Born in Vancouver, BC Canada...and after living in a lot of different places since then....has finally returned home.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO
I’m a comic book collector and a comic book reader and sometimes I write about it, among other things. I have recently found new employment which is demanding much of my time and energy, so I haven’t had the focus to collect my thoughts (let alone formulate a coherent sentence) as much as I have in the past. Alas, life is changes. Try as you might to maintain some manner of consistency; there is likely some road-blocks that keep the journey a little more eventful than you would prefer. So, yes: this is some awkward attempt at explaining why I am late in presenting the February reviews. Paying the bills comes before self-imposed deadlines, you know. Anyway, I’m still reading comics and trying to keep to the fifty-issue per month schedule…the writing part might be the one thing that gets left out from time to time. We shall see. I read comics because I love them. Never going to stop unless my eyeballs wear out. Writing is just a by-product of that mysterious brain-thing called inspiration.
Oh, my Granny Goodness, where was I? Oh, yes: finishing up a two-month tour of Jack Kirby’s formative creation: The New Gods! Let’s get to the recap…
Way back in the late 1960s, Jack left Marvel Comics for its Dignified Competitor, in attempts to develop a modern mythological epic. The resulting three years of material from Kirby (over four titles from 1970-1974) provided the blueprint for what is now known as: the saga of the New Gods. Within this imaginative opus were super-heroic tales unlike any other periodical of the day. Sure, there was the usual swarm of muscle pounding, overelaborate posing, a plethora of colorfully-costumed characters and the clearly defined separation between good and evil within these tales. What elevated the New Gods from simpler heroic tales, however, was the massive backdrop of grandeur behind each scenario. Kirby’s addition to the DC Universe added an enormous layer of texture, context and consequence to even the pettiest of squabble on the streets of Metropolis which has caused ripples through events in its history to this day.
The New Gods is about forging new myths for the modern era. It’s about nobility, respect and the troubling nature within those who wield power. Such as myths of the past, these godly beings often appear humanized when crossing paths with the mere mortals, but do not be fooled. They are not just superior beings…they have a much different grasp of reality than you or I. There are trials to perform and quests to embark upon. There are fated conflicts that seem unending in mortal terms. At times, the way of these divine beings, happen to graze upon some higher truths about the nature of things. These higher gears which often touch the short lives of mankind may seem obligatory, and unintentionally cruel. But we are all just the stuff of ants and microbes to their elevated senses. We matter not to their grander designs. Such is the way of the Gods.
Over and above all the pomp and majesty surrounding these beings, however, the New Gods is foremost about family. There is the “good family” on New Genesis, lead by Highfather, and the “evil family” on Apokolips, lead by Darkseid. Each have their internal struggles and dramas within their camps, but they generally band together when faced with an affront from the opposing family. It’s sort of a giant game of family feud up in some other-worldy dimension. Fast beyond our reckoning…with astro-forces and omega beams, battling parademons and the like. It’s all the usual fun and games until Darkseid and Highfather decide to get together and trade their sons as a gesture to cease hostilities with each other. Then, things get a little more complicated.
Yah it seems crazy to think that just by trading sons, the warring would cease, but it worked…for a while, anyway. Apokolips and New Genesis stopped battling with each other for an age, while Orion was healthily raised by Highfather and Scott Free was kept in a house of horrors by Granny Goodness. This sacrifice, no doubt, saved millions of lives and allowed each family to thrive once more in their natural environments. Scott Free eventually escaped Apokolips, and the game of war was once more set in motion, but for a time there was peace. Hmm…maybe today’s leaders should take a page from the New Gods in resolving their troubles once a while so we can stop sending kids off to uncharted lands to get their legs blown off…just a thought.
So, the crux of this whole godly-damnable drama: it’s all about the family ties that bind these higher beings to peaceful co-existence, all while wishing to tear each other’s throats out. This is the basic conceit for which all tales of the New Gods that followed Kirby’s inception. Of course, Darkseid’s child, Orion, is fated to eventually destroy his father in the end. But we can’t have that happen yet or the whole series would be over, right? If Orion wins, then Apokolips is defeated and there will be harmony in the universe for ever more. What’s the fun in that? There’s no epic drama there. That’s not the stuff of legend and myth. There must be some sort of conflict to resolve or a quest to perform or a trial to accomplish. That’s what myths are for…
But, as I mentioned in last month’s review, Orion did finally slay his dad in issue #5 of his own title. Game over, right? It’s going to be twenty more issues of the New Gods Kumbaya sunshine and roses unicorn happy dance, until the end of the title, right? Aww, you know it can’t be that easy. This is the New Gods we are talking about here. These guys jump back and forth from the source more often than the Kardashians change hairstyles. Believe me: at issue #5, Orion’s trials have only just begun.
Here are my five favorite issues from the February reading list:
Orion #10 (2001)
Written and drawn by Walt Simonson.
Backup feature drawn by Art Adams.
After defeating his father in battle, Orion decides to set up shop on Apokolips in attempts to influence the world’s seething culture of cruelty toward something more akin to New Genesis. This ambitious task becomes more difficult than Orion bargains for, however, when he discovers a multitude of devious characters plotting to overthrow his newly christened crown. As he fends off backstabbers, and brutal challengers alike, Orion begins to resort to the same tactics his father once used to retain his power on the dark world. It’s a sad irony for one to dethrone a despot, you must also become one yourself. His downward spiral into becoming an anti-life wielding monster is only belayed during a visit to a hidden labyrinth chamber, found deep below the throne to Apokolips. Here, Orion battles certain death by the terrible paws and snapping jaws of the monstrous Sirius. In a backup tale, there is another telling of the ravenous beast found previously by the young Scott Free, which ultimately lead to his escape from Granny’s youth camp. The two tales featuring the fearsome giant canine, each impeccably rendered, beautifully mirror each other and provide a wonderful link between the two brothers from other realms by the issues end.
Orion #18 (2001)
Written and drawn by Walt Simonson.
Following his harrowing escape from the jaws of Sirius, Orion continues his dark path toward self-destruction and ultimate damnation. His attempts to force Apokolips into peaceful submission leads to his betrayal of every value Highfather sought to instill in the young godling. After realizing his mistakes, Orion sacrifices his life to save the universe and is eventually bound to a sort of purgatory realm. Here he meets the Clockwork Man and destroys some awful manifestation of darkness that threatens to destroy the metaphorical roots to the source of all life. It’s a trippy adventure that eventually brings Orion back to Apokolips in a catatonic state. Once back among the living, Orion is stripped of his power, eternally humbled and more vulnerable than ever before.
The entire issue #18 features the once king of Apokolips, besieged by devilish armies while completely unconscious. Only by the faltering strength, grace and will of the Green Flame-a little known Green Lantern of Apokolips-staving off the circling marauders, does Orion survive the day. This story completes the circle of the whole rise and fall of Orion epic story Simonson so expertly laid out for this series. The remaining seven issues brings him back to Earth for a while to fend off the Joker’s manipulation of Deep Six, some nasty mobsters and finally a walk in the park with Scott Free. Although I didn’t enjoy the final arc of this series as much, following Orion through this harrowing journey of self-discovery over the course of 25 issues is worth the read. Of all the writers and artists who have added to the original New Gods mythology, I found that Walt Simonson was able to capture some of that Kirby magic the best.
Death of the New Gods #5 (2008)
Written and drawn by Jim Starlin.
I didn’t much enjoy reading the Death of the New Gods series when I first read it ten years ago and on second pass, my opinion hasn’t changed a bit. Spinning off from the ending to Orion and recent dire events in the countdown to Final Crisis, Starlin seemed to have little to no regard for any of these characters as he knocked them out one-by-one through eight grueling issues. Throwing Superman in as a cipher to witness the mounting carnage is like throwing manure on a -cake. While it’s essentially a decent murder mystery at first, the whole affair goes on way too long for me to care after the first issue and the callous way each character has their hearts unceremoniously ripped out; I felt like my own guts were being torn to pieces the entire time.
That said, issue #5 includes a neat little tid-bit for all the continuity junkies out there. While the New Gods are getting bumped off, Metron discovers the secret culprit to this genocidal exercise is actually the living embodiment of the Source. Yes, that once divine presence that guided the actions of the good guys forever has turned on them so it can reunite with its dark aspect first discovered in Starlin’s Cosmic Odyssey series. The only redeeming piece of information I gathered from this issue is: the Source is what created the New52 universe. That’s it. Not really a favorite issue as much as a key moment in DC history, jumbled into a lackluster story of meaningless death and destruction. The New Gods might have been a bunch of selfish, short-sighted power-hungry monsters a lot of the time, but Starlin’s version of this Source being is just horrific.
Mister Miracle #5 (2018)
Written by Tom King.
Drawn by Mitch Gerads.
I can’t say enough good things about last years’ Mister Miracle series. It’s become one of my favorite stories I recent memory. I put it right up alongside Watchmen, Dark Knight and the rest of the top modern comic masterpieces. Yes, I think King and Gerads’ Mister Miracle is that good. On second read through, my opinion hasn’t changed. Start to finish, this comic is an incredible treat to read. So, why is issue #5 so special? Well, I would say every single one of the twelve issues are special, but the first four is all about the set up. Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle is a super cool guy. He’s a death-defying escape-artist who likes to chill out in California with his bad- wife, while really the heir to the throne of New Genesis. Plus, he wears a giant yellow cape. It’s pretty amazing. So, the first issues set up Scott Free’s current situation: his attempted suicide, a new war brewing between his home-world and Apokolips and the eventual death sentence from Orion for not performing his godly responsibilities properly. Then things really get interesting…
So, in Issue #5, Scott and his wife Barda face the prospect of this execution by Orion. They decide to break into the royal suite in Supertown to confront Orion so they can get rid of this nasty shroud looming of their heads and get back to their chill California lives. For the whole issue, these lovebirds crawl through a maze of obstacles and fend off a litany of traps and defense mechanisms so they can somehow keep Orion from fulfilling his threats of Scott’s execution. The visuals read like someone playing a Nintendo game all the way through to the final page as the couple scrape and crawl and leap their way from one deadly scenario to another. It’s all very amusing and enjoyable to watch these characters you are growing fond of, easily burn through each deadly level.
Beyond all the cool visual junk in this issue, though, is this great banter between the two main characters. Barda discussing her ideas on how to renovate their apartment back home while blasting through some bone crushing chamber of horrors like it’s nothing and then Scott struggling to comprehend her logic because he likes their apartment the way it is and doesn’t see the need to change…plus there still needs to be room for all the shoes. The chemistry between them is just incredibly endearing. Then, just as you are comfortable with watching their ease at navigating all the verbal and physical peril, the bottom falls out on you, the reader. Barda reveals that she is pregnant just as Scott clears the final hurdle to reach Orion…only to find his brother-not-brother dead on the Highfather throne. OMG they killed Orion! Everything goes topsy-turvey from there and away we go. It’s clear by this point that this story is becoming a brilliantly set trap closing in on our titular hero…and this time: it’s one he may never escape. I love it.
Mister Miracle #11 (2018)
Written by Tom King.
Drawn by Mitch Gerads.
What is life if not for enjoying a nice vegetable tray once a while? There’s not much more I can say about this Mister Miracle series. It’s just brilliant. Go read it if you haven’t already. Blah blah blah. But if you aren’t convinced, just read issue #11. Or, better yet: just flip to the part where Darkseid eats a carrot from the vegetable tray…for an entire page. My mind is trapped inside this comic book forever after reading that bit. Yes, there is the issue where Barda has her baby and all the Furies are sitting in the waiting room, harassing each other…that’s a great moment as well. Yes, there is the final few pages in the last issue where we find out Scott has actually been in a trap the whole time…oh wait…spoilers. Nevermind! The series is better that the plot or the character interactions or the artwork or any singular point that makes everything coalesce into brilliance. It’s all about the vegetable tray, folks. Swishhhh…
…oh wait. What I mean to say is…it’s all about the family. Yeah. Read it!
Thank you for being a loyal or first time or periodic reader of my crazy musings and all that jazz. I consider you all extended family in my heart because, you know: it’s the love of comics that binds us all. When I see you on the street with that cool Batman shirt, I will nod my head because I know you. When I’m behind you in line at the convention that I swore I would not shell out forty bucks to attend but I really just want to meet Kelly Jones one time so it’s worth it and strike up a conversation with you because you have a copy of Terraformers in your polybagged mits…you know. We are family.
Here is the big pile of comics I’m absorbing through by eyeballs in March:
Shazam: Power of Hope (2000)
JLA: Liberty and Justice (2003)
JLA: The Nail #1-3 (1998)
JLA: Seven Caskets (2001)
JLA: Justice Riders (1996)
Batman: Night Cries (1992)
Joker (Graphic Novel-2008)
Batman and the Mad Monk #1-6 (2006)
Batman: Jekyll and Hyde #1-6 (2005)
Batman: Year 100 #1-4 (2006)
Gotham by Midnight #1-12 (2015)
Green Arrow #17-28 (2013)
Remember folks: you can pick your friends, you can pick your battles, and you can even pick your family if you’re a New …but you just can’t pick which comics I’m going to read next. Because I’m reading ALL of them. So, goodnight John-boy…I got some issues to read and it’s getting late.
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