Friday, December 11, 2009

The New Gods #11

[Andy Bentley. Kirby's New Gods Epic. Every issue. I was late putting this up folks. Sorry. End of term stuff, as usual.]

“Darkseid and Sons”

The final issue of The New Gods appropriately contains the most conclusive and important chapter of the Fourth World Saga to date. The issue features the second battle between Kalibak and and Orion, but this iteration has more depth and meaning. Kirby also reveals more backstory around Darkseid which makes his tale more shakespearean than totalitarian. Although it isn’t the ending Kirby hoped for, he finds an appropriate one for the situation.

After an opening prologue where Kalibak breaks free from the police force, the scene shifts to Orion and Lightray at their friend Dave Lincon’s apartment. Here, Orion is at his most manic and crazed. Kirby might has well drawn foam on the corners of his mouth. This characterization is unfortunately the one Morrison uses for his JLA run. I much rather the stoic and passionate version found in the early issues of the saga which is similar to the take Bruce Timm had in the recent DC cartoons. Although the attitude is grating, Orion’s point is quite welcome. His argument to Lightray is that they must be more proactive and take the fight to the villains of Apokolips. An organized effort from New Genesis to take on the invaders from Apokolips is something I have been looking forward to for quite a while. The point becomes moot when Orion learns of Kalibak has escaped and is moving quickly toward their location.

The scene then shifts to Apokolips where Darkseid reveals to Dessad that Kalibak and Orion are both the sons of Darkseid, but have separate mothers. Kalibak’s mother was a sorceress by the name of Suli whom was murdered by Desaad under the instruction of Darkseid’s mother, Queen Heggra. A little sop opera-y, yes but it makes the character dynamics much more interesting. Desaad transforms from obedient bootlicker of Darkseid to an opportunistic sadist. When Orion and Kalibak battle over a crumbling city, it is essentially over the love of their father.

Orion challenges Kalibak to battle, but only after Lightray has been incapacitated. This rule of uninterrupted battle speaks to the aristocratic and somewhat outdated nature of New Genesis. Kalibak quickly gains the upper hand due to an sudden increase in power. Observing from above, Darkseid finds this development both disappointing and suspicious. He finds Desaad in a corner using his technology to siphon the energy off of Kalibak and in turn amping up Kalibak’s powers. This is the final defiance for Darkseid and he uses the Omega effect to obliterate Desaad from existence. For Kirby to off a main character like Desaad is somewhat shocking, but the title’s imminent cancellation certainly factored into the decision.

Back on Earth, Kalibak has lost his advantage and Orion has gained the upper hand. Orion spouts generic bravado throughout the contest and even alludes to the brotherly connection. This is distracting as Orion seemed unaware of this connection in the prior battle. It’s almost as if Orion gained knowledge of the connection through the previous scene in this issue between Darkseid and Desaad. Orion delivers a final blow and raises Kalibak’s broken body over his head but is suddenly interrupted. The Black Racer, the New God’s specter of death, has come upon them and declared that death approaches them both, but only one will be taken. A massive swirl of wind forms around them and once it dissipates, only Orion remains. The series ends on a final proclamation by Orion that he will end the war in a battle between his father in the fire pits of Apokolips!

Looking back on the series as a whole, it was clearly strongest of the three and contained the issues Kirby remembered most fondly. The stories were most successful when they made human connections between the Gods such as the excellent tale, “The Pact!”. Although each tale had a united continuity, there often seemed to be a lack of direction. Orion and Lightray put out several fires by the invaders from Apokolips, but they never traveled to battle the enemy at the source. Similarly, Darkseid seemed unfocused on his drive for the Anti-life equation after the first few issues. Credit to Kirby for at least attempting to portray how this invasion affected the human populace, however this also falls a bit short.

Am I disappointed that Orion and Darkseid didn’t have their final showdown? Yes and no. The battle is the story’s ultimate climax and without it, it does seem rather unfinished. Partly because our characters have been splintered since the opening issues and it would have been great to see them reunite at the end. Other creators have tried to conclude the Fourth World, but I wanted to see how the original creator did it. However once I read about the abrupt cancellation, I realized he didn’t have to time or the pages to tell that final tale. So the massive battle is left up to our own imaginations which can often be the most effective. Think of Ben Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. Two men in a semi father/son relationship who are rumored to have it out on a lava filled planet. Sounds a bit familiar, huh? And while Revenge of the Sith is the only one of those movies I’ll ever re-watch, the execution could never live up to what was going through my head all those years.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We have 8 issues of Mister Miracle remaining before we tackle Jack’s return to the Fourth World saga. Let’s see how those go first.

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