Monday, September 15, 2014

End of Night

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Volume 4: written by Jack Kirby; illustrated by Jack Kirby, Mike Royer, Greg Theakston, and others (1974-1986; collected 2010): The last omnibus of Jack Kirby's Fourth World work, or at least of Fourth World work that he both wrote and drew, spans about a decade. Kirby was having major problems with his eyesight by the mid-1980's, and it shows a bit in some of the art, but the conclusion to the saga of Apokolips, New Genesis, and their far-reaching war is a fascinating and essential part of Kirby's body of work.

Of course, it's not really the end: DC Comics would use Kirby's creations again and again after this 'conclusion,' a couple of times with Kirby on-board writing and/or pencilling in the two Super Powers miniseries. The saga was never meant to be wrapped up in less than a hundred pages. So the final graphic novel of Kirby's Fourth World, The Hunger Dogs, is really more of an intermission than anything else, albeit an intermission without any more of the play after it.

The volume collects the last few issues of Mister Miracle from the early 1970's, Kirby's last Fourth World title to remain standing back then. That title concludes with a truly bizarre sequence involving the wedding of Mister Miracle and Big Barda, a wedding the evil god Darkseid decides to crash at the last minute. Groovy!

The concluding material from the 1980's goes places super-hero comics generally don't go -- into the futility of endless war and the possibility that conflict can sometimes simply be walked away from. It was never meant to be an ending, but the last scene between Darkseid and his warrior son/nemesis Orion is both poignant and celebratory. Orion has changed. Darkseid has not. There will be no last battle of prophecy. This time, anyway.

Perhaps thinking of President Nixon's squirmy final days, Kirby invests the previously nigh-omnipotent Darkseid with hitherto unseen characteristics of failure, impotence, and obsolescence. The dark god stands revealed as just another tyrant watching his empire crumble, shaking his fist impotently at the sky.

It's powerful stuff, capped by a terrific final one-page spread that could have stood as the final image of the Fourth World and the New Gods. Kirby was still teaching writers and artists where to go near the end of his colossal and unparalleled career. In all, highly recommended.

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