Monday, July 30, 2012

CBR Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus

You probably don't know that, but I'm actually huge Jack Kirby fan (...Who isn't?! Am I right or what!)

So without further ado, let's take a look at "The King's" very own original space epic he produced while he was back at DC during the 70s.
And I mean obviously....

Comic title: Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1
Art & Story by Jack Kirby (& additional pencils by Neal Adams)
Published by DC Comics

From 2007
Lineup New Gods
Format: Omnibus-sized trade paperback, collecting SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #133-139, FOREVER PEOPLE #1-3, NEW GODS #1-3 and MISTER MIRACLE #1-3.

What is the "Fourth World" some casual comic readers might ask?

Well, you see after having created and launched several comic book characters at Marvel alongside Stan Lee during the 60s, the legendary Jack Kirby returned to DC.
You see he had created several heroes before, Manhunter, OMAC, Kamandi, The Challengers of the Unknown and The Demon at DC Comics, Captain America for Timely Comics, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men and Black Panther at Marvel Comics - amongst many others. But by the 1970s he wasn't really like his contribution at Marvel.
He wasn't allowed much exploration and original material over there, Stan Lee was getting all the credit for his (co-)creations, the new people in charge were underestimating his work (being under-paid, over-worked,..). Yet new artists were forced to draw in the famous "Kirby Style", which was an oxymoron for him, his own style was actually trying to be original and make his own style, not copying others, yet newcomers were forced to follow in his footsteps, and therefore imitate his style.

Anyway, Kirby left Marvel for DC. He would start on one of DC's lesser titles, Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen, before being allowed to introduce some of his all-new ideas in new titles.
Kirby turned that book a best seller and launched slowly, but surely, something that has become quite common nowadays in the medium.
An epic multiple-part crossover "event" spreading all over his various titles.

It started simply in 1970.
While Jimmy Olsen visited The Project what would be renamed Project Cadmus post-Crisis, he and his pal Superman stumbled upon abandoned technology from another world.
Kirby took the occasion to bring back to the scene another of his creation, The Guardian (which he created in 1942 - a year after his previous Captain America) and the classic 40s characters the Newsboy Legion!
Our heroes met several strange people living out of from the abandoned tech.
It all culminated into the first ever appearance of DARKSEID on a TV screen..but what was going on really?!

Several new titles launched simultaneously.
Each telling a piece, for the readers to understand and see the bigger picture.

The main title was Orion From The New Gods (which would quickly ditch "Orion" from the title).
It told the story of these so-called "NEW GODS".
Apparently, god-like beings that represented everything that was good...and its opposite.
Two worlds were born from the end of the Older Gods. New Genesis was a paradise, an unsoiled planet were these beings kept enjoying their existence and their world. Writing music. Playing around.
At the opposite of the Universe was Apokolips, a shameful excuse of a "world". Dark, ridden with pits draining all the energy from it. Their ruler was Darkseid, the embodiment of pure evil and destruction.
These abstract beings were at war constantly. A false peace had been arranged by their respective leaders. (which is an on-going mystery on the book the reader will pick up quickly) A deal had been offered to both rulers and their legacy....
Orion is a being from New Genesis (that is...). He gets ahold of a scheme going on and him and a bunch of others - including Metron - end up on Earth to prevent an escalation of their war through other planets.

For you see, the humans of Earth were quite similar to these New Gods physically.
Darkseid and his follower Desaad were trying to find the so-called Anti-Life Equation and use it to annihilate New Genesis.
So he planned ahead an invasion of Earth which was necessary to find a being whose mind was able to grasp the Equation, liberate it on Earth and destroy our blue planet as a test run for the ploy to work on New Gensis later on.

Meanwhile in Forever People we are introduced to a bunch of kids from New Genesis who have just gone to Earth at the moment - what a coincidence!
Through their eyes we get more of their strange culture while they are being chased by Mantis, a second to Darkseid.

Finally Mister Miracle present us an on-going mystery.
It's mostly on surface a classic superhero formula...but since it was launched along the others you know there is more to it.
Mister Miracle tells us the story of Scott Free, who witnesses the death of an escape artist at the hands of one of Darkseid's minions on Earth, Steel Hand, who is at the head of Intergang, a organized crime syndicate that answers to Apokolypse.
Scott takes up the mantle and continues to operate as Mister Miracle with the help of Oberon, the original Miracle's assistant.
But who really is Scott Free, where does he come from, and how does he really know this much about the Fourth World?
And what is his "mini-watch-computer" Mother Box? Where did he get that?

"The Fourth World was really the birth of epic crossovers which Marvel and DC keep overusing these days.
It was Kirby's idea, to make comics more than just dispensable "funnies".
It originally started as an idea he was going to use on THOR at Marvel, which would have followed "Ragnarok" (and thus the term "New Gods")-

Kirby draws all 4 books alternatively, with some help on Superman, which personally I think he did get that well physically. The face or details are always a bit off, but he didn't want to follow-up someone else's character but come up with new ones only, originally.

DC re-released the entire epic on 4 different Omnibus collections.
It starts slowly in the streets of Metropolis, but the war between New Genesis and Apokolips errupts quickly into all sorts of directions.
Jimmy Olsen's the simpler and weirder book, full of Jimmy-clones shenanigans, The Fourth World is mostly depicted in the background over there. Silver Age-goofiness and all that. It was mostly used to reintroduce old concepts Kirby wanted to bring back or revisit.
Mister Miracle is the most "traditional" in a superheroic sense.
Miracle and Orion both have a similar on-going mystery (who are they really, what is their ties to the rulers of the New Gods...)
Orion/New Gods introduces most of these characters and concepts.
Finally Forever People is the odd one. While a necessary read, it features the strangest team ever. Great characters, but very "exotic" ones at that. And they met the most 70s-ness along the way, befriending people on Earth and all that.

It is a definitive masterful work, it established characters and concepts which have become since then the backbone of the DC Universe.

Overall, it is a MUST READ!
The timeless classic story of an utopia and a dystopia at war.

It's great that DC decided to compile all of these on the same book, reprinted in chronological order as they were originally released.
I'll admit the Jimmy Olsen is the weaker of the bunch, but also pretty funny in a silly "Silver Age" kind of way.

The overall story does have some remnants from the gods on Marvel's Journey into Mystery .

Originally, these series proved commercially unsuccessful over the time, but I blame the original market and the way comics were seen and promoted for that.
The saga might have been cut down short and goten canceled but it has since then lived through DC Comics over all these years and numerous reboots.
The mythos has been continuously explored and further played with by the likes of Grant Morrison, etc.
Several of these authors actually were given prefaces and afterwords on these collections.

Kirby returned to after that Marvel, before being back to the independent market later in his life.

I'm just sad they didn't take this occasion to also the various Who's Who Kirby realized for the characters. (but I can help you on that with this blog post here!) Included in the final Vol. 4!

Other than that little detail? It's all good and recommended!

I give it:
  3 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

1 comment:

  1. Jack Kirby is the head waters that all come after with words to burnish his ideas. Rereading the under appreciated Kirby's Jimmy Olsen is a revelation of genetics and Toffler's Third Wave. Reading through his 70's work has glimpses of "Robocop" in OMAC's super monetized world and steampunk in Jimmy Olsen's nemesis Victor Volcanium's flying vehicle. It is time for this hard back omnibus that puts the whole Fourth World back in print.