Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist(s): Jim Starlin, Matt Banning (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: The New Gods are facing an unprecedented threat, and it’s enough to make Orion want something to hit. Enter the Justice League, and Superman.
Comments: Starlin has entered a late career renaissance with this title. His attenuated current body types aren’t very Kirby-esque, but they’re consistent enough and anchored by such solid storytelling skill that he’s making the Fourth World his own. His various locales (Earth, Apokolips, New Genesis) are creatively differentiated, and his conveyance of emotion and character from familiar heroes is unsurpassed.
The mystery plot is a tried and true one, to be sure. In investigating Barda’s death Zatanna and Canary even reference the events of Identity Crisis. But this murder is nothing like that one, as Barda isn’t a lone symbolic victim but rather one of a number of New Gods that have been mysteriously killed while the Forever People have seemed to wander around the murder scenes in a daze. Each New God has been felled by a non-lethal explosion from the chest cavity, though what could have caused them remains unknown.
What’s nice is that Starlin spends time having the heroes discuss their predicament rationally and seriously. Different distinctive agents pursue the problem in their own varied ways, and the JLA investigation is only one front of putting the puzzle pieces together. Metron, Himon, Mister Miracle, Takion and even Darkseid himself (surprisingly, none of it is his doing) all have their own avenues of exploration. And they chatter and discuss it as if it all matters to them, and as if it’s imperative to find answers soon.
The rivalry between Supes and Orion is identified as ridiculous by everyone who witnesses it, but the dialogue also provides an explanation for the personality flaws on display, and a solution. I’ve been very touched by Starlin’s portrayal of Scott Free’s mourning. This issue we get a grand funeral for Barda that is elegantly ornate and beautifully eulogized, and the odd but understandable note of Mr. Miracle transforming his costume to dark colors to reflect his loss.
The large cast of intelligent uber-beings keeps our interest as we move to a truly surprising cliffhanger, one of those good ones that though it is a legitimate reveal only deepens the larger mystery. This one looks like a winner, and an un-billed “Countdown” tie-in that may actually amount to something.
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