There’s nothing so fulfilling as a comic that comes out of nowhere and surprises you. It’s been a long time, and I believe the last time something like that happened to me was maybe two years ago. In terms of comics you get to know the old standards and the infamous names really quickly, so if one of them shocks you in such a positive way – then hold onto it. Shane Davis, an artist I have never liked, did so with New Gods Special #1 and I couldn’t be happier.
I mean, of course, people who have read New Gods can guess from the very name of this blog that I am some kinda nut about the mythos. Well, maybe not a nut – but definitely a purist. The world that Jack Kirby created, 4 short lived series, a back-up, and an OGN, has remained one of my favorite comic book stories ever since I first read it. Not much of anything else done with the characters outside of that has really gained much traction with me. While some, like Walter Simonson’s Orion series take the characters and much of the tone to other heights, most of the time you’re lucky if you get a good characterization here and there.
These are mythological figures created by one man, and the amazing thing is that they actually come close to feeling that way. Their mythology might be cut cloth from many others, but as a whole each dynamic and backstory exudes excitement and intrigue. So it really is a shame when they just get overtaken by other properties and used as side characters. A sore point for me even in mostly liked material like Final Crisis or the DCAU where the entire central conflict of the mythos gets subsumed by Batman or Superman. So, when it was announced that there would be a new one-shot about the sidelined main character by an artist I have never liked, I felt I was pretty justified in being cautious and in expecting the worst. Like I said, I am brimming with glee that I was wrong.
What Shane Davis has done is something I hope more writers would do with these characters. Rather than write something new, or modern, or purposefully changed up – Davis writes something classic. He brings forward almost every element associated with Orion to craft a singular story that centers around, or touches upon, each. It doesn’t fit into canon, then or now, but by staying true to the vision and development of Orion it cannot be immediately discarded as not being a real New Gods story. In fact, by doing what he did, Davis treated these character more like real mythological figures than any DC writer has done in ages. More-so than Grant Morrison (yeah, I will never forgive “The Fifth World” nonsense).
They might not be coming from the same storyteller, but their aspects are passed down and retold for others to enjoy. Nothing ridiculous like making them metaphysical keystones or badly rendered concepts for future villains – no…just a story of pantheons and their clashes. That’s the reason I loved this issue and the reason I went out and bought a physical copy immediately. Shane Davis doesn’t break the bank with originality here, but it’s something that can be enjoyed just for what it is – a story about Orion that a newcomer can pick up and completely understand. His inner conflict, his anger, his trauma, his family….and his friends. Each get their due here.
I see shades of Kirby’s work with every character moment, parts where I am reminded of individual issues of New Gods where Lightray tries to calm Orion down, or Kalibak’s jealousy, and Orion’s intolerance for Forager. It all rings of such faithfulness that it can’t help but make me really proud that DC can still put out content of Kirby’s most imaginative work. The art might not be up to standards, I found it over done and wonky at points, but the energy of it and the story being told more than made up for it. So, what does it come down to? If you’re a fan, chances are you’ll love it. If you’re someone who has never read these before and are interested? Like it or hate it – you’ll be given everything you need.
Overall Estimation: 8.8/10