A New Age Of Cosmic Heroes
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its sixteenth choice, Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby, from DC, reviewed by Tripwire contributing writer Scott Braden…
The Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby
Writer/ Artist: Jack Kirby
As I first pointed out in “A Celebration Of All Things Kirby At DC” (Tripwire, September 2019), Orion of the New Gods is steadfastly Kirbyesque. And so is his tale of tales.
Intersecting sprawling space opera with cosmic parable, creator Jack Kirby’s adventures starring this interstellar champion orbit around this axis: he was raised in paradise as a force for ultimate good, although he was fathered as a scion of universe-conquering evil. Born to rule with an iron fist like his dark father, the dreaded Darkseid, he instead uses “epic battle” to save the myriad masses he has sworn to protect. Well beyond the classic Kirby Krackle, he and his “Astro-Force” fight the good fight across varied dimensions – and countless worlds upon worlds.
He is power incarnate. He is the great and galactic end-all, be-all.
Again, he is Kirbyesque, and he is coming to save us all from ourselves. And, so was his “Fourth World,” as can be seen in the pages of DC Comics’ massive The Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby.
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Kirby’s early DC Comics work was a revelation to me. Sure, I knew he co-created the better part of the Marvel Universe – including Captain America, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor, and so on – as well as many of the secondary characters who appeared in those books during his tenure. And, yes, his Eternals and Devil Dinosaur were also mighty indeed. But the New Gods and everything else was nothing less than amazing!
The “Original Universe,” as DC’s promotional department called the publisher in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, set Kirby free on its mid-selling, extremely vanilla Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen comic (Jimmy Olsen?!) way back in 1970 . . . and, boy, did he hit the ground running. From rebooting Golden Age favourites like the Newsboy Legion and The Guardian, to introducing new concepts like Darkseid, the D.N.Aliens and the monster-movie planet of Transilvane, the acclaimed creator began to build the foundation of what would become his “Fourth World” epic – and it was good. Then came his triumphant cosmic trilogy – Forever People; New Gods; and Mister Miracle – and lo and behold, comic book history was made.
And we are all the better for it.
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The “DC Explosion” take on Orion was indubitably not Kirbyesque – and not designed by the “King of Comics” himself.
In fact, the warrior god’s 1976 revamped super-hero look (including mask, spandex costume, and a Superman-ish “O” on his chest to avoid confusion) didn’t live up to the King’s unconquerable original design at all.
Yes, I wrote “unconquerable.” Remember: “Orion fights for Earth!”
But, like his genius creation, Scott Free (the new god known as “Mister Miracle” and based on the early exploits of comics legend Steranko) Jack Kirby created Orion, et al, after he escaped his “marvelous” manacles at “The House of Ideas”, and sent comics fans’ imaginations spinning wildly with his “Fourth World” at the “Distinguished Competition.” Not only did Kirby end up escaping the mediocre and the confining with his epic four-color mythos, but so did we – his readers.
Let me show you how:
* Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen was “us” – humanity as a whole – bearing witness to the unimaginable.
* Forever People was the children of the gods fighting the good fight with a passion for life and all its pleasures.
* New Gods was the battleground, the point zenith, the ground zero of Kirby’s Fourth World.
* Mister Miracle was the reluctant warrior and his companions from all points Fourth World – Scott Free originally of New Genesis, Big Barda of Apokolips, and Oberon from Earth – and the magic that they held sway over the rest of the mythos.
Like New Genesis, Kirby’s unfinished masterpiece is a journey worth travelling and a piece of four-colour heaven. A modern myth for our times, this genius work deserves to be on bookshelves of comics fans and readers of quality fiction everywhere. Within its pages, new worlds – and new ways that comics can be presented – abound. Sing its praises and don’t miss out on this wonder of wonders.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far