thereby taking them off Darkseid’s proverbial playing field.
This is not the resolution Kirby wanted as evident by the afterword by Evanier, but it is more of a resolution than other cancelled comics have been afforded. Looking back on the concept of the Forever People, they are the embodiment of Kirby’s trust in the free thinking youth of the 60’s and 70’s. Their place on New Genesis was never well defined, and their powers often rivaled those of the elder New Gods which made this metaphor weaker than intended. The characters concepts were a nice mix and it would have been fun to spend and issue focusing on their motivations rather than constantly trying to foil Darkseid’s latest scheme. It would also have been satisfying to see them return to New Genesis and interact with other established characters. Too often it felt like they were separated from the plight of Orion or Mr. Miracle.
As we watch the five characters wander off into their strange new world, the final panel promotes the new Kirby title, The Demon. By knowing the machinations behind the scenes at DC (see previous post), The Demon has now become my harbinger of death for the Fourth World.