Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #1 [1981]


Okay, it’s not Kirby’s best series (although later issues did have moments of at least near-greatness), but CAPTAIN VICTORY has a bit of a soft spot in my heart as, I believe, the first non-reprint Kirby comic I bought (and among the first half-dozen Kirby books I bought, period). When it came out in late 1981 it had been three years since Kirby had left Marvel to work primarily in animation.

The history of the series is a bit convoluted, and best told in the CAPTAIN VICTORY GRAPHITE EDITION published by TwoMorrows. Short version, Kirby first did a 17-page first issue for a proposed Kirby Comics line in the late 1970s (and took the name of the lead from an even earlier unused concept, who eventually saw print as Captain Glory). When that fell through he modified it to a 50 page graphic novel, the first of a planned trilogy, partly by adding most of this first issue in front of the original story and continuing on from there. Eventually he was approached by Pacific Comics to launch their line, and split that graphic novel to make the first two issues of the series. Along the way there was also a film treatment written with Steve Sherman.

So, with a history like that, you can imagine why this reads a bit weird. The core of the story is that Victory leads a group of inter-stellar police who are battling against a insect-like race which conquers and invests inhabited planets. They get to one such planet too late, have to destroy it, but the leader of the Insectons, the Lightning Lady, escapes to Earth, where the Rangers follow.

As I said, far from great, but it’s not too bad. Mostly a bit rough in not explaining things. For example, Victory goes up on the bridge during the battle, despite his crew asking him not to, and it seems to be clear that because he’s wearing a “portable command post” on his head (a delightfully ridiculous mass of Kirby-tech) that he doesn’t need to be there. And then he dies three pages later (for the tenth time, apparently, as they have clone replacements), and his troops seem to defeat the enemy fine without him. I’m sure Kirby had a reason that he insisted on staying on the bridge, but he didn’t convey it in the script.

Unlike some, I’m usually a big fan of Kirby’s scripting, but this particular example has most of his weaknesses and few of his strengths. On the other hand, Lightning Lady, Egg Head, insanely huge spaceships and guns, Royer inks, there’s a lot to like, especially when I first read it as a kid (though, unfortunately, it would be years before I read the rest of it, as there weren’t any comic shops nearby. I’m still not certain how I got #1, if it had newsstand distribution or what).

Also in this issue, a brief biography of Kirby, with a photo, two pages of character, equipment and military insignia design, and a backcover of Lightning Lady and her Insectons.

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