The entire comic book world is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth, a man rightfully dubbed “The King” for his limitless contributions as a creator. DC Comics has acknowledged this centennial event with a series of one-shots each featuring one of Kirby’s innovative and imaginative characters; this week at last its Darkseid’s turn.
Known for his heavily science fiction inspired creations, Kirby constructed an entire cosmic corner of the DCU which has come to be known as Kirby’s Fourth World. Home to the New Gods, this world has been ravaged by war since its start, giving rise to some of Kirby’s most intriguing characters and narratives. Chief among the villains of this contested planet is undoubtedly the diabolical despot Darkseid. Born Prince Uxas to King Yuga Khan and Queen Heggra, the sinister son took the name Darkseid after murdering his brother and becoming the stone-like creature we have come to know and fear. Making his first appearance in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 Darkseid has been waging a war on free will throughout the universe that continues to this very day.
Writer and Kirby biographer Mark Evanier’s narrative focuses on a trio of escapees from Granny Goodness’ Orphanage led by an exceptionally bright and industrious young woman; this along with a recent act of vandalism visited upon one of his monumental statues has Darkseid in particularly foul spirits. Not to be outdone by a group of upstarts Darkseid enlists the help of his own talented trio of female furies to make an example of the escapees and squash the dreams of any potential copy cats. Evanier’s tale has a very definite Rogue One vibe to it, beyond the strong female lead there is a certain subversive tone to the entire affair. One might even refer to the trio of escapees as rebels, huh? Anyway, the pursuit twists and turns through betrayals and battles at a brisk pace never really slowing down once it gets going. The characterizations are surprisingly well done given the limited page count. That’s where Evanier’s dialog really comes through, he doesn’t bog us down with sci-fi jargon instead he fleshes out these characters as much as possible allowing us to know them better.
Scot Kolins pulls out all the stops on this Kirby fueled locomotive as he employs the Kirby Krackle almost as well as the inventor of the technique. Bold lines and heavy blocks of shading call to mind the King himself and while there is certain a lot of Kolins own style at work here this is clearly one artist paying tribute to another. The character designs are equally Kirby inspired from the square jaws to the narrow eyes. I love this stuff and there is not a single other creator more deserving of such an homage.
The second story in this anthology style issue is written by Paul Levitz with artwork by Phil Hester and features OMAC. Kirby created OMAC- One Man Army Corps after his run on The New Gods was cancelled. First conceived while at Marvel OMAC was created as a kind of Captain America of the near future, however the character never saw the light of day until Kirby brought his creation to DC to fulfill a contractual obligation of 15 pages a week. Levitz’s story reads like a recruitment ad for OMAC introducing us to the Global Peace Authority and Brother Eye, both mainstays in returning iterations of OMAC titles. The action explodes from every panel of this short piece giving it a kinetic energy that drives the narrative from zero to 100 in 2 seconds flat. Hester’s visuals are intoxicating, the artist takes Levitz pace as a starting point and ups it by ten. There are explosions and fisticuffs to spare, but the most stunning visuals owe much of their impact to the iconic subject matter. The OMAC costume design is so fantastic as is the character design with that huge fin Mohawk, it all works so well as graphic art. The page layouts are brilliant as well lending a cinematic feel and scope to such a short work is nothing short of incredible.
The issue is rounded out by some actual work by the King himself. The first few pages feature a story set in the Fourth World starring The Young Gods of Supertown. This goes to show why Kirby is so revered by comic book fans and professionals alike; his dynamic approach to visual storytelling grabs you immediately and maintains that hold on you throughout the length of the story. In this one Serifan and Big Bear run afoul of a squad of Apokolips thugs, what ensues is pure Kirby magic. The final story is more noir, it’s a wonderful piece of pulp science fiction that tells the tale of the All-Seeing Eye. Kirby captures that same mystic Rod Serling brought to the Twilight Zone, a kind of psychological horror that is as thought-provoking as it is blood chilling. The artwork here is far more subtle and nuanced than what we would come to recognize as Kirby’s superhero work, but no less amazing.
Overall these Kirby one-shots have been truly wonderful and this one was one of the best. All the contributing creators brought something to the work that was uniquely their own but inspired as it were by Jack Kirby. I could go on for days talking about how Kirby, a man I have never met, has influenced and touched my life but, I will wrap it up in the words of Stan Lee, Excelsior! ‘Nuff said. 4/5
Writer: Mark Evanier
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciller: Phil Hester
Inks: Ande Parks
Colors: Dave Stewart