Fourth World Fridays--The Forever People #7
“I’LL FIND YOU IN YESTERDAY!!"
My reviews turn now to the 3rd volume of the Fourth World Omnibi, so it seems appropriate to note that the fourth and final volume is slated to arrive next Wednesday, at least according to Amazon. If my reviews of this stuff are making you eager to purchase the Omnibi, well, you’re in luck.
Yep, in keeping with my comments about money from last week, I’ve decided to join Amazons’ Associates Program and provide purchase links. If you feel inclined to buy these, it would be really appreciated if you did so by clicking the link below, which will send a few bucks my way.
UPDATE: Apparently Livejournal doesn't allow for the coding that would let me place a traditional widget with a direct link to the page in question. So I've been forced to insert a text link. Sorry for the extra neccessary click.
Anyway, Buy 'em here!
But enough flagrant shillery, let’s see what the FPs are up to. As you recall, the last we saw, they were being menaced by Darkseid’s Really For Reals Ultimate Weapon, the Omega Effect, which he had somehow forgotten he had access to until just now. The Omega Effect, as was loudly trumpeted last issue, “WIPES YOU OUT OF EXSISTENCE!!!” Yep, hit by the Omega Beam, and you’re a goner, completely vaporized, eradicated completely from the space-time continuum, demolished utterly and completely, as if you had never existed.
Because, at the last moment, Darkseid seems to have once again remembered a crucial detail: he can use the Omega Effect to do other stuff besides totally annihilating his enemies. So, rather capriciously, he’s decided to do something much, much less evil.
More on this momentarily, for now we must check in with The Council of the Young! As you may remember, there’s been some talk about how the young are revered on New Genesis, but of course Highfather still runs the place. With the first four pages of this issue, we see this in action: apparently there’s a council which the young and goofily-attired of New Genesis can use to petition Highfather for help, and they’re doing so now on behalf of the Forever People.
What’s more, it seems that the adults of New Genesis have been unaware, until now, that the Forev Peeps had actually skipped town (Supertown, that is) and headed to Earth to take on Darkseid. So their young friends are essentially coming to Highfather and admitting, “Geez, we screwed up bad, pops, can you fix everything for us?” Well, OK, the FPs have been awfully brave and done some serious damage to Darkseid so far, and they did come to Earth in the first place to rescue their friend Beautiful Dreamer, so their heart was in the right place, but still, for all the praise directed to the young generation in these comics, it’s pretty clear who holds the Wonder-Staff in New Genesis: the old, white, male, Abrahamic authority figures. Speaking of which, you can kind of read this whole sequence as a Deus Ex Machina, with the children basically praying to a godlike leader out in a cosmic dimension to bail out the heroes.
The conversation between High-Father, the kids, and Metron (who’s also present, having apparently been the one who figured out that the FPs were in trouble and reported it to High-Father) goes back in forth in Kirby’s usual expository way, until Esak comes forward. Esak, you may recall, is the cherubic little kid in hotpants that Metron was showing around the universe back in New Gods #4. “Is one of the youngest of New Genesis to add his voice against my edicts!?” asks Highfather. “Not against your edicts, High-Father!!” Replies Snot-nose, “But for our friends!! Is this not a world of friends!? Save our friends, Highfather! Save Them!” Then he breaks down weeping. And when that’s not enough, he resorts to really incomprehensible ass-kissing:
I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that policy on New Genesis is formulated by six year olds, or that Highfather seems to think that that string of gibberish actually meant something.
But now we check in with the Forever People, or at least Mark and Beauty, who we now learn have not been eliminated at all. No, Darkseid has instead given them theatre tickets and sent them off to enjoy themselves.
I’m barely kidding. The theater in question is Ford’s, and the year is 1865. Darkseid has sent them back into Earth’s past. As you can see, this comic is in full compliance with the rule that time travelers in comic books never wind up someplace where nothing of note is occurring. They’re always within a few days, and usually a few moments, of some momentous occasion.
Beautiful Dreamer declares them to be “marooned” in the past, but I’d say this is a pretty good alternative to being completely wiped out of existence. Indeed, within moments the two young ones seem to be enjoying themselves, using BD’s powers of illusion to conjure up period-appropriate costumes and trying to remember what they know about the time period. We learn Big Bear is the team’s historian (though apparently he couldn’ t be bothered to read up on local traffic laws) but Mark is savvy enough to recognize the time period as post-civil war. However, he fails to recognize Lincoln when he walks in, at least at first.
Lincoln is of course a staple of superhero books; if you’re a silver age character, and you’re sent back in time, chances are excellent you’re going to run into one of a) Lincoln, b) King Arthur, c) Robin Hood or d) Julius Caesar. I always wonder if the DC and Marvel Universe versions of these historical personages don’t start to get annoyed by being constantly pestered by time travelers. But I like Kirby’s rendition of Lincoln, who he describes as “seem[ing] scarred by grave tragedy in his time!!” “He looks wise—and old—and tired—“ says Beauty. Lincoln has no lines in this comic, but he’s still more interesting than any other comic book Lincoln I can think of.
Ah. And only in comics would I have to expend so much thought distinguishing between multiple Lincolns. Moving on.
Mark finally twigs to the significance of their current circumstances (Beautiful Dreamer apparently knows nothing about history, ‘cuz she’s a girl and stuff) and rushes backstage to try and prevent the impending assassination. No thoughts of preserving history here, it would seem. But the two are met by a squad of policemen backstage, demanding identification.
Meanwhile, Vykin the Black finds himself in Florida circa the early 1500s, just in time for an encounter with, you guessed it, Ponce De Leon’s men. Wait, no, apparently they’re not with Ponce but instead are…deserters? Or even rivals? It’s never made clear. Nevertheless, they’re nasty, racist folks who are out for gold, so I guess Kirby didn’t want to demonize Ponce (who I’m sure thought all races were equal and had no interest in gold whatsoever). Their first move is to try and grab Vykin. “Who are you cats?” Asks Vykin. “Why are you behaving this way??” When this diplomacy fails, he proceeds to pound the living crap out of them. This doesn’t do much to change their attitude towards “the black”, as they refer to Vykin every two seconds. “Being a language major, I should be able to deal with them!” thinks Vykin. Um, yeah, these guys seem naturally receptive. Realizing that they’re only interested in one thing, Vykin declares that he’s “equipped to ferret out hidden minerals” and agrees to lead them to a cache of it nearby. But, you’ll be shocked to learn, the pirates plan to betray him once they get there.
And now it’s Big Bear’s turn. He comes flopping out of the timestream and right into a nearby band of warriors. “Medieval dawn man!” declares BB, delightedly. “Celtic or Saxon emergence!” Sure enough, he’s in Roman-controlled Britain, surrounded by Celts who declare him to be, alternately, a warlock, a druid, and a bear spirit (well, they’re not too far off there.) BB picks up their speech with a universal translator in his ear-circuits-making me wonder why Vykin had to be a “language major” to understand the Spaniards—and figures out that they’re preparing to attack the Romans as they pull out from Britain for the last time. This makes no sense, because a) they seem to want the Romans to leave anyway, and b) there’s like five guys against an immense Roman army.
Again, we can see the shift in sensibilities that society had been undergoing starting to take hold in Kirby’s comics—most pre-1970 comics would have cast the Romans solidly in the “good guy” camp, and comparing them to Darkseid, which seems fairly acute, nevertheless represents a pretty major about-face. Of course, the dirty, disorganized Celtic rabble doesn’t seem particularly heroic either, which may be why Big Bear says he “would like to avoid any partisan feelings at this moment” and just observe this key moment in history. Because, as we just learned two pages ago, he’s a history buff.
He’s actually so determined to sit back and enjoy that he grabs all the Celt’s weapons and drives them into a nearby tree with the force of his throw. You can see where this is going, right?
That leaves Serifan, who you may recall was left by himself in the present, due to Darkseid’s apparent laziness. Of course, if my only remaining enemy was Serifan, I don’t think I’d be too worried either. As you may recall from the previous installment, he had just gotten back to the Super-Cycle when a wave of Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers swept down on him. Or, um, up at him, since they were climbing a cliff. Godfrey, by his own admission, “wastes” his zealots for a while by throwing them into the heavy laser fire produced by the Super-Cycle, before finally producing an “Induction Ray” and bringing the mountain down on top of him. “Serifan is transfixed by the terrifying fall of rock,” narrates Kirby, “--and, so, misses seeing the alpha bullet streaking toward him!!” The what now?
“Alpha bullets!! Never seen before on Earth—originate from a different hand!! The hand which governs New Genesis!!” Turns out that the cure for the Omega Effect is an Alpha bullet, produced by Highfather. Highfather’s the Alpha, and Darkseid’s the Omega. Do you get it? Huh? Huh? Do ya?!?
Anyway, Highfather is indeed sending Alpha Bullets through time to rescue the FPs, having responded to Esak’s whining—so now we get the other halves of the various vignettes. In 1865, Mark and Beauty have managed to get past the cops with illusory identification, and have made it down the hall to confront John Wilkes Booth, again, with no apparent mind to what effect this might have on history. But this seems to be one of those deals where the future’s already set, and everything’s predestined, because just then the Alpha Bullet catches them and sends them back to their own time. Booth dismisses them, a little too casually, as hallucinations…though Kirby seems to be suggesting that Booth was just nuts. Admittedly, the Kennedy assassination was only a few years in the past at that point, so equating presidential killers with lone nuts was probably pretty natural, but I thought it was always pretty clear Booth’s actions were politically motivated.
I just bring this up because the Big Bear segment, which we cut to next, displays a decent grasp of history. It’s been suggested that, during his famous sojourn at Marvel, Kirby became a voracious reader, and this informed his work. You can definitely see fairly literate ideas popping up in Kirby’s work from time to time, but then there’s weird misapprehensions like the Booth thing. Anyway, Big Bear brings up the very good question of what the Celts are so angry about if the Romans are leaving, but their anger now seems to be turned towards the Romanized Celts they left in charge, like a certain Arta the Sentry. In fact, they’d gladly kill the guy, if their weapons weren’t still embedded in that tree. Big Bear, trying to mollify them, suggests that Arta is probably a decent guy, and the knowledge he learned from the Romans could be useful now that, y’know, the entire country’s infrastructure has packed up and gone south. To cement the deal, he lets Arta, and only Arta, pull a sword out of the tree, which wins him the love of the other Celts, who have names like Gwane and Lanslac. This is actually pretty subtle, by Kirby’s standards, though as awesome as Big Bear is I’m not sure he squares up properly with the Merlin of legend.
Vykin’s subplot ends rather abruptly when he leads the pirates to a crumbling mine, which he claims was constructed by “the ancients who passed here on their way further south” (again, spackling over the small issue of the fact that Kirby’s designed the mine to look Mayan). The pirates, of course, are getting ready to literally stab Vykin in the back, when we get a double Deus Ex Machina: first Vykin’s hit by the Alpha Bullet, then the ground beneath the conquistadores collapses, and they all plummet into the Earth to be with their beloved gold. Way to wrap things up in two panels, Kirby!
The four time travelers are reunited in the present by the mound of rocks, from which the Super-Cycle then extracts itself. The group is reunited, except for the strangely-absent Serifan. “He must be alive!” Declares Beautiful Dreamer. “If Darkseid spared us, he couldn’t have harmed Serifan!!” Yeah, mm-hmm, that’s some logic there, sweetie. Surely the embodiment of pure evil couldn’t have capriciously killed anyone if he spared someone else!
But of course he is alive, and in Honshu, Japan. “Of course!!” says Mark, “Where else would Darkseid have sent Sonny Sumo?” Right, because he was careful to send all the other characters to times and places in which they would feel comfortable and could integrate easily.
Sure enough, Serifan’s in a temple in Honshu, where a group of monks have a gift for him: the Mother Box that Sonny had with him. It seems that Sonny had lived a rich and full life full of good works in ancient Japan, and bequeathed the Box to the monks with instructions to keep it until the FPs came for it many centuries later. In other words, he got what he always wanted: to live in a simpler time when straightforward honour and heroism were still possible. From one perspective, it’s a very nice conclusion to his character arc.
From another, it makes no sense whatsoever. I mean…Darkseid granted his greatest wish?!? More crucially, he sent away the one guy he’d supposedly been searching for for years, the holder of the Anti-Life Equation?!? Is Darkseid easily distracted by shiny objects?
I’ll give Highfather a pass for not rescuing Sonny from history, since he probably knew somehow that he was happier there, but it’s still kind of annoying that Kirby created this Japanese superhero with great fanfare and then proceeded to get rid of him in three issues. Of course, if he hadn’t, Sonny would probably have kicked around the DC Universe for a few years, being badly written by a series of hacks, and then been horribly killed off in some stupid crossover event. So perhaps it’s for the best.
The final two pages are another Lonar story. Basically, Lonar and his battle-horse, now named Thunderer, run across Orion, who’s moping around in a loincloth on the surface of New Genesis. Yup, two dudes in panties, just hangin’ out together. Orion admires Lonar’s battle-horse and tries to pet it, but it rears up in fright and takes off. There is no subtext to this story whatsoever.
Next time: the further adventures of Caveman Jimmy.