Comics Anonymous

KIRBY: GENESIS #0-8 by G-Man

Jack Kirby would have had his 95th Birthday last week, 28th August, so it almost seems fitting that around this time we take the chance to review the recently finished Kirby: Genesis from Dynamite Entertainment.

With the main title covering these 9-issues and bringing together the likes of Captain Victory & Silver Star (both getting their own 6-issue spin-off) among a great number of other top Kirby creations.  The thing is, the story of this release begins a full three years before issue #0 hit the stands back in May 2011.  Dynamite had started the whole process back in 2008 as they began licensing the original characters as owned by the Jack Kirby estate.

This run just finished in the last couple of months and this has proved to be a must-read for me, also making my list of highlights of 2011…..and justifiably so.  Here we have the imagination and magic that Kirby was able to create brought to life again for a new generation.  For this to work they needed a strong writer and artist to do the characters justice – in steps writer Kurt Busiek. The series would see Alex Ross provide the layouts and covers with main art duties falling to Jack Herbert and if I’m truthful, I wasn’t sure how or even if, this approach could work.

The memory of Marvels still fresh in my head would convince me that this could be epic tale and I was hopeful that Herbert could keep up but this still managed  to far exceed my expectations.  The genius of Kirby is captured perfectly as Busiek & Ross weave a tale intermingled with the real-life approach NASA took with their Pioneer 10 space probe back in 1971.  Their idea was to send up an artists representation of the human race should any extraterrestrial life ever encounter the probe.  An element of truth in that Kirby did produce a superhuman interpretation of the human race…….choosing to depict our hopes, dreams and potential as the ‘best’ earth had to offer.

A strong theme used previously in Marvels back in 1994 – offering us a clear contrast of the real world we live in today with a fantastic and imaginary world filled with our potential giving an ideal crossover in both their and Kirby’s vision.  Kirby Freeman is our main character in this title though as his interest in the Pioneer 10 probe and his high school friend/crush Bobbi Cortez blur totally and she plays a very Mary Jane Watson-like part in this whole series.

The story is set as the probe crosses into other dimensions and the beings from these other worlds take on the form of Jack Kirby’s representation of the human races potential.  They then descend on earth from a number of different dimensions and we see the world react to these god-like arrivals.  As the story continues Kirby and Bobbi become more and more tangled up in the action as supervillian and superhero alike pour from the other-worldly dimensions Jack Kirby had dreamt up for us.

The end of issue #1 sees Bobbi change into Midnight Swan after a visit to the University Museum sees her become possessed and forced to read from a ‘Sorcerers Book’ found in among Viking artefacts.  Cue our main man Kirby taking part in the action from here on out as he picks-up the fight alongside Bobbi’s father as they go in search of her.

This is where the book excels for me, having originally started off with some solid groundwork but very much in a modern style, we see things progress into a much more recognizable old-skool comic book feel.  A clear indication of the ability the creative team have in harnessing their previous success and treating Jack Kirby’s creations with the respect they deserve.  This all breathes life into his original characters and the expert layouts from Ross give Herbert’s artwork room to breathe while giving us more characters than we can probably remember, if anything, the most difficult part is keeping track of the characters on show.

As the remaining issues play out it grows and grows in terms of the characters and the sheer size of the world they live in….and by world I mean galaxy, dimensions & reality because “world” is just too small a word for it.  Gods, heroes, villains, Kirby, Bobbi and the human race seem to appear on the pages as worlds collide and good takes on evil……weaving through the whole  9-issues.  Culminating in an all-out war to defeat the invading evil, humans stand shoulder to shoulder with gods to defend the tiny planet Earth…….EPIC or what?

Now I’m an Alex Ross fan and with my initial doubts cast aside early on, I think the occasional character, or page or even double-page spread featuring Ross’s art worked well.  Which is as much to do with the skill and craft of Herbert as it does with Ross’s glorious painted touches.  Not to everyone’s taste but the subject matter and sheer scale of the title itself, demands a different approach to your standard comic book release.  There’s even a comparison in issue #0 of Jack’s original designs and Ross’s sketch comparisons.

This is a story that NEEDS to be read and acts as a fitting homage to the genius of Jack Kirby, a legend with more impact on the world of comics than a lot of people realise.  A legend that Busiek, Ross & Herbert have managed to tap into and been able represent for the old and new generation of comic book readers alike.  A title that I’m returning to re-read now and will do so again – with a graphic novel softcover on the way….I can only hope that there’s also a Hardcover on the way too, one that I can firmly place in my collection.  Rest in peace Jack Kirby……long may your ideas continue to inspire and entertain us.



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