Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus: Volume Three

Continuing into the depths of Kirby’s Fourth World, I find the stories becoming more and more intense.  Generally in major stories like this, comic or otherwise, all of the main players have been introduced by this point.  Not so with Kirby’s Omnibus.  I’m three-quarters of the way into this collection, and there are still new characters and side stories being introduced and developed.  I’ve come to realize that with these comics, Kirby was not simply writing stories; he was creating his own fully realized universe, with details meticulously planned out and overarching themes pervading the series.  The amount of attention given to all of his characters and stories is impressive to say the least, and proves just how dedicated Kirby was to bringing his visions to life.

There isn’t much more for me to say at this point, primarily because there is so much I could say, but want to hold off. I’m leaving my overall impressions of the series for after I complete Volume Four, when I will have the complete story and can make my own conclusions.  That being said, I cannot in good conscience leave this post so brief, so I will instead address one point in the collection that stood out to me:

By this point in the comics, Kirby has already shown that he isn’t afraid of killing off characters.  A handful have already died as a result of the war between New Genesis and Apokolips.  Kirby amps up the drama, however, by depicting the following scene:

wpid-wp-1444412366632.jpgThis panel depicts a number of Himon’s students, guilty of defying Darkseid, hanging from a Magna-Ring after being murdered.   This in and off itself is a startling image, but what (surprisingly) makes it even more powerful is the fact that the students’ deaths aren’t depicted in the comic.  Instead we are left with this single panel, displaying the carnage of Darkseid’s wrath.  The stark brutality of the scene reminds the reader that these characters are at war, and dealing with a truly deadly, unmerciful force.  With a single panel the comic descends into a much darker, more ominous tone than has previously been seen.

That being said, two pages later we are met by an entirely different image of death:

wpid-wp-1444412388433.jpgIn these panels, we see the commander responsible for the students’ deaths meeting his own violent end.  His is an almost comical death.  We’ve all seen cartoons in which an unsuspecting character lifts a serving platter to find a bomb hidden within.  This seemingly light-hearted approach to the character’s death was jarring, considering the main motive of the murder was revenge.  I found these panels to be extremely powerful because they felt human; in a fit of anger and desiring retribution, Himon plants a bomb in a darkly comical manner, reminding us that the players in this war may have god-like powers, but are still plagued by human emotions.  Although it’s not shown in the comics, one can almost imagine Himon’s smile of grim satisfaction after avenging his fallen students.

The sheer scope of these interlocking stories is almost too much to fathom.  It’s clear at this point that they are all adding up to one final confrontation, but I’m still unable to guess how it will play out.  Kirby plays his cards close to the chest, revealing details to the reader only as they are immediately necessary.  There are no extraneous panels here, no open-ended exchanges.  All of these stories tie into one another in a cohesive way, slowly building upon themselves and revealing a deeper message.  Kirby is clearly leaving formulaic, standalone comics in the dust, trading them in for a sweeping saga that touches upon human nature and leaves a lasting impression.

I still have Volume Four to read, but I can already tell that Kirby’s collection will have a lasting effect on me.  His stories support further reflection, and don’t have to be taken at face value.  I find myself thinking about them even when I’m not reading, contemplating a character’s actions or wondering how a storyline will play out.  These stories stay with you, and no matter how they play out in the last volume, I have a feeling I’ll be remembering them for a long time to come.

-Jess

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