“Who will come knocking? The trader — or the tiger?”
That’s the central question of Kirby Genesis, one poised by Jack Kirby himself back when he was asked to make a design for the Pioneer 10 space probe by the L.A. Times. As conceits go, it’s a great one, the type of thought that has inspired countless sci-fi authors for some time. For Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, that inspiration comes in the form of a story that finds man’s quest for knowledge and the technological olive branch they’ve extended as a result opening the door for a flood of star-faring Kirby characters.
Kirby Genesis‘ issue zero is just a tease for what’s to come but it’s nonetheless quite the peek behind the curtain. Through cursory glimpses at what will soon be the major players, Busiek and Ross expertly build reader expectation for where the series will be heading. We’re first briefly introduced to Kirby and Bobbi, the reader surrogates who share a sense of wonder with us, peering up at the night sky as children, trying to catch a glimpse of the Pioneer 10 satellite that oddly acts as the guide for this series.
Busiek and Ross, you see, have come up with an extraordinarily simple yet brilliant way of bringing all of these disparate Kirby creations together and it all hinges on Pioneer 10. Moving through space, mindlessly collecting its data and sending it home to its creators, Pioneer 10 comes across a space anomaly (of course) that propels Pioneer 10 through the cosmos at an unbelievable speed. While traversing distances us humans can’t even fathom, Pioneer 10 is witness to the homes and battlegrounds of Kirby’s spacefaring characters, who notice the odd travels of the probe. Some of these space gods take note of Pioneer 10 and decide to track it when the time is right.
While Jack Herbert breathes plenty of wonder and awe into the panels he owns, the book really shines when he and Herbert team up to portray all of Kirby’s larger than life creations in their natural habitats. Given truly interstellar colors by Vinicius Andrade, these figures shine and gleam. Anyone who’s read a Ross work knows what to expect here and it more than meets those expectations. In fact, it’s a little too good, a little too pretty.
Jack Kirby’s work was always beautifully ugly, his creations often brutish and square rather than curvy and sensual. While Ross is known for imbuing his work with a naturalism more often seen in portraiture, it’s still a very clean, immaculate style. Andrade’s colors are similarly clean and polished, in possession of a fantastic sheen.
But that’s a nitpicky point and in any event, you shouldn’t be reading Kirby Genesis in the hopes that it will exactly replicate the Kirby experience (what could?) — you should be reading it hoping to have your mind blown in a way that would have made Kirby proud. And if the Kirby Genesis team can keep up the standard of wonder presented here in the series proper, you’re going to get just that.