Cooke Look: “Evil Factory!”
With this issue, the third of Jack’s run, the Jimmy Olsen segment of The Fourth World tetralogy is starting to gain texture, the pacing nicely building, and the storytelling just a smidgen more measured, as if the artist/writer was beginning to cozy into his new creative environs at DC and getting comfortable with a whole new set of characters. While we do get boatloads of exposition — hey, all that’s happened is a lot to take in; just check out how many entries we have for 66 pages of story thus far! — and, believe it or don’t, Jack throws in concepts he obviously plans for, but the ideas are coming at him so fast, sometimes he plain forgets and keeps in forward motion! Have a look-see at the “File 202” so prominently displayed as a major coming element on this issue’s splash page, and after finishing the entire JO run, you tell me what that dalgarned “File 202” is! (Hey, I can surmise it pertains to the coming “Four-Armed Terror,” but never be certain…)
A great deal of pleasure can be derived from this issue: the mini-Supes, Scrappers and Jimmys; the slightly mincing Mokkari and cravenly Simyan; the two Newsboy Legions joyful embrace; not-so jolly green Jimmy; and (sigh) a delightful “new” super-hero, The Guardian. Reading this specific comic book as a kid eased any doubt I might have had about where Jack was going (I mean, “Whiz Wagon”? “Hairies”? “Mountain of Judgment”? “Flippa-Dippa”??? In the beginning, as charmed as I was, I wondered whether or not this guy was sane!) and when I was finished with this issue I surrendered to a new existence as a fan for life. My motto became “Trust In Kirby: Maybe We’re Headed for Crazytown, But the Ride Sure Is Wild!”
I think I caught a hint that this guy Kirby was a genius early on, especially in his Jimmy Olsen series, when all of his abilities started to coalesce for me: His unique dynamic drawing style (even when muted by Colletta’s oft-inappropriate, feathery inks); his unrelenting, pile-driving, never look back storytelling; his delightful, sometimes wonky dialogue, so melodramatic and so… so Warner Brothers, I guess!; the overarching cheeriness of his comics, urging us kids to come along and have some fun; and, maybe the most important aspect, his lack of sentimentality about the nature of man but (albeit guarded) optimism for life itself: the vision of Jack Kirby.
While much of this issue is exposition and setting up for the “time-bomb” of the story to come, we still get to relish again one of Jack’s longest running devices: The good old fashioned slugfest, with “Giant Jimmy” beating the Krypton out of Kal-el… Nobody, but nobody does a fistfight better than the King!
Upon re-reading there’s always something new to find — or something I think I uncover — and I’m beginning to detect that while Jack depicts authority very often in light-of-day, clean cut imagery, there’s nuances and subtleties that show however good the intentions of the institutions of “our” side, disastrous badness just might emerge… The Guardian clone’s strange brain patterns, the mere fact DNA was used to grow alien monsters, the folly of building super-nuclear reactors in Metropolis’s basement, to name a few of The Project’s creating the opportunity for their own — and maybe our own — demise. Do I detect an uneasiness emerging from Jack about science and technology, and a yearning for a return to the Garden, so to speak, the pristine nature of New Genesis and the Wild Area?
Themes are beginning to take shape and come into sharp focus. And next entry, Jack lays his cards on the table just what the coming battle is all about, as we move on to the second-released title of his Fourth World opus. They belong to sunrise — they’re here in mid-day — to stop the spread of night! Yes, Kirbyheads, here come The Forever People of Supertown!