August will feature a wave of DC Comics specials honoring the true King of comics, Jack Kirby, to celebrate his centennial. The first of these specials is The New Gods Special, which feels appropriate since it features characters from Kirby’s greatest contribution to the DC Comics universe. The issue features two stories, with the main one by Shane Davis and a backup by Walter Simonson. Both stories are fitting tributes to the original New Gods stories. DC also threw in a short story by the King himself.

Here’s the synopsis from DC Comics:

In a feature length story, Orion and Lightray must come to the aid of Forager and his people, as Kalibak has established a brutal dictatorship over the Bug colony. In confronting his evil brother, Orion faces the darker side of his own nature. And, in a back-up story, master comics writer/artist Walter Simonson tells a tale of a young Orion and his friend Seagrin. Also includes a reprint of a classic New Gods tale by Jack Kirby!

In Davis’ “Orion of New Genesis,” Orion and Lightray work with Forager to stop Kalibak from completely enslaving the Insect population of New Genesis. The fight pushes Orion to the limit. Will he embrace his heritage as the Son of Darkseid or will he stick to the teachings of Highfather?

Davis’ artwork is as good as his storytelling, as Davis resists the urge to ape Kirby’s style in this tribute. The story is action-packed, while also holding a deeper lesson that sons can make their own destiny. It captures the struggle Orion faces throughout the Fourth World stories as the son of both Apokolips and New Genesis.

Simonson’s backup story, “Teeth of the See: A Tale of Young Orion,” runs only a few pages and is more of an extension of Simonson’s own Orion (2000-2002) series. In this short story, a young Orion visits Apokolips with Seagrin. The two swim in the “Unholy See,” a polluted ocean under the surface of Darkseid’s planet. There’s really not too much to the story, as it’s just a quick lesson for Orion as Seagrin teaches him that he doesn’t have to take things so seriously and shouldn’t head into fights without a plan.

Fried Bug.

The special concludes with a reprint of two short stories by Kirby that feature Lonar, a New Genesis explorer who investigates the past of New Genesis. The story provides a brief look at the creative genius that Kirby was. Even minor characters in his universe had creative backstories and adventures. In these stories, Lonar discovers ancient rubble and even a living artifact who doesn’t like to hang out with Orion.

New Gods Special not only works as a great introduction to Kirby’s great Fourth World universe for new fans, but also as proof that these characters should be used more often. Thankfully with these specials, along with the wild Young Animal Bug!: The Adventures of Forager and the upcoming Mister Miracle series, Kirby’s creations are coming back. While Simonson’s story is too short to be that memorable, Davis’ featured story is a fun Orion tale and a worthy addition to the Fourth World.

Perhaps Kirby’s greatest ability was seeing the future of comics. The original runs of the three Fourth World books lasted barely over two years in the early 1970s. But they remain fresh to this day because of the endless creativity busting from those original pages. Davis and Simonson’s stories feel a part of that universe because they try to tell new stories instead of just copying Kirby’s work. No one can be Kirby, but you can build on the foundation he left behind.

The New Gods Special #1
Is it good?
It's an excellent tribute to Jack Kirby, with a fantastic lead story from Shane Davis.
Shane Davis' story is great, with fine artwork and a plot that fits right into the Fourth World without trying to copy Kirby.
Walter Simonson's story feels like filler, since it's so short.
The Kirby reprints are a nice touch, but they boost the page count to make this a $4.99 special.
8
Good