Thursday, August 02, 2007

Review - Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, vol. 1

By Jack Kirby
Inks by Vince Colletta
Published by DC Comics, July 2007. $49.99

“This kid doesn’t get it. The Kirby tradition is to create a new comic.”

I always think it’s such a great idea at first, to by yet another collection of Silver Age comics, something big and prestige (or cheap and black and white), but usually I get an issue or two in, and I’m ready to return to the latest given issue of any old thing at all. Even the beautiful weirdness of SUPERMAN IN THE FIFTIES wasn’t enough to sustain my attention through the entire volume.

JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS was another San Diego purchase, and I was wonderfully surprised by how quickly I read through the sixteen comics reprinted therein. The volume contains seven issues of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN and three issues each of THE FOREVER PEOPLE, NEW GODS and MISTER MIRACLE, the titles handled by Jack Kirby upon his defection from Marvel to DC in 1970, presented in chronological order. While they can occasionally stray into absurdity -- Don Rickles and his look-alike Goody Rickles show up in the last issue of JIMMY OLSEN reprinted -- those moments are easily outweighed by the creepiness of Mantis emerging from his energy cocoon, Granny Goodness seeking to return Scott Free back to her orphanage, and Darkseid’s goon Desaad hooking up all sorts of Kirby machines to his own flesh.

The Fourth World, as Mark Evanier puts it in his afterword, is Kirby at his most Kirby. He had an epic in mind, but he was making it up as he went along. Not willing (or, um, able) to rest on the success of, you know, creating the Marvel Universe, Kirby was playing with themes he’d return to again and again -- gods doing battle on Earth among humans, and mankind meeting the cosmic face to face. A book like GODLAND is fun and all, but see the quote up above -- if Kirby were alive today and still making comics, they wouldn’t look like that. They wouldn’t look like any Kirby comic we’d ever seen before.

Grant Morrison’s SEVEN SOLDIERS is probably the most Fourth World-like project the comics world has seen in recent years, and while that was executed with a beginning and an end, it still was born from the creations of those who had come before. Heck, most of them were actual Kirby creations. To see the pure comic book manic energy SOLDIERS sprang from -- and to understand the debt all of comics, and much of pop culture, owes to Jack Kirby -- the FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS is a great place to start. It’s the first of four volumes, with the second due to arrive later this month.

(Marvel’s DEVIL DINOSAUR OMNIBUS is also new to the shelves, along with Image’s reprint of THE SILVER STAR, a late-80’s Topp’s-published “Kirbyverse” effort. I dunno about SILVER STAR, but DEVIL DINOSAUR is more weird fun -- I think there’s an ETERNALS OMNIBUS out that collects that entire run, as well. I’ve had my eyes on DC’s KAMANDI ARCHIVES for a long time too … look, long story short? Go read some Kirby comics.)

Tell me more: Jack Kirby, Fourth World wiki.

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