Category Archives: The New Gods #2

The New Gods #2

Cooke Look: “O’ Deadly Darkseid”

With this issue we get a long, hard look at the Great Villain of Jack Kirby’s opus and, as a kicker, a splendidly vile portrayal of his number two man, the sinister Desaad. Especially resonate too is the overview of this Super War slowly engulfing Earth, as Orion shares with his newfound Earth friends nightmare visions of servitors and monsters roaming our unsuspecting planet. (The creatures of panels two and three on page 14, never seen again in the Fourth World, while relatively generic in Kirby terms, are especially enticing and one can only dream what Jack intended to show of their dastardly affairs!)

The creator is still setting the scene initiated in the debut number and, again, it’s a spectacular vision — the opposing worlds of the new gods on page one (note the para-demons flying above Apokolips!), the idyllic paradise of New Genesis on the double-page spread that followed, the Moses-like majesty of Highfather conferring with Lightray (sporting a one-time only metallic mask that is especially groovy), and Darkseid himself aloof in a chair with an Earthling’s humble apartment before disappearing (Orion says to his allies, staring intently on that piece of Dave Lincoln’s furniture: “As for the arch-enemy of all life — you have seen him –! That empty chair still reeks of his presence!” Will Murphy’s Oil Soap take care of that stench, ya think?)… Too much!

Brola and His Hand of Stone…? Well, not much to brag about but the Fear Machine is impressive! Most of all though, Darkseid is (umm) set in stone as a character here and the hints of Orion’s origin, mayhap as one born on Apokolips, adds a fine texture. Two thumbs of stone up!

Day 87: The Fear Generator!

While finishing the Mother Box-assisted presentation to his allies of the threat posed by Darkseid and his minions from Apokolips to our home planet, the show is interrupted when the sentient computer starts pinging wildly. “But wait!” Orion says, “Mother Box detects an invisible beam sweeping this very city — the panic of fleeing hundreds!” The fiwerce new god immediately recognizes Desaad’s hand: “Of course! Darkseid’s second in command plays with his toys!” But his allies are suffering the same fright as others in Metropolis and Orion mounts his Astro-Harness to seek out the malevolent device. “The city is loud with the sounds of hysteria! I must be swift!” Mother Box traces the paranoia-inducing beam to…

“So that’s it!” says Orion. “A Fear Generator disguised as a great billboard! Clever, Desaad! The Astro-Force shall cleanse this foul spot!” The caption then reads, “But the sign is protected! Light bulbs erupt in a deadly fusillade of Cosmi-Force!” Orion is knocked back and starts to fall, but is able to destroy the Fear Generator with his Astro-Force weapon, which also slows his descent for him to recover. “So the battle is renewed!” Orion muses. “The enemy will use new weapons — but I shall find them and destroy them as well!”

Day 86: Super War!

In contrast to the “Great Clash” of an era past, the ongoing conflict between the two worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips is now an inter-dimensional struggle as it involves our very planet. First dubbed a Super War by Earth’s guardian, Superman, when he harbors doubts while traveling through the Boom Tube on his aborted trip to Supertown. Mused the Man of Steel, “Is Earth the battleground for some strange Super-War?” The introductory caption to The Forever People #2 states, “Although their background is shrouded in mystery, they are already embattled on Earth against emerging forces of awesome and terrifying nature! And are we in this, too? We may be friend or foe of the Forever People! — Bystanders or participants in an ominous and perhaps final Super War!

Certainly this setting of a war as backdrop for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World opus is what sets it apart from other interconnected super-hero titles. Marvel’s common connection is the tales are primarily based in New York City — or on Earth — and the characters have some interaction with one another, sometimes joining up as teams, usually to thwart an enemy, who would change from issue to issue. But generally no matter the threat to our planet, conflicts are resolved and everything goes back to normal, all nicely wrapped-up, by the story’s end.

Jack’s vision was decidedly different and innovative. The Fourth World has as backdrop a huge, multifaceted fight of intergalactic proportions, with dozens of characters — those of the “good” worlds of New Genesis and Earth — in battle with a single enemy, Darkseid, and his minions of the “bad” world of Apokolips. And though we’re all aware the overall series was aborted very early in its intended run, readers all knew everything was careening to an ultimate climax — an ending — something quite unheard of in comic book “universes.”

And the enemy and his goal was also startlingly inventive and resonate. Unlike the usual funnybook bad guys who simply want money or power or revenge, Darkseid, the all-powerful and unquestioned ruler of Apokolips, seeks the Anti-Life Equation which would give him the ability to snuff out all life in the entire universe with a single word! This takes villainy to an entirely new level! Why he wants this ultimate lethal force, we’re never made privy, but it’s likely something simple that motivates this malevolent creature… the sin of pride. (And to think Darkseid’s search is no secret to his servitors! They hardily and enthusiastically strive to do his bidding, which is to exterminate all life everywhere! These are some very not-nice people!)

We see in the superb “flashback” story, “The Pact,” how the “Great Conflict” — that previous war between the two planets — completely engulfed New Genesis and Apokolips to horrific degrees, rendering both worlds to ruins in a general, all-out war. But the Super War, using Earth as the battleground, is so far a less conventional process, as Darkseid and his agents have established underground network of tunnels, covertly working in shadows, under our radar so to speak.

Thus, to convince his Earth allies — Victor Lanza, Claudia Shane, Harvey Lockman and Dave Lincoln — of the threat posed by sinister Apokolips, Orion employs the assist of his special device, upon which they all lay a hand. “Mother Box will help you see through my eyes — to see the images my words evoke!” Suddenly horrendous visions are transmitted. First a hunched-over, cloaked figure stands in a city park as a Boom Tube appears. “Now,” Orion says, “see for yourselves the invasion of Earth by the fierce creatures of Apokolips! That circle of flaming energy signals the coming of — The Boom Tube — the dimensional bridge from which Darkseid’s subjects pour!” We hear the hooded welcomer bark to strange creatures emerging from the portal, “Hurry! You have your appointed tasks!” And then the foursome listens to Orion as they view some very scary characters, “Now they roam Earth to fulfill Darkseid’s objective! Some are servitors — others are beings of frightful power!” The scene shifts to underwater monsters, humanoid but scaled and ferocious. “They thrive in every element — witness the new arrivals to Earth’s waters — those known on Apokolips as — The Deep Six!

The visual, in a nod to ongoing events in The Forever People, changes to Mantis, the “awesome digger,” who rants, “I shall take my share of booty here! Let mankind serve the victor!” And, the virtual reality tour winding down, there’s a glimpse of the goings-on over in the Jimmy Olsen book, with a full-page scene of Outsiders dancing in a procession through Habitat: “These monsters prowl and seek in Darkseid’s cause, not only in the known domains — but also in stranger places — like the Wild Area — where a bizarre dropout society may hold the secret which Darkseid yearns to possess!”

(One captivating aspect that endeared many a reader to the Marvel Comics Group was the use of captions to reference past issues and current titles (and it was smart marketing, to boot!), and it’s something I fear Jack didn’t use enough of in his interlocking titles, though he obviously did in this case. Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, in the “To and From the Source” essay in this same issue of The New Gods strongly urged readers to keep an eye on all of the titles — “Other new characters have yet to be introduced — which is why we stress the importance of following the entire continuity of the series. Important elements appear in all of the books and with The New Gods, The Forever People and Mr. [sic] Miracle scheduled to be released three weeks apart; it’s almost like having one long novel, with one-and-a-half chapters per month on the average.” — and the addition of “The Fourth World of…” onto the fourth issue covers of his titles (and Jimmy O #139) helped clue readers in that a larger tapestry was being woven here…)

Day 85: Desaad’s Fear Machine!

When the glorious introduction of Darkseid’s chief inquisitor, Desaad, is made to us in The Forever People #2, the malevolent lover of pain (other people’s pain, I mean!) is grasping a device that appears to be a super-high-tech stethoscope apparently connected to a larger machine. Later, we learn it’s called a “Fear-Siphon,” and what we would call the ear-tubes actually seem to be placed on the user’s neck, around the vicinity of the lymph nodes. In Desaad’s debut appearance his master Darkseid is reviewing the progress of Mantis and that villain’s siege of Metropolis, from an “unseen vantage point” where the the King of the Damned “watches — and broods — and coolly waits…”

For earlier, Darkseid has ordered the bug god to wreck havoc in the city to stir up fear — “Unleash the terrors of the night! Make man cringe! Make him tremble — make him fear!” — in the hopes Desaad and his device will detect the unknown earthling who possesses the secret of the Anti-Life Equation in his or her mind. “Mantis does well, indeed! But he fights for tawdry goals! While I would be the master of all that exists!” Turning to his strange friend, Darkseid asks, “What is the fear quotient, now, Desaad!” The hooded villain, sporting a particularly maniacal look, is gripping the aforementioned Fear-Siphon and replies, “Spiralling [sic] to a lovely high pitch, O Darkseid! I can feel them — like crashing surf — wonderful waves of raw fear!

Gazing the skyline of the city ablaze, Darkseid observes, “Mantis in inspiring great results! He’ll shake every mind in that city to its very root! Especially the mind we seek to contact — the one that must be made to yield its secret — The Anti-Life Equation!” But the rampage of Mantis fails to uncover the unknown human and Desaad sets about to create a mechanism to artificially induce fear in the masses of Earth.

The result of Darkseid’s top lieutenant’s tinkering appears quickly and is quite an impressive sight: The Fear Machine, cited on this issue’s cover as being “from the blueprint of the weird”! When Darkseid and his humiliated Brola appear in the secret location where Desaad has been toiling, the ruler of Apokolips inquires of its maker what progress to report. “The battle is far from over — there is still the Fear Machine! How does it stand, Desaad?” Wearing a full mask (with ominous non-transparent eye protection), Desaad replies, “It waits only for your judgment, master! I hasten to begin its initial test!”

Darkseid orders the evil inventor to go ahead and not worry for his master’s safety, telling him, “The Sonic-Stimuli cannot affect one such as myself!” Despite their protests, Desaad’s workers are selected as Guinea Pigs and they endure the first testing of the Fear Machine: “The pleas go unheeded, as invisible beams lash out and wring terror from their screaming targets!!” The trial is successful, reducing the wretches to simpering cowards, and plans go ahead to use the device on the populace of Metropolis!

(It’s interesting, the big reveal of Desaad when he removes his mask, showing us that all-too familiar face we now love to hate, in that I wonder if it’s in this issue Jack intended to first present us with the villain. Yeah, I know, the “X numbers,” those digits applied to each of Jack’s work used to invoice production by the home office, tell us The Forever People‘s “Super War” is assigned to X-115 and this, “O’ Deadly Darkseid” of The New Gods is X-117, but the sequence has a dramatic panache about it that leads me to ponder…)

Back in Dave Lincoln’s wrecked apartment, Orion, with the aid of his Mother Box, shows his Earth allies what is at stake in the emerging Super War. But as the audio-visual presentation (actually more like a virtual reality show!) is coming to a close, the sentient computer starts pinging wildly. “But wait!” Orion tells his newfound friends, “Mother Box detects an invisible beam sweeping this very city — the panic of fleeing hundreds!”

Yep, the citizens of Metropolis are in a crazed, irrational panic. Screams one, “I-I’ve got to run — hide!” and another, “Something’s happening! Something terrible! Help!” The fierce tiger of New Genesis immediately recognizes the culprit: “Of course, Darkseid’s second in command plays with his toys!” Noticing Harvey, Claudia, Dave and Victor are shivering in a corner, Orion asks, “What’s wrong, my friends? Why do you cower and cringe — as if to escape some nameless fear? The beam penetrates these walls! You have become its victims!”

Why doesn’t the Fear Machine afflict the stepson of Highfather? “I am trained to resist all degrees of fear! I shall carry the fight!” With that, Orion grabs his now readily available equipment (again, sports fans, if it wasn’t in the flat during the Brola brawl a few moments prior, how did it suddenly appear? Oh, I do quibble…) and goes on to destroy the “field model” that Desaad has “placed in a strategic point of the city.”

But even with the field model’s destruction, the raison d’etre of the Fear Machine — locating the human with the Anti-Life Equation — is unsuccessful. While Desaad tries to focus on the threat of Orion, Darkseid is disappointed with his underling’s work. Poring over a tape read-out, Darkseid expresses his unhappiness. “Forget Orion! It is your Fear Machine that yields nothing! Not the slightest trace of the thought waves we seek!”

Still, the Fear Machine is good at instilling fear. After the adventure Orion returns to Dave’s place and the earthlings are still feeling the after-effects of the invisible beams. “I’m still shaken!” Victor Lanza admits. “I’ve never known such fear!” But the four former kidnap victims, perhaps the only humans to have stepped foot on Apokolips, unite to join Orion’s fight against Darkseid. After each pledges allegiance to this new cause, Orion gratefully responds, “We shall work together, then! Somehow we shall find the means to rally wherever Darkseid shows his hand!”

Looking at his fists, Orion adds, “And I shall strike with these! Though I be of peaceful New Genesis, I shall strike with more ferocity than can be mustered in all Apokolips! And in the end, O Earth — which of the two shall win your domain?”


Day 84: The Tele-Ray!

Now, I’m not sure the precise details regarding how the gods of New Genesis and Apokolips call forth the Boom Tube, the mode of transportation, a temporary interdimensional bridge, linking the two worlds together and each to Earth. Orion simply says, “It stems from the waves of the mind!” Going between the planets in instantaneous fashion, there’s also the pre-Boom Tube “Matter Threshold” and “Dimension Threshold,” and Big Barda’s “Mega-Rod” (“It’s the latest from ordnance!! Better than the Boom Tube!“).

But it seems those X-Element fueled modes of instantaneous transport aren’t used to get from one place to another on our home planet. But Star Trek-like teleportation on Earth can be achieved via phasing circuits sewn into clothing (as so with the Female Furies in “Funky Flashman”) or phasing with The Forever People’s Super-Cycle or when the Super-Kids use Mother Box, as they did in the last issue of their title. There’s also the little-used method of the Tele-Ray, a mode only seen in this second issue of The New Gods, I believe.

After Darkseid and Brola break into Dave Lincoln’s apartment and their unsuccessful confrontation with Orion, the two Apokolips denizens suddenly vanish, Brola in mid-air over a Metropolis street! Surveying the avenue below through a huge gaping hole now aerating the Lincoln abode, Orion says, “Darkseid moves as no one on Earth does! His machines are legion and infinitely precise! It is evident that Brola never completed that fall — that Darkseid snatched him by Tele-Ray!”

And the second — and final — reference to the Tele-Ray in the series is when, with a ZZZTTT, Darkseid and his “fighting arm,” Brola, appear by Tele-Ray in “one of the secret bases established beneath the city.”

Day 83: Brola and His Hand of Stone!

The second issue of The New Gods opens with a spectacular description and image of the opposing worlds of Apokolips and Highfather’s home, then a double-truck view of Supertown taken from the surface of New Genesis, where futuristic children are at play on fantastic devices. Next Highfather is taking heed of The Source’s latest message — “WAR — FOLLOW ORION” and young Lightray pleads with the wise leader to join Orion on Earth in the great fight, but Highfather refuses the new god’s request. Then we travel to the third locale in the epic at hand, humble Earth.

On Earth, the home of mortal man, Orion the Hunter moves among strange allies and fearful enemies! Man is only dimly aware of the forces maneuvering, lunging for alignment on his world — for somewhere in man himself is the key to victory for the warring factions of… The New Gods!

Orion is the first to enter his ally Dave Lincoln’s apartment, the four recently freed Apokolips hostages behind him. Calmly, patiently sitting on a simple padded chair is the most malevolent power in the universe, O’ Deadly Darkseid! “Hold, friends!” orders the New Genesis warrior, “Do not enter this room! It is accursed!” Darkseid conveys his greetings, bidding his nemesis, “Welcome to Earth, Orion! It is known to me that you raided Apokolips before arriving here!”

What Orion does not see is the figure, back rigid against the wall, standing behind the door. Our hero, hands up and ready to throttle the King of the Damned, delays his attack on Darkseid. “You hesitate, Orion! You can sense why — but you don’t know — do you? But Darkseid is free of mysteries! He can act!

Or, more correctly, can get his surrogates to act, as the form behind the door lunges and zaps Orion with a wand-like weapon, telling the ruler of Apokolips, “Your fighting arm strikes, master!” Darkseid gloats, “Loyal Brola has been at the ready! His is the power of the Shock-Prod — and the Hand of Stone!” The next caption states, “The Shock-Prod hisses and stuns and lashes at Orion, who finds no escape from it!” But Orion is without his Astro-Force equipment — where did he leave it… in the street? — and must endure the violent charges without the aid of a weapon. “I’ll have to risk the shocks and turn on my adversary!”

Brola is stunned by Orion’s stupendous stamina. “Incredible! He lives through this! He advances — even as I unleash maximum power!” Orion grabs the attacker’s arm wielding the Shock-Prod. “Aaaaaaa! He’s done the impossible!” Brola cries. “In the cause of New Genesis,” Orion growls, “I can do no less, Brola!” But his enemy grabs an opportunity by slamming Highfather’s stepson with his free appendage. WHOK! “You seized the wrong arm, Orion! You forget my Hand of Stone!

Then we get a closeup of the villain’s mitt, looking like a hand melded to a brick, as Orion strains to keep it from bashing his face. “You’re done, Orion!” predicts Brola. “This lethal blow shall never fall! I-I must summon my last spark of strength!” says Orion, and throwing off his adversary, “–and end your vicious career!” Smashing through Dave Lincoln’s apartment wall, Darkseid’s agent is incredulous. “No living thing could have survived my attack! I have been fighting a mad, cosmic animal!” About to plummet to the street far below, Brola implores, “Darkseid! Master! I call on you to save one of your own!

Then — POOF! — the wielder of the Hand of Stone vanishes in the night sky and, as Harvey Lockman observes, “Old Granite Puss is gone too!”

Darkseid and his chagrined fighter have escaped via Tele-Ray and appear in “one of the secret bases established in the city.” An underling cries in joy at their arrival. “The master has met Orion and brings news of a victory!” The Master of the Holocaust is disgusted with his “fighting arm.” “Look at whipped Brola and think again! No, there was no victory!” Bowed, nearly on his knees, Brola implores, “There is a madness in Orion, master! He fights with the fury of one born of Apokolips!” Now Darkseid is furious, kicking Brola with contempt. “Enough, dog! Find your kennel and nurse your well-deserved wounds!” Brola simpers, crashing to the floor, “I go, master, I go!

And, verily, Orion’s hope to end Brola’s “vicious career” comes true, as this is the last we get of this relatively nondescript bad guy in the Fourth World opus. I mean, we only get to see the villain in an even dozen panels in the story and hardly once to we catch a decent view of the poor bastard. Well, maybe that’s enough and we’ll leave Darkseid’s onetime “fighting arm” in his dog house, licking his aging scars and whimpering into the water bowl.