The Middle Ground #54: To infinity and beyond
I admit, there was more than a slight potential for disaster when Dynamite Entertainment announced Kirby: Genesis. Yes, Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek were involved, and yes, both gentlemen clearly have respect and love for Kirby’s work. But that didn’t change the fact that we Kirby fans had had other projects announced as continuations of Kirby’s creator-owned material, only for them to remain unfinished (or, in the Image Comic material, never even started), or that there seemed something almost ghoulish about the idea of creating something to cash in on Kirby’s name, using his leftovers, without actually honoring his legacy.
Which is why it’s all the sweeter that, based on the first two issues, Kirby: Genesis is pretty damn great.
I love Jack Kirby. This wasn’t always true, not really; as a kid, while I appreciated something about his art, I wouldn’t really be able to say that I loved it. There was something ugly about his faces, something too dynamic about the layout that scared me, in some way that I didn’t completely understand at the time. I remember just thinking that there was something “too much” about the comics, if that makes sense. Clearly, I wasn’t ready for The Power Kosmic. But, as I grew older, I grew to appreciate Kirby’s weird and wonderful charms all the more, and especially his latter work, from New Gods and on, when he was working solo for better and worse simultaneously. It’s this latter work that Genesis pulls from, but in unexpected ways (beyond, obviously, the characters). What makes this series work, based upon this week’s #0 and next month’s #1, is that it’s pulling the language and the spirit of Kirby’s latter work in addition to the designs – but it’s not the “Everything and the kitchen sink” spirit, the one that led to the classic “Don’t ask! Just buy it!” tagline, it’s the… larger one, the faith in humanity and the curiosity, that spills through what I’ve seen of the series, and that’s why it works for me.
Kirby: Genesis is anything but a slavish parody or recreation of what Kirby had created in the past, which is exactly what makes it a perfect tribute to him. If anything, it’s JJ Abrams doing Steven Spielberg doing Kirby – Something that may become more clear in #1, perhaps – and it’s the grounding in the real world (Something that, let’s be honest, Kirby was never really good at; he couldn’t rein himself in that way) that provides both the necessary heart and scale for Genesis to feel honest and real.
(It helps that the book looks good – Jack Herbert manages to follow the Kirby design schemes in the right places, and Alex Ross pulls off the Kirby concepts with appropriate grandeur – as well. An ugly Kirby book would, really, have been a tragedy.)
It’s fitting and ironic, at the same time, that what makes Genesis feel appropriately Kirby is that it had all these spaces that feel so un-Kirby-esque, to me, but it’s true – Kirby: Genesis succeeds not by channeling Kirby, but by being its own thing and investigating what made Kirby such a wonderful creator, if that makes sense. Those who liked The King, but felt uneasy about the idea of other people picking up where he left off… You should pick it up and see what you think.