Friday, July 7, 2017
Fourth World Friday - New Gods!
I am reminded again after reading these stories yet again that they are my favorite Jack Kirby stories ever. The sprawling and deep saga of the New Gods is truly Kirby's unfinished masterpiece. At the top of his skills, he produced an epic which is filled with courage and wit and insight and fear and dread and morality and even a touch of the eternal. In these tales which unfold for us the war between the sublime world of New Genesis and the miserable domain of Apokolips we see true bravery as Orion charges into danger for the sake of others and for the sake of his own honor. At his side is Lightray, the counter to Orion's impulse and rage, a creature of intellect who fights with his mind more than the power of his muscles. As we see in these stories neither Orion nor Lightray is enough in the war waged by the scheming Darkseid. His agents such as Kalibak the Cruel, the Deep Six, Mantis and his horde of Bugs, and more from the likes of the earthly Inter-Gang to the alien Para-demons are ferocious and deadly. But the agents of New Genesis, the dour Orion and the smiling Lightray are together enough in the moment to bend back the threat.
Reading these stories through on their own, not as I've read them for many years as merely part of the large Fourth World epic, gives them a progressive power which has perhaps eluded my understanding. The story moves forward, with sidesteps here and there, but by the eleventh issue, the ultimate one, we see that all our players, even the offbeat and implacable Black Racer, have had a role and they are integral to the abrupt finale which sees the demise of some of them. Certainly Kirby had more plans, clearly Orion is meant to invade Apokolips again and confront his father Darkseid, but that will not happen for many years and alas the creator will have lost some of his deftness. The saga stops as Orion vows to continue the war, but somehow that potential is not withered away. There is a sense that we have witnessed the end of a great opera, the first of many but one which does in itself find some element of resolution.
It's always great to revisit these masterworks and this time was no less a pleasure. These stories continue to resonate and find purchase. I am older and arguably wiser and have suffered mightily since I first read these stories a teenager. My world has changed dramatically and that makes me apprehend the world of the New Gods differently. When Izaya soon to become Highfather confronts the death of his beloved Avia in the classic "The Pact" it has more potency for me now, I get it as never before. His desire to find some measure of solace, if even in violence I get, but his eventual acceptance of the apparent cruelty of fate is something I likewise grok.
Next Friday The Forever People drop in.