Monday, June 9, 2014

The Fourth World - Sacrifice!

With the issues in this third omnibus, we get the very best that Kirby's Fourth World had to offer. While it's sadly clear that the shine is starting to come off some series, others are brighter than ever.

Jack Kirby's personal favorite story was "The Pact" from the seventh issue of New Gods. It's the story that gave us background which made all the hints of the past year manifest. We learn that New Genesis and Apokolips have an unsteady truce held fast by the exchange of two children -- Scott Free of New Genesis the son of Izaya the Inheritor who would become Highfather and Orion son of Darkseid and Tigra.  This twin sacrifice lies at the heart of the series and underscores other sacrifices which dominate this selection of stories.

The Forever People showcases a battle with the Sect which makes ritual sacrifice in the name of the man who can use the Anti-Life Equation, Billion Dollar Bates. In New Gods, the Bugs, a low-caste society on New Genesis, sacrifice their own Prime-One, their male leader and Forager's mentor, because of what seems both a cultural and perhaps biological imperative. In Mister Miracle, Himon seems quite ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good as he struggles against Darkseid in the bowels of Apokolips itself. Superman has to sacrifice his desire to live among his own kind in "Supertown" because Earth needs its protector. And Detective Dan "Terrible" Turpin gives his all to stop the battle between those from Apokolips and New Genesis which threatens his city.

This is what sets the Fourth World apart, the sense that things can change and that people do die in the line of duty. In the early pages of New Gods we see the dead body of Seagrin, a god who has given his all. (I've always wanted to read more about Seagrin and his sacrifice.) Personified by the Black Racer, death is omnipresent in the series and you can believe that any of the characters might not make it. That adds a potency to the proceedings which at the time few if any comics had.

The saga of the New Gods is one of sacrifice, the recognition by those who can do something that they ought to do something. It's heady stuff and difficult to apply to the everyday world. Look at Metron who is fascinating but always concerned with is own personal needs, wants and desires, which might be a passion for research, but a selfish passion in the final analysis since he doesn't put his work within any moral context.

As always Kirby was well ahead of me when he created this dense and fascinating saga.

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  1. Hi Rip, Great review. I remember when I read "Peace Child" by Don Richardson it rang a bell straight away. To make peace between Papua New Guinea tribes the chief's son is handed to the enemy tribe. Richardson, a Christian missionary got his breakthrough only when he had his perfect analogy to the Christian message here! I always wondered if Kirby had heard the story!

    1. I'm not familiar with the Richardson material, but you are right that it's a very close approximate and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Kirby was familiar with it.

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