Monday, December 19, 2011

Kirby: Genesis #0

Dynamite Entertainment, 12 pages plus extra material, $ 1.00

Writers: Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross
Artists: Jack Herbert, Alex Ross
Colorist: Vinicius Andrade
Letterer: Simon Bowland

Besides half the Marvel Universe and Darkseid and the New Gods over at DC, Jack Kirby also created hundreds of lesser-known characters that didn’t end up being owned by his publishers. That’s where Kirby: Genesis comes in, a whole publishing line at Dynamite spearheaded by Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek, all based on Kirby concepts like Captain Victory, Silver Star and others, some of which haven’t even appeared in stories before.

In this 12-page teaser (stuffed out with concept art, information and previews), the story briefly introduces the protagonist, a boy named Kirby, and presents the starting point for the plot: After more than 25 years, a space probe launched from Earth in 1972—this actually happened—reaches far-flung worlds populated with all kinds of Kirby-created characters and creatures. Actually, it first reaches what looks like a big cluster of bright, shiny Kirby Crackles, which is a neat touch.

And that’s it, pretty much.

Judging from the information given in the story, it’s meant to take place around 1997, so presumably issue #1 will kick off in the present, with a grown-up Kirby facing the arrival of those aliens attracted by the space probe—which, handily, has been out of reach since 2003, at which point it was “12 billion-kilometers” away from Earth. Presumably, that’s a lot.

It’s a good story hook, because it’s the type of science fact that inspires the imagination. And imagination seems to be the core theme of the story. The set-up is kind of meta, in part—Jack Kirby himself puts in an appearance on the cover and on the first page—, but not in an intrusive way. The tone is very much that of an adventure story, although it does emphasize the notion that it’s our imagination that’s the adventure.

The trade dress recalls Marvels, of course, Busiek and Ross’s big previous collaboration, and the work of Brazilian artist Jack Herbert, who’s finishing and inking Alex Ross’s rough pencils here, is very reminiscent in style of Brent Anderson, who draws Busiek’s own Astro City series. While those reference points are as good as any to give you an idea of the general tone of the story, though, Genesis is still very much its own thing.

I tend to like Busiek’s work, but I was skeptical about this project. I’m left utterly cold by most of Kirby’s non-Marvel creations, to be honest—I enjoy looking at the stuff he did at DC and elsewhere, but I don’t see much of an appeal to it once you take Kirby himself out of the equation.

So my first thought here was that I’d probably rather see Busiek do his own comics, with his own characters, than to try and breathe life into some lesser Kirby creations.

That said, however, Kirby and his imagination are part of the concept here, and—if this teaser is any indication—that’s the reason why this is clicking for me. Kirby thought of superheroes as a manifestation of humanity’s self-image: “The comic strip superheroes and heroines,” he’s quoted as having said in the back of the book, “personify humanity’s innate idealism and drive.”

And that’s an aspect of the genre that’s endlessly fascinating to me: The superhero as an expression of humanity’s imagination and potential that’s able to bridge fiction and reality—it’s an aspect that’s informed the superhero stories of writers like Steve Gerber or Grant Morrison, for instance, and that Watchmen, for all its achievements, seems to have spoiled for an entire generation of comics creators.

Not much of this is on the page here yet, mind you, but the story suggests enough of it for me to keep an eye on this and make a note to get the collection, once the main eight-part miniseries has wrapped up. It’s rock-solid stuff, from a page-to-page standpoint, and I’m curious where the creators are going with it.

Grade: B

No comments: