THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 By Shane Davis, Michelle Delecki, Walt Simonson, and Jack Kirby
THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 is such an amazing tribute to the legacy of the King. It does such a great job honoring his style, ideas, and characters on the centennial of his birth. It's great to have reminders of how much of a genius Jack Kirby was and how his work changed comics forever.
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Trying to capture Jack Kirby’s legacy in comics is impossible to do with just words. The man’s vision was so ahead of his time that it paved the way for the future of comics, decades after his work in the medium. Among “the King’s” crowning achievements is his “Fourth World.” What’s so amazing about the Fourth World is how divergent it was and continues to be from average superhero stories. Out of the issues of SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN, Jack Kirby sprouted a new world of celestial wars, conflicting ideologies, and sci-fi wonders. Soon followed Kirby’s amazing series titled THE NEW GODS. Shane Davis, Walter Simonson, and Michelle Delecki pay an amazing homage to Kirby’s work with THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1. It truly shows how the King’s work still lives throughout comics, 100 years after his birth.

JACK KIRBY’S THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 page 7. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The Return of The New Gods

From the first page of THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1, writer Shane Davis wows the reader with astonishing visuals of New Genesis. Instantly I flashed back to the time I first read NEW GODS #1 by Jack Kirby. I remember witnessing the beautiful landscape of Supertown, the capital of New Genesis. Kirby’s visuals of New Genesis and Apokolips still hold up as amazing achievements within the comic book genre, and Davis’s sprawling & stark depiction of the two planets is great at evoking Kirby’s original spirit.

READ: Here’s our article honoring the King and his legacy!

We’re instantly thrown into a recognizable storyline for any NEW GODS fan: that of Orion’s battle with his evil brother, Kalibak. Orion and Kalibak are both representations of war and rage as sons of Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips. Orion however, was raised by the Highfather in New Genesis. Highfather worships peace and life over Darkseid’s worship of war and destruction. Orion has always represented the battle of nature vs. nurture. In the end, Orion is a combination of Apokolips and New Genesis, using his rage and his desire for blood to fight for peace rather than prolonging war and violence. In this way, Orion represents “justified war” vs. Kalibak’s “war for the sake of violence.”

Furthermore, while THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 beautifully honors Kirby’s original run on THE NEW GODS, it doesn’t push away readers who are unfamiliar with Kirby’s masterpiece. This comic is a great modern starting point for those who want to understand what makes the New God’s special. It brilliantly captures the essence of characters like Orion, the Highfather, and Lightray. Yet, readers don’t have to catch up on the years of context to understand who these New Gods are.

The Great Teacher

Master scribe and artist Walter Simonson writes and draws the backup story titled “Teeth of the See.” In this story, we see a younger Orion on his first mission to Apokolips. He’s guided by the New God named Seagrin, who (as the name would suggest) loves the oceans. Together, Seagrin and Orion travel to the Unholy See on Apokolips to scout out an evil rumored to grow there.

JACK KIRBY’S THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 page 27. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The adventure is definitely exciting as Simonson drew incredibly large beasts with huge tentacles and teeth. Nonetheless, the real meat of this issue is exploring the relationship of the petulant Orion with the older Seagrin. Simonson writes Orion as an arrogant, abrasive youth who thinks he’s ready for any challenge. Seagrin, on the other hand, greets Orion’s wrath with quiet wisdom and a cheery attitude. Seagrin shows Orion that while clear talent and strength is good, these traits are nothing if you aren’t clever or resourceful.

READ: Here’s a look at Kirby’s first issue of NEW GODS!

The story is great because it totally works as a fun earlier adventure for Orion. Yet, it’s also a metaphor for how Jack Kirby not so secretly influenced Walt Simonson. Many of the ideas in DC’s New Gods are reflected in Simonson’s run on THOR. They both focused on larger than life themes and characters like deities and cosmic entities. “Teeth of the See” is Simonson’s way of paying his respects to the man he learned a lot from. The way Seagrin mentors Orion parallels how Kirby’s work informed Simonson’s own. The sad aspect of the Seagrin-Kirby parallel is that Seagrin dies early on in Orion’s journey. It’s a sobering reflection that even our greatest heroes, like Kirby, must pass.

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

The last few stories of THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 are comics by Jack Kirby himself. They are from his original run on FOREVER PEOPLE. In this comic, Kirby introduces the reader to Lonar of New Genesis. Lonar is a solitary New God who excavates the old ruins around Supertown, exploring the history of the Old Gods. In the story, we see Lonar discover an Old God steed whom he names Thunderer. The God and horse become kindred spirits, riding around New Genesis like a lone cowboy.

JACK KIRBY’S THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 page 35. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I think the writers of THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 decided to include this story because they thought it was a great representation of who Kirby was as a writer and as a person. Firstly, Kirby was second-to-none in his amazing storytelling and brilliant characterization in his comics. After reading one issue with Lonar we have a good idea of who he is as a person. To conclude the comic he writes a vigorous monologue where he writes “To Lonar–a Blade of Grass–A Horse–A Fierce God of War–are eternal links in the chain of truth!!” This exclamatory style of writing has become synonymous with Kirby’s writing. Finally, I think Lonar is also a great representation of who Jack Kirby truly was. “Quiet Kirby” was a man who was always exploring new paths and mysteries in his comics, and the character of Lonar fully embodies this.

Final Thoughts on THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1

THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 was a triumph in honoring the King’s legacy. It also recognizes Kirby’s continued role in shaping comics. Without Kirby, we wouldn’t have some of the great visuals and storytelling that make the comic book genre the way it is. That’s why it’s so great that DC made such an incredible dedication to Kirby’s ideas in THE NEW GODS. In conclusion, I think it’s crucial to alert a new generation of comic book readers to Kirby’s masterful storytelling in all of his FOURTH WORLD comics, and THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 does just that. As soon as it comes out, I recommend any fan of the King’s work grab a copy!

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