Cooke Look: “Orion Fights For Earth!”
With Jack Kirby’s fine work on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen and The Forever People, we’ve already got a good look at the conflict developing on Earth, but here, in “Orion Fights For Earth!” we now get view of the cosmic dimension, and it’s an awesomely impressive image of an unfolding complex tapestry of celestial intrigue with a universe-quaking background story. As is appropriate for a Kirby epic, this is BIG stuff, involving BIG characters and BIG concepts.
The comic book opens in cataclysmic fashion, Ragnarok depicted on page one; the violent, fiery creation of two planets on page two; and a gorgeous close-up of our hero with that extraordinary helmet on page three. I mean, counting the magnificent depiction of Supertown on page five, that’s three full-pagers out of the first five… and they are so gorgeous, it makes one yearn for an entire book of Jack Kirby splashes!
It is a beautiful set-up for a first issue in that we get a sense, right off the bat, that our main star is much more than he appears — evidenced by Metron and Highfather’s side-chatter — which immediately engrosses us with strong hints that Orion has a deeper connection to the enemy than he himself imagines. It also seems obvious to me that Jack had thought long and hard about the overarching storyline as there seem remarkably few loose threads. (The only one that immediately comes to mind is the fact the Earth-built “Mass-Director Unit” obviously didn’t work, as Darkseid and his minions would later focus on monitoring devices with decidedly smaller range, particularly Happyland (a.k.a the “camp” and “Kingdom of the Damned”), to find the human who possesses the Anti-Life Equation. You’d think, given how the King of Evil has the habit of roughing up and brutalizing those who fail to carry out his orders — think Brola, Desaad, Mantis, Mokkari and Simyan (well, a strong berating to the last two, anyway!) — we would see the Apokolips ruler mete out his unhappiness to whomever supervised the earthbound Mass-Director Unit. But, as we see in the referring panel, it looks like Darkseid himself is directing its construction, so maybe he gave himself a stern talking-to behind closed doors!)
There’s really not much more I can add. It’s a magnificent debut for the title, arguably the best of the Fourth World quartet of comics, and it confidently — and with supreme competence — sets the stage for the Super War on Earth to come… A bravura performance by THE master of adventure comics.
(Oh, just to tie up the story synopsis, let me round out this issue (though I’ve pretty much described what’s happening, only a bit disjointedly, I fear): After Orion confers with Metron, he frees the Earth folk from the brain-scanning device. Kalibak, now freed courtesy of Metron’s exit, engages Orion, who bears partial brunt of Kalibak’s nerve beam and returns fire with Astro-Power. Suddenly a Boom Tube appears and our heroes jump aboard, Orion holding up the rear astride his Astro-Harness. Kalibak hurls his Beta-Club in frustration at the disappearing Boom Tube to no avail, and our team arrives on Earth, to ominous winds of war coming toward them. Jack, who started this opener with an epilogue, audaciously closes with a prologue, a full-page splash of Darkseid and some spectacular minions in the background (none, I believe, who were seen again in the series!). Closing the comic, we sense we’ve just experienced something new to the form, a multi-layered, sprawling, complex and exhilarating epic of cosmic proportions which engages and screams for your attention: Simply put, an intelligent and still viscerally satisfying super-hero comic series…)