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Time for the Fifth World, I guess: Graeme on the Death of The New Gods, 10/17.

Graeme McMillan

To add particular insult to my injury of admitting that Rick Veitch’s Army@Love isn’t necessarily for me, I should also put my hand up right now and admit that I don’t really get Jim Starlin, either. I’m too young and too sober for his 1970s cosmic stuff like Warlock or Captain Marvel, and his DC work in the ‘80s left me somewhat cold. By the time he was back on the Thanos horse on Marvel in the early 90s, being Infinite before Dan Didio even had the idea of redoing the 1980s forever. I’m also a pretty big fan of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World books – the “remastered” Hunger Dogs announced for the fourth hardcover collection pretty much guarantees that I’ll end up buying the whole set, those bastards – so it’s fair to say that the idea of Jim Starlin writing and drawing a miniseries where the entire point is to kill the characters from those books was something that didn’t fill me with much anticipation.

(Partially, it’s because of the lack of need to kill them off. Yes, they’ve become somewhat devalued characters through misuse over the years, but the answer to that is to let them lie fallow for a few years, and then give them to the right creative team; can’t you imagine a Grant Morrison and Ladronn mini-series about them, for example? Who wouldn’t want to read that? As much as I don’t want to make massive DC-wide generalizations, there really seems to be a “We don’t know what to do with them, so we’ll kill them, that always gets readers talking” thing going on there over the last few years…)

Despite all of the above, though, THE DEATH OF THE NEW GODS #1 isn’t that bad. The art lacks the power or bold design elements of Kirby (which isn’t to say that only Kirby can bring that to the characters – Mignola and Simonson have both managed to revise that aesthetic while staying true to their own styles in the past), sure, but the writing manages to be an enjoyably grandiose take on the concept. It helps that Starlin’s at least doing more than just following through on the title of the book – although two big name (well, for the Fourth World) characters die in this opening issue – adding the involvement of the Forever People to the mystery of just who is killing everyone off.

You can tell that it’s a Countdown tie-in even before Jimmy Olsen pops up to investigate the deaths (which seems fitting, considering it was his book that stealth-launched the Fourth World way back when); there’s a strange, unspoken, underlying feeling that a lot of the backstory here is just meant to be understood already by the readers, with characters and concepts not really introduced as much as just pushed on stage and left to get on with it. But that said, it’s surprisingly enjoyable, if enjoyably unsurprising, and one of the few Good things to have come out of Countdown to date.

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