New Gods Special #1
Written by Shane Davis, Walter Simonson and Jack Kirby
Art by Shane Davis, Walter Simonson, Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Mike Royer, Michelle Delecki, Alex Sinclair and Laura Martin
Lettering by John Workman and Dave & Troy
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
It’s Jack Kirby’s centennial and thankfully, one of his former employers is honoring him by treating new eyes to some of his greatest idea - the New Gods. Kirby was a legend in every sense of the word and his "Fourth World Saga" was the result of unbridled imagination. Its stories felt larger than what was on the page, hinting at a vast universe that couldn’t be contained and could take decades to uncover. Kirby never got the chance to see that come to fruition but he did provide the framework for one of the most challenging and complex corners of the DC Universe. This special sees Shane Davis (Superman: Earth One) and Walter Simonson adding a little bit to Kirby’s legacy in their own way.
The first story explores Orion’s complex relationship with his own legacy as his true Apokoliptian nature is revealed and he beats his half-brother Kalibak to a pulp. On the whole, Shane Davis does an admirable job condensing Orion’s history a bit without going too heavy on the exposition and he leans into Kirby’s signature style where he can. The problem is that while it feels like a story Kirby might tell, Davis’ art just isn’t a fit for the tone of the story. Some art styles just don’t work for certain characters, and while Davis’s affection for the source material is clear, it never feels like a cohesive unit. His scratchy linework doesn’t deliver the impact necessary and it undercuts what might be otherwise big moments. His work isn’t as grandiose and over-the-top as it needs to be. So while the story has drama and gives an interesting look at who Orion is, the scale feels a little bit off. The art makes the characters seem small which in turn makes them feel kind of silly by modern standards. It’s a shame because Davis’ story works. And his homages to the King are really fun. But it doesn’t help that the lettering team of “Dave and Troy” are all over the place, sometimes turning in pages with over four different and competing fonts, giving the story an almost slapdash feel.
Walter Simonson turns in a quick little story about young Orion and Seagrin fighting a Krake and I kind of wish this has led off the book. Any time we get more work from Walter Simonson, it’s a treat, and this is no exception. This is a really quick story without too much in the way of substance, so the art is the real star. Simonson has clearly studied Kirby’s work (as is evident from his resume) and it’s fun to see him work on New Gods considering his own legendary work with Thor. (Kirby had initially intended a version of the New Gods to replace the Asgardians post-Ragnarok in the Marvel Universe but Stan Lee wouldn’t let him.) Simonson always draws pretty good looking monsters and this is no exception but he also nails the renderings of Orion and Seagrin themselves. Laura Martin’s coloring is absolutely gorgeous throughout. She doesn’t beat you over the head with color the way Alex Sinclair does in the opening story. Instead, a subtle, slightly muted palette gives the story a lot of depth.
The back end of the book feature some reprints of Kirby himself and a nice essay from former Kirby cohort, Mark Evanier. It’s a touching remembrance and caps off a special that, while not perfect or essential by any stretch, should be a treat for fans of the King. Jack Kirby was one of the greatest minds that comic books, or really any medium, has ever known. We’ve all sat through enough credits of big budget superhero films to know that he has left an indelible mark on the world. Long live the King.