Buried Treasure: Older books worth digging for - - - KIRBY: GENESIS mini-series
KIRBY: GENESIS #0 – 8 (Dynamite Entertainment 2011-2012) Written by Kurt Busiek. Art Direction, Layouts and Covers by Alex Ross. Art by Jack Herbert and Alex Ross. Colors by Vinicius Andrade. Letters by Simon Bowland. Story by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Featuring the concepts and characters of Jack Kirby.
The credits page of every issue contains a short message right after the creator listings: “Dedicated to the legacy of Jack Kirby, King of Comics.” From every cover to every panel of every issue of this dynamic mini-series KIRBY: GENESIS pays loving tribute to that legacy. Kirby fans and enthusiasts already know this and most likely have a coveted set of this series. For others who have heard of the legendary man, this serves as a respectful introduction to the power of his imagination and incredible creativity. It serves as a great starting point for those who plan to seek out collected editions of Jack Kirby’s work for Marvel, DC, and many other publishers. The KIRBY: GENESIS series will further serve to enhance the appreciation for those who are well aware of Jack Kirby’s role in the evolution of modern comics (side by side with Stan Lee, the other monarch).
Imagine the scope and complexity of this writing assignment: take all of Kirby’s late career creations from the smaller publishers (Topps, Pacific, Eclipse, Genesis West, etc) and combine them all together in one big crossover saga! There are not many comics writers up to that challenge. Kurt Busiek was an awesome choice of scripter for this series, and he doesn’t disappoint. He manages to mix all the wild and wonderful characters together and still keep the story tight and coherent. You don’t need a road map or previous familiarity with these characters to follow this story. Busiek was more than ready to tackle this, having earned his chops with a long run on AVENGERS for Marvel and ASTRO CITY, his own super-hero universe for DC.
Anytime the marvelous Alex Ross takes time away from his amazing cover creations to work on the interior of a comic is time to seek out that book and buy it. While Ross did not illustrate every issue of this massive series, he did provide layouts for artist Jack Herbert. While Herbert has his own style (it also has a painted/photographic look, but not as intense as Ross) it will remind you that the Ross touch is evident throughout this book. Herbert’s choice of oddly shaped angular and diagonal panels makes it easier to jam characters together and helps indicate the huge scale during the action/battle scenes. The colors and inks throughout this series are very vivid and superbly defined.
A detailed plot summary would require one full page, but would also sacrifice some of the sense of discovery and wonderment. You need to be awestruck without assistance from this reviewer. Suffice to say, it’s a world threatening development that brings all these Kirby characters to Earth. Some have good intentions. Some do not. There are three important elements to the Busiek story that make this series so memorable. They are:
1) The way that Busiek connects all the dots. Busiek utilizes some Kirby history at the root of the series, which becomes the catalyst for the events that occur and the reason why Earth becomes a gathering ground. In 1972, NASA launched the Pioneer 10 Space Probe to explore Jupiter and beyond. Jack Kirby designed and illustrated a plaque that became part of the Pioneer 10 cargo, available for any alien life to discover and learn about Earth. Kirby’s plaque contained an image of two costumed male and female superheroes, hand in hand with Earth in the background. Busiek describes Kirby’s vision perfectly in the #0 issue introductory captions: “One artist felt that humanity’s self-image has always spoken more truthfully about us than bare reality - - - - that the best way to show who we are, to show our innate idealism, spirit and drive - - was through our dreams. Through the exuberant, self-confident, powerful images in which we’ve clothed ourselves since time immemorial.” The first images that Earthlings see of the visitors are gigantic disembodied ghostly representations of this same couple that hover in the skies and silently observe. It’s a marvelous touch and a powerful template for the entire series.
2) Busiek’s new characters. The #0 issue preview also states their importance: “To help guide readers through the series are three protagonists whose lives intersect with a fantastic new landscape. Father and daughter Jake and Bobbi Cortez and their friend, aptly named Kirby, are pulled into a universe of amazing creatures, magic, aliens, and world-changing events.” Both Bobbi and Kirby are twelve when first introduced, long time friends now discovering their attraction and devotion to each other may be entering a new phase. They are energetic, open-minded, naïve to a large extent, and full of the sense of wonder that youth brings so well. Kirby is a junior astronomer, grounded in fantasy, science-fiction and comics. Bobbi is a budding beauty and a fun-loving socialite doing her best to inject some adventure/excitement into her friend’s too serious demeanor as Issue #1 opens up with both now in their freshman college years. They make the perfect guides for readers, with father Jake complimenting the mix as the perfect guide for the alien visitors. His career as a city policeman serves him well as he becomes involved in assisting on the battlefield.
3) A satisfying conclusion, subject to reader interpretation. Readers will be glad to learn that KIRBY: GENESIS doesn’t conclude by leading up to the next series, as so many mini-series/crossovers today seem to do. Resolution of the problem/conflict occurs, with one of the most unexpected and least powerful of the characters playing a prominent role. (Some readers will be reminded of Busiek’s masterpiece AVENGERS FOREVER mini-series). The ending also recalls the very opening passages of this series, where some astral visitors telepathically ask Earthlings = “Show Me.” The difference between people from Earth and people from the stars is answered, and that difference provides the solution. Some readers of a religious bent will be pleased at the way this can be interpreted. Other readers may smile in recognition (as I did) at the more ordinary answer, which is very Kirbyesque and again recalls that tidbit of history that Busiek frames the entire series around. Brilliant.
Dynamite also published three mini-series based on Kirby creations, and spun them off from the KIRBY:GENESIS series. They are CAPTAIN VICTORY, DRAGONSBANE and SILVER STAR, all released in 2011 or 2012.