10
Nov
11

Kirbsday: New Gods 1

Smash cut to the end of the world:

And the creation of a new cosmos in its aftermath:

Eons later, grim Orion of the New Gods, “wielder of the Astro-Force,” (the weird modern-art tubing thing you see him standing on in the cover) travels to one of these worlds guided by his carefree friend Lightray:

And receives a mission from the gentle High-Father, who can literally read the writing on the wall:

You can’t quite tell in the picture, but yes, that is a giant fiery hand writing on the sacred Source Wall at the heart of New Genesis.  The characters discuss the Life Equation, which has something to do with the Hand, the Wall, and free will.  (“It is eternal!  It is the Life Equation!  And its power is part of your Wonder-Staff!”)

The guy on the far right, Metron, gives us a little bit of explanation for the Anti-Life Equation, which was a McGuffin sought by Darkseid within Beautiful Dreamer’s brain in Forever People 1.  Also, note that Simyan and Mokkari, researchers at the Evil Factory, spoke of coming from a place called Apokolips, ruled by Darkseid.  So we’re getting some mild connections between the series right now.

Speaking of Darkseid of Apokolips, Metron also delivers massive spoilers:

High-Father is mad, but I’m so grateful I didn’t have to play coy about this for a zillion more weeks.

orion to apokolips

From Forever People 1 we know that Darkseid is already on Earth, which apparently leaves an entire planet controlled by a Space Caveman:

Yes, the nearly naked Space Caveman is wielding a “Beta-Club.”  I’m still thinking of running a Fourth World game using a super hero RPG, but sometimes Encounter Critical seems like the better choice.

then to earth

Their battle is interrupted by Metron (the blue-headed dude a few panels ago) who teleports in to tell Orion that there’s more at stake, specifically, four experimental test subjects from Earth:

Orion frees the hostages and fights Kalibak briefly, before helping the humans escape:

then to war

Orion and the four humans flee to Earth, where Orion bellows a challenge to Darkseid, wherever he might be.

some value added

It may not be clear reading this, but New Gods 1, like Forever People 1, is so dense that it’s hard to summarize without, like, posting the whole issue.  And that’s especially interesting since so little actually happens in this issue: Orion visits home, receives a quest, invades the enemy’s headquarters, and (after an argument with Metron) rescues some innocent villagers.  Although there are some fights in this issue, they’re almost afterthoughts, which is unusual in a Kirby comic.  The whole thing is pretty much exposition and characterization.

And it’s pretty good characterization, too.  Our main focus is on Orion, but he’s first contrasted to Lightray, one of the young princes of New Genesis, who has few cares and loves to laugh.  Orion, however, is almost joyless.  “My destiny is battle!  I wield the mighty power of the Astro-Force!  It is a grim and fearful responsibility!”  But High-Father has responsibilities too, particularly to look after the younger gods and to sustain New Genesis’s relationship with the Source, yet High-Father is patient and nurturing in spite of his burdens.  At the climax of the story, Orion’s brutish courage is contrasted with Metron’s dispassionate self-interest, and it turns out that Metron is right: Orion is urgently needed on Earth, and there’s no time to waste kicking Kalibak’s ass.  The one character who seems to be closest to Orion’s temperament is Kalibak himself, which isn’t surprising since they are half-brothers.  (Shh, it’s a secret!)  So even though Orion is depicted as brave and heroic, he’s also got some serious psychological problems that he himself cannot see.  Good thing he’s been entrusted with the ultimate weapon!

The other curious thing about this issue is how it begins.  For three months, readers have been following the antics of Jimmy Olsen, occasionally catching a glimpse of some larger plot involving a mysterious villain called Darkseid.  With Forever People 1, things suddenly start rushing to the fore: the Boom Tube, Apokolips, the Anti-Life Equation, Mother Box–but we still don’t really know what the hell is going on.  And so with New Gods 1 Kirby finally rips back the curtain and we get to see everything. It’s a really well done piece of large-scale storytelling which works beautifully when viewing the work as a whole.  How it would have come across to a little kid trying to read random issues each month, who knows.


7 Responses to “Kirbsday: New Gods 1”


  1. 1 Zak S
    November 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I weep that I live now rather than 1000 years from now, when radioactive rabbis will sift through the cobalt ash for the wisdom of the ancients and piece together a chimeric theology which places the sublime mysteries of the New Gods of Jack Kirby on the same footing as the Talmud, Midrash and Kabbalah.

  2. November 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Curiously I had the same thought! I was looking at Italian Renaissance paintings today at the National Gallery in London, and the only insight I had was, “Gee, they sure do like that Jesus guy.” It was like the only thing anyone knew how to paint. It’s hard to speculate about what the people of 3400 CE will be obsessively recreating in their art, but I really hope it is some fool babbling about “the mighty power of the Astro-Force!” (If the other theme involves people rolling 3d6 in order, so much the better.)

    I just love the “An Epic for Our Times!” on that cover. And then it in fact gives you the end of the world, a genesis, a hero on a quest that involves a trip to the underworld, and a war among the gods. Truth in advertising!

  3. 3 Lord Bodacious
    November 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Some of the The New Gods (or at least a teenage version) made a pretty central appearance on Cartoon Networks “Young Justice” (Episode 17, Disordered) this past week, complete with flying cars, motherbox, Infinity Man and anti-life weapons! While very much re-imaged for today’s YA audience (or at least the studios perception of them) it was interesting to see Kirby’s love children in action. I have to say, it’s really weird to see them floating around in a super-cadillac all the time, but neat anyway. GAROO!

    http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/youngjustice/video/index.html?episodeID=8a250ab033a26e480133a2d8eb47002e

  4. November 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    I love how the Infinity Man has robot-like sound effects, as if he was Voltron or something. I’ll have to check out the full episode…

  5. November 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Yeah, I saw that too – or at least saw Javi watching it – and was very glad that you had educated me just in time to appreciate what was going on there, James!


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