It’s difficult to find the proper words to express my enduring admiration for this wonderfully resonant Kirby koncept, the Mother Box. She — never, never “it”! — is a living mechanism, a sentient computer, a machine with a soul who performs many, many tasks for her possessor, among them the abilities to sense danger, relieve torment, create protective barriers, sooth pain, transport her charges to another dimension, make friendships, scold sonically, navigate the cosmos, and being alive, she can be hurt, tortured and killed. But most of all she is capable of love, the power Darkseid fears the most.
In our story at hand, Mother Box is guardian of The Forever People; “The Mother Box protects us all,” are her protector Vykin the Black’s first words in the saga. In this incarnation she is a red rectangular cube, maybe 18-inches high, 10- or 12-inches wide per side, with a lens (or is it a screen?), a carrying handle and she emits sounds, “pings” in various tones, depending on her comfort or distress. (Apparently she can even apologize, or so says interpreter Vykin.)
Her main role in this premiere Forever People chapter is for Vykin to release her to levitation mode, as the Gravi-Guards are closing in, and for the boys to lay their hands on her for what Kirby might have called “The Great Interdimensional Swap!!!” (Oh, fear not, effendi! All will be revealed in the days to come!)
Back to the overarching Fourth World concept of Mother Box. She exists on both New Genesis and Apokolips, most prominently assisting these super-kids, Mister Miracle and Orion, the latter two who possess smaller “shoulder harness” versions, no less powerful or affectionate. (As I recall, I don’t think any version appears in the earthbound tales of Jimmy Olsen.)
Mother Box, we will discover, is the invention of Himon, scourge of Darkseid, roamer of the universe and mentor of Young Scott Free who created the device in the slums of Armagetto on Apokolips (and also, by the way, pioneered The Boom Tube). In the “Great Scott Free ‘Bust-Out'” issue of Mister Miracle, #9, the portly savior explains, in one of the most powerful single pages in the entire opus, that Mother Box is linked to The Source (a Great Good where resides the Meaning of It All). Simply put, Mother Box channels the good that is The Source into her user.
Himon says, “The Source! It lives! It burns! When we reach out and touch it — the core of us is magnified! And we tower as tall as Darkseid!” Scott Free, just beginning to see the supreme power that is love and now understanding his destiny, responds, “Then Darkseid fears us all! He fears what he can’t control!”
There is nothing I can add to this magnificent and portentous moment in Jack Kirby’s chef d’oeuvre. The deeper and deeper one delves into The Fourth World, greater and greater rewards are unearthed. We can argue all day about whether his work is genius, perhaps, but we can’t deny he was a Good Soul, Jack was.