Kirby: Genesis #0


More than just the most prolific and influential creative mind in comics history, Jack Kirby is pretty much a genre unto himself these days. Entire series have been devoted to trying to capture and distill his technomythological superhero adventure style (like Joe Casey and Tom Scioli’s Godland and Scioli’s own self-published The Myth Of 8-Opus), memorable issues of comics have paid loving tribute to his achievements (Supreme: The Return #6 by Alan Moore and Rick Veitch is probably the finest example), and his depictions of action, energy, and technology in superhero comics have led to entirely new terminologies being named after him (Kirby Krackle, Kirbytech). Of course, the entire Marvel Universe as we know it wouldn’t have existed without him, not to mention various still-viable sub-sections of the DC Universe. Now, in the new series Kirby: Genesis, Dynamite Publishing is laying claim to pretty much everything else that doesn’t fall under the purview of the Big Two—lesser-known Kirby creations like Captain Victory, Silver Star, Galaxy Green, and a whole host of other concepts still owned by the Kirby estate—and folding them all into a shared-universe adventure that kicked off with a $1 Issue Zero this past week. One might be tempted to accuse Dynamite of trying to cash in on the Kirby name, re-heating some leftovers that may not have been all that fresh to begin with (as fun as Kirby’s 1980s output was—his Super Powers series was my first exposure to his work as a kid—you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would call that period their favourite). Even the announcement of Kurt Busiek as writer and Alex Ross as cover artist/art director wasn’t enough to dissuade my skepticism, initially at least. But if the Zero issue is any indication, Kirby: Genesis looks to be a fun, heartfelt tribute to the King of Comics, one that successfully captures the style and feeling of Kirby at his most cosmic.

 The series begins in a universe somewhat parallel to our own, where, in 1972, the Pioneer 10 Space Probe ventures out into the cosmos bearing a plaque illustrated by a familiar comics craftsman—a plaque that depicts humanity in the form of a male/female duo of Kirbyesque superbeings offering a friendly wave to whomever might greet the spacecraft (an afterword by Busiek explains this story point—Kirby was one of several artists asked by the Los Angeles Times how they might convey humanity to extraterrestrial beings via the Jupiter Probe, and this exact illustration was Kirby’s response). Reaching deep space, the Probe is sucked into a wormhole, and proceeds to zoom through a series of distant galaxies occupied by godlike superbeings engaged in various life-or-death struggles, all bearing the distinctive design tropes of the King of Comics. Among these are the aforementioned Captain Victory, Galaxy Green, and Silver Star, but eagle-eyed Kirby acolytes will also be able to pick out Destroyer Duck and several characters from the short-lived Kirbyverse of the early Nineties as well (not to mention various other unused Kirby concepts straight out of his sketchbooks, some of which were originally intended for his magnum opus, The New Gods). As the Probe finally begins making its way back to Earth, its passage is noted and followed by a pair of divine beings named Jerek and Spring, setting the stage for Kirby: Genesis #1.  

 More than anything, this book positively glows with affection for the life and work of Jack Kirby, and for a devotee like myself, that goes a long way. However, Busiek’s script uses that anecdote about the Pioneer Probe to hang an intriguing story idea on, one that is appropriately, wildly cosmic, but has a human element to ground it (after the Probe’s launch, we are briefly introduced to the series’ human protagonists, a couple of stargazing inner-city youths named Bobbi and—of course—Kirby). This melding of the fantastic and the real was the key to the success of both of Busiek and Ross’s previous collaborations, Marvels and Astro City, and it’s a formula that seems to bring out the best in both creators. The paintings of Alex Ross have always done a remarkable job of adding a patina of believability to Kirby’s designs, and his work here is no exception. While Ross mainly provides covers and art direction, the lion’s share of the interior artwork is handled by newcomer Jack Herbert, whose solid work here recalls the art of Astro City penciller Brent Anderson (with just a hint of Norm Breyfogle). The lead story feels fairly packed, despite being only 12 pages, but it’s hopefully a good indication of what’s to come. I’m fairly excited to see where this story goes, but I’m hoping it will stay contained to the pages of Kirby: Genesis—rapid overexpansion seems to be a fatal mistake for the comics industry in general and Dynamite Publishing in particular (Green Hornet, anyone? Project: Superpowers?). I’d hate to see this promising series diluted by a slew of spinoffs; the onslaught of variant covers promised for issue #1 is overkill enough. Still, if the quality of this Zero issue can be maintained into the regular series, it’ll make for a welcome return of the King.