The titanic warrior of New Genesis, son of Tigra and Darkseid of Apokolips, wielder of the Astro-Force and all-around eternal with the most rage issues, folks, let me introduce Orion, greatest of the New Gods.
Honestly, it’s not easy to conjure up the adequate words for this superb Kirby character, a complex, brooding, angry and (quite literally) two-faced hero of Jack’s Fourth World masterpiece especially because he plays such an integral role in the epic. And Orion’s destiny, to bring an end to the Super-War between New Genesis and Apokolips, is hinted at early on in this chronicle of his cosmic adventures.
“Of all the celestials,” his companion (and opposite) Lightray says, “you are the one most plagued by shadows!” Orion concurs, telling his friend, “I am two worlds — like New Genesis , and that demon’s pit — Apokolips! — One drifting forever in the shadow of the other–”
Highfather explains to Lightray, “He, alone, has been fighting his monsters from birth!” For Orion is “savage offspring” of Tigra and Darkseid, the fruit of a prearranged marriage, and as a boy, the fierce “murderous little monster” is used as barter in the Pact between the Master of the Holocaust and Highfather. Orion is traded for Scott Free, the man-child of Highfather himself. “Our son was raised without knowing his father!!” cries Orion’s mother, and Darkseid replies, “But I know him, Tigra!! He’s like you! — A fighting, snarling killer-cat!!”
Orion is raised in New Genesis, and though he doesn’t know of his sinister lineage, he suffers depression and seeks solace on the pristine planet. All we see of his time before the Super-War is an encounter with Lonar and the battle-horse Thunderer, when Orion spooks the living artifact of last monumental holocaust, striking alarm in the steed, which doubtless senses the warrior’s Apokoliptian heritage. Orion laments, “Fear! Fear at the touch of Orion!! Is it not always so?!”
Orion is forever conflicted by his bloodline. His Mother Box gives the illusion that he has a handsome, flawless face, but when Orion is in brutal combat that deception evaporates and we see the true snarling, ugly visage of a merciless warrior. Orion knows that he, at his core, is deeply defective though he has yet to discover the truth. When Orion delays an attack on Darkseid, the demon despot observes “Finish me — and you finish yourself!You hesitate, Orion! You can sense why — but you don’t know — do you?”
We will learn the prophecy that the ultimate battle in this Super-War will be waged in Armagetto, a sector of Apokolips, where father and son will face off in the “Last Battle of the New Gods!” Playwright Eve Donner, Deep Six Slig, half-brother Kalibak, they all sense that Orion will not survive the war because of the conflict raging inside his own soul.
Orion is singular possessor of the dreaded Astro-Force, a powerful, destructive beams which is emitted from his transport device, the Astro-Sled (which also houses his Mother Box). He is also mighty effective with his fists and, of course, is a born combatant. His nicknames include Orion the Hunter and Orion the Fierce. “A free and angry Orion is more than a menace! — He is the ultimate in mayhem!”
In a rare moment of slight levity, Orion takes on a disguise as a Metropolis gangster, cleverly named O’Ryan, with his earthling compatriots, who join in the subterfuge as (what else?) O’Ryan’s Mob.
Nearing the end of the initial run, when Orion and Lightray find some peace on the terrace of Eve Donner, aforementioned playwright, her hand reaching to the brutalized face of sleeping Orion, and she muses, “There is something in that fierce and mangled face beyond anything I’ve ever written about! The sleeping monster — the raging heart — a vessel of fire — which consumes — even love.”
The red-headed warrior awakes and replies, “As for love, madam — I find love in battle hotly fought! — In vengeance fulfilled!!”
Before the new gods depart, Eve shares with Orion her fear that “You’ll never survive your war! You’re big –! But not bigger than what’s eating you! Your enemy, Darkseid, will use it against you!”
He joyfully lifts her off the ground and says cryptically, “And, though I pay for victory with death — I shall seek you out in that final moment!”
In the end, with darkness descending, will Orion finally find what he needs most of all, the soothing caress of a loved one…?