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.


A Bit of a 90s Palate-Cleanser.

Welcome to 90s Week at Living Between Wednesdays! This whole idea was inspired by a collection we acquired recently at Strange Adventures, where a guy who had been buying comics at another store for over twenty years had picked up his comics faithfully every week or so, read them once, then stored them back in the bags he brought them home in, receipts and all. Each of us picked a bag at random to review, which we’ll be doing later this week in lieu of reviewing new stuff.  Until then, we’ll be talking about all things 90s, so feel free to put on a Full House rerun, rock out to the Stone Temple PilotsCore, and strut your stuff in your HyperColour T-shirt. 

For my introductory 90s Week post, I’m going to discuss five titles that may have slipped under some fans’ radar, as the creators of these books were generally known for more famous works. Obviously, it’s more fun to have a go at the crappier offerings of the decade, but we’ll get to that in due time, and I thought it might be nice to start things off on a more positive note. So, in no particular order…

Captain America by Mark Waid and Ron Garney: Taking the reins from longtime writer Mark Gruenwald, the new creative team hit the Star-Spangled Avenger like a much-needed shot of Super-Soldier Serum. Cap’s new adventures were tightly plotted and fast paced, reducing the character’s penchant for patriotic speeches and returning him to the frantic action he was originally known for. First, in Operation Rebirth, Cap and his back-from-the-dead love interest Sharon Carter were forced to team up with the Red Skull to stop a group of Nazis from using a Cosmic Cube to reshape reality to their purposes. In the second storyline, Man Without A Country, Cap was exiled from American soil for teaming up with the Skull, but he still had to find a way to stop robotic villain Machinesmith from assassinating Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, the poorly-timed and thoroughly godawful Heroes Reborn relaunch of Captain America derailed the Waid/Garney express just as it was building up renewed fan interest in the title. The duo returned to the book when Heroes Reborn ended, but the book never quite regained its momentum. The full run is once again available in the Operation Rebirth collection, and if you’re one of the many fans of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s current Cap adventures, you owe it to yourself to check out the best the previous decade had to offer.

1963 by Alan Moore and Friends: If Supreme was Alan Moore’s tribute to the Silver Age of DC, then 1963 was his salute to the Mighty Marvel Age of Comics. Published as six separate issues with different protagonists taking part in a larger, interconnected plot, 1963 had a little something for everyone who loved the classic Marvel archetypes. Mystery Incorporated was his homage to the Fantastic Four, The Fury was an acrobatic wisecracker a la Spider-Man or Daredevil, and Horus: Lord of Light riffed on Thor and his godly supporting cast…you get the idea. The art chores were handled by a who’s who of past Moore collaborators, like Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. Presented as highlights from the fictional Image Comics published thirty years earlier, 1963 was to eventually contrast the heroes of a more innocent decade with the ultraviolent Image heroes of 1993 in a concluding chapter—the 1963 Double Image Annual. Image founders like Todd MacFarlane and Jim Lee were on tap to provide art for the issue, which sadly never saw print for a variety of reasons, including Moore’s falling-out with co-creator Bissette. Damn shame, though, since any one of these issues provides enough material for a dozen lesser writers to crank out stories for years to come…much like anything Moore writes, really.

Unknown Soldier by Garth Ennis and Killian Plunkett: While he and artist Steve Dillon were creating the most entertaining blasphemy ever seen month after month in Preacher, Garth Ennis still found time to revisit one of DC’s classic World War II heroes in this gritty, suspenseful four-parter. A lonely, Mulderesque FBI agent is put on the trail of Codename Unknown Soldier, a shady operative who vanished into obscurity following the end of WWII, becoming a covert assassin who took part in pretty much all of the US’s dirty dealings from 1946 to the present (the present being 1997, of course). It’s sort of like Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Shadowplay—The Secret Team in Brought To Light crossed with a particularly great X-Files episode. Ennis adds a final twist to the mystery of the Soldier’s identity that is somehow both satisfying and maddening at the same time.

Untold Tales of Spider-Man Annual #1 by Kurt Busiek and Mike Allred: For a good stretch in the 90s, UTOS was the only remotely readable Spidey title. The stories were sandwiched between existing continuity from Spidey’s early years, and made for a good antidote to the Clone Saga and all the foolishness that came with it. However, everything awesome about the title was on full display in this double-sized issue, drawn by Allred and inked by Marvel vet Joe Sinnott. The story dealt with Webhead’s rivalry with the Human Torch, resulting in Spidey asking Susan Storm out on a date (mostly to piss off her brother). Sue, feeling neglected by Reed and not married yet, agrees to join the Wall-crawler at a local pizza joint. Meanwhile, the Torch summons Sue’s super-stalker, Namor, and tells him that Spider-Man has kidnapped her. Good old-fashioned misunderstandings and mayhem ensue. It’s pretty tough to read this issue without a big goofy grin plastered across your mug. 

The Copybook Tales, by J. Torres and Tim Levins: Back before 80s nostalgia, fanboy humour, and nonstop pop culture references were commonplace, Canadian creators Torres and Levins indulged in all of the above with this charming black-and-white series from Slave Labor Graphics (now available in one volume from Oni Press). The series followed the semi-fictionalized misadventures of two would-be comic creators, Jamie and Thatcher, caught between their desire to grow up once and for all and the relentless pull of nostalgia. Told both in flashbacks to the guys’ misspent youth scouring back-issue bins and agonizing over girls, and in the present, where they struggle with the perils of responsibility, The Copybook Tales wonderfully balanced nerdy humour, twentysomething angst, and a very relatable coming-of-age story.