Friday, January 27, 2012

TheFourth World Fridays: New Gods #4--"The O'Ryan Mob and the Deep Six"

The most common theme associated with Kirby’s work is “cosmic” (well, and “weird”), but of course he had other idioms he came back to over and over again too. One of these was the hard-boiled world of gangsters and crime-busters, talkin’ tough, wearin’ fedoras, ventilatin’ each other, and embeddin’ their nicknames in a forest of quotation marks. You can definitely see how this would appeal to Kirby, especially the quotation marks. He’d already sprinkled a liberal helping of gangsters into the Fourth World in the form of Intergang; now, in this issue, he gives us, essentially, a crime comic, with a lot of Fourth World stuff lingering around the margins.

Well, OK, it starts on a distinctly Cosmic note, with Metron and his young…I’m going to say, “apprentice”, Esak, who we’ve never seen before, hovering above a primitive planet in the Mobius chair. You know, before we continue, I’m just going to point out that I’m not going to make any dumb NAMBLA-referencing jokes about the fact that Metron is chairing his chair with a young boy in short shorts. I mean, enough with that kind of thing already. I’m not saying comics are innuendo-free or anything, but there was a time when people didn’t automatically assume two characters who hung out together were having sex. And when an adult spent a lot of time with a kid, even one to which he was unrelated, that was called being a father figure. Not HA HA HA THEY’RE TOTALLY GAY. I mean, sheesh, folks. The real irony here is that this is exactly the kind of thing the much-despised Frederick Wertham was so obsessed with, and comic book fans consider him to be a few rungs below Osama Bin Laden on the ladder of hate, yet everyone on the internet is constantly making pedophilia jokes about Batman and Robin. Yes, it’s easy to do. Yes, they wear tight outfits and live together alone. Yes, they fought a guy who spent an entire issue obsessing about “his boner”. But the horse has not only been beaten to death, he has been crushed into glue at this point. MOVE ON ALREADY.

…You know, I just realized that this entry is going to be the first Google hit for anyone searching for “Osama Bin Laden pedophilia gangsters boner NAMBLA”. I’m going to try not to think too hard about that.

Aaaaaaaaanyway. Metron and Esak are casually hovering mere feet ahead of a pair of alien monsters that just so happen to resemble T-Rexes. Esak is afraid, but Metron assures him that they can never match the chair’s speed. Of course, considering that they’re about six inches off the ground and neither of them are looking where they’re going, I’m not sure speed is the only factor involved here.

Metron quickly wises up and, in a breathtaking two-page splash, we see the pair moving up into the air, past a smoldering volcano, with two packs of aliens clashing in primitive battle below. One group looks distinctly caveman-ish, the other like some kind of green goblin-men. “Those creatures below bear the image of man!” marvels Esak, presumably referring to the first group. I wonder if he means “man” in the sense of “humans”, or if he’s including the New Gods in that as well. Either way, note the old-school SF assumption that the evolution of alien life will more or less exactly parallel our own.

Metron mentions that they will return in what “will be a millennium to them!”

METRON: Time to them is not as time to us—is it?
ESAK: Tell me, Metron! Are we truly beyond time? – Are we beyond death?
METRON: My sensors indicate there is an answer in New Genesis!

...Well, that’s one way to avoid answering the question. He could also have tried “My sensors indicate that you should shut the hell up.”

Actually, what Metron’s referring to, obliquely, is the announcement High-Father makes on their arrival back at New Genesis: one of the New Gods has fallen. And of course, he’s also referring to the very end of the series itself, but that’s still a long ways off…

The fallen one, as we learn in abrupt cut to Earth, was a New Genesisean frogman named Seagrin, who the police are currently fishing out of Metropolis harbour. P.I. Dave Lincoln and Orion, in his secret identity of…O’Ryan, have just arrived, and the latter does all but throw himself across Seagrin’s lifeless chest and break out sobbing. Describing him as “a gentle warrior” (riiiiiight), Orion immediately intuits that he’s met his death at the hands of Apokoliptish agents deep beneath the ocean. This being a cosmic being inhabiting a Kirby comic, he needs a proper sendoff, so Orion somehow summons a storm to demolish the pier and give Seagrin a Viking funeral. (Which is appropriate, since this whole sequence would make a hell of a lot more sense if it was in Marvel’s “Thor”.) Invisible through the leaping flames, the Black Racer swoops in and spirits away the soul of the departed (see, that’s how death is supposed to act) before heading back to his apartment for a boring rehash of last issue. (Seriously, how was Kirby planning to build a whole comic around this guy? It’s the most static premise ever—he doesn’t even do anything heroic, really. Was it going to be like an “EC” type comic where he comments wryly on the events of the issue?)

Fortunately, this only lasts two pages, and the next one is one of the most famous splashes in the entire run of the series: it’s a close-up of Darkseid at his creepiest, peering around a corner and delivering an elaborate internal monologue, the most famous line of which is “Yet they know better than most that war is but the cold game of the butcher!” Which, mixed metaphors aside, is a truly iconic line.

Again, either Kirby was improving as a writer, or the influence of Evanier was starting to make itself felt. Remember, Evanier was originally going to write the series, with Kirby being more of a project manager, shooting off the basic ideas. Honestly…that probably would have lead to a more polished series, and perhaps a better one. Kirby could have played to his strengths as an idea man and composition/breakdown artist, and left the prose and specific plot points to Evanier, who’s a more conventionally talented writer (at least nowadays). Evanier tends to downplay his own role in the Fourth World, but I think he definitely had at least a holistic influence.

By the way, this seems a good time to note that Comics Should Be Good just devoted an article to the New Gods (and another to Mister Miracle…will tomorrow’s be The Forever People?) and in it, they make a point that’s so obvious I hadn’t even thought to mention it yet. The Fourth World saga was coming out as America—not just the counterculture--was getting really, truly sick of the Vietnam war, and reflections on the futility of combat were becoming hardwired into the mindset of a generation. Of course, Kirby was a WWII veteran, as well, and he seems to have had a conflicted attitude about the honour of soldiering, but Darkseid’s little musing here seems to sum up the basic ideas about war.

Meanwhile, we’re back with “the O’Ryan mob”, and a lame mob it is. Honestly, I really do like the idea of a bunch of normal people having an experience with a cosmic power greater than themselves and being forced to become adherents of a War God, but these guys can get pretty annoying. And it’s ironic that, facing one of the famously best pages of the series, we also get one of the most infamously awful. This is the bit where Orion’s followers reintroduce themselves via the most hilariously clunky dialogue ever:

LANZA: But I’m Victor Lanza! An insurance executive! A family man! My wife makes me carry an umbrella in case it rains! And now, this! New Genesis! Apokolips! And things that would scare John Wayne!
SHANE: What about it, Lincoln? I’m Claudia Shane, simple but worried secretary! What am I involved in this time?—
LOCKMAN: And me, young but cool, Harvey Lockman!

Admittedly, I think Harv was going for a “hiply ironic” thing there, but man oh man. That is some hilariously bad dialogue.

Orion enters and lays out the plan: basically, they’re going to pose as a rival gang, muscling in on Intergang’s turf. This is, um, ballsy, in that exactly one of them (not including Orion himself) could pass as thug, and the other three are pretty obviously hapless bystanders. I do like that Orion’s first major mission for his followers is to rope them into a life of crime, though.

Asking that they place their hands on Mother Box so they can “see what Mother Box sees in her effort to penetrate Intergang,” Orion sends the four Earthlings a vision of a hatchet-faced goon and a glimpse of his thoughts. They catch that his name is “Snaky Doyle”, that he works for Intergang, and that he’s thinking of something called the “Jammer”, which is what’s allowing Apokoliptians to pass undetected among Earth society. OK, I’ll just say it: Mother Box is really getting to be an annoying Deus Ex Machina. She can do whatever the plot requires at any given time, and is virtually omnipotent when people are paying attention. But rarely do Orion or Mister Miracle or The Forever People think to use her to read minds, which she can apparently do. Nor do they use her to activate remote machinery very often, the way she did in the last issue of New Gods. Mostly she’s used to create illusions—which is ironic, since at least one of the Forever People can apparently do that by herself—and later she plays a key role in computing the Anti-Life Equation. And she summons Infinity Man, of course. With all these powers at her beck and call, the characters forgetting about her to further the plot reaches the same level of annoyance as Superman constantly forgetting his powers.

Anyway, rather than simply grabbing Snaky and beating the information out of him, Orion has a plan to pull a con on Snaky. You know, it’s funny—in virtually every non-Kirby appearance he’s made, including the current “Death of the New Gods”, Orion is portrayed as something akin to a late-90s character, all hypermuscled torso and teeth-baring grimace, and his first thought is always violence, violence, violence. In Grant Morrison’s JLA run it was suggested that Mother Box’s soothing beeping was the only thing that kept him from being a total psychopath. But of course, the character was never like that when Kirby drew and wrote him—sure, he has a tendency to lose it in the heat of battle (as we’ll see next issue) but when he’s not actually fighting, he’s as calm and calculating as any other New God, if a little on the grim side. The relatively elaborate trap he’s about to set for Intergang demonstrates this.

As Snaky leaves the pool hall later that night, he’s grabbed and held at gunpoint by Dave Lincoln, spouting amusing “tough guy” dialogue like “If yuh unzip yer lip, I’ll plug ya!” He frisks him and finds a tiny radio transmitter, which conveniently enough is just at that moment transmitting a message to Snaky to come and “baby-sit” the Jammer. Lincoln cuts him loose, telling him to let Intergang know that the O’Ryan mob has taken over the territory (what, the whole city of Metropolis?). Orion, of course, will follow Snaky from above.

Phase two begins once they’ve tracked Snaky to an old mansion on “a little-used sea-coast road,” where Claudia pulls up in a car and does the “stranded motorist” act. While the Intergang thugs patrolling the area try to help her get her car started so she can clear off, Claudia rolls up the window and presses a trigger that releases knockout gas that “Orion whipped up for this occasion.” The thugs are knocked out, allowing Lincoln, Lockman and Lanza (did Kirby come up with their names by pulling a random page from the phone book?) to emerge from the bushes.

Phase three involves Lanza impersonating a representative of the O’Ryan mob in order to make Intergang tip their hand, something he doesn’t seem to be up to. “You don’t have to play Little Caesar,” reassures Lincoln, “just his smart business manager!” But Lanza is still drenched in flop-sweat.

His entry into the inner sanctum is met with little surprise by Inter-gang’s representative “Country Boy”, who mistakes Lanza for O’Ryan: “We’ve been expectin’ ya! Seein’ that our boy Snaky practically gave yuh a road map!” Glad to see I’m not the only one who thought Snaky acted kinda dumb in heading straight to his headquarters after being accosted by a rival gang. Snaky’s tied to a chair in the office, about to become a cautionary example for Lanza, as “Country Boy” shows off his devastating…fly-fishing ability.

Yes, this is how “Country Boy” intimidates Lanza: by hooking the trigger of a nearby gun with his fishing rod and using it to shoot Snaky. Well, I guess Snaky’s still dead, after all, and—

COUNTRY BOY: Aaaaa—Snaky ain’t dead! – But he is stiff! Paralyzed! And our guns can get spookier than that!

Thank you, Comics Code.

Lanza, needless to say, is immediately reassured that he’s dealing with a bunch of complete tools, and grows more confident. “We know about Intergang,” he says nonchalantly, puffing on a cigar, “But not enough! Frankly, what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t spend a penny on!” Country Boy, being the easily provoked moron that he is, proceeds to immediately show Lanza the Jammer, which he accesses by pulling a secret lever and causing a wall to roll back. “The party we deal with can take this thing apart and set it up again in minutes! That’s organization and power, man!”

…Does it feel to anyone else like Country Boy is overcompensating for something? And doing a lousy job of it?

Anyway, that concludes the crime comic portion of the evening, as Orion immediately blasts through the front door and incinerates the Jammer with a quick burst of Astro-Force. At the same moment, Lanza lays a roundhouse blow to the nearby thug, who was in the process of pulling his gun. Well, what do you know…Lanza AND Claudia both turned out to be competent! Now if only Harvey had done something, anything, to contribute…

But anyway, we’re now leaving the Normals behind and following Orion as he streaks into the wreckage of the Jammer and into a secret passageway beyond. (Hilariously, the Jammer appears to be about as thick as a piece of drywall in this panel.)

Orion shoots down the passageway, while expositioning that Mother Box has now detected the culprit behind Seagrin’s murder: Darkseid’s underwater shock troops, The Deep Six. He shoots out an airlock into the open ocean, Mother Box providing an air bubble for him to breathe (seriously, is there anything Mother Box can’t do if it’s convenient to the plot?) and immediately comes face to face with Slig, leader of the Deep Six.

We’ll be getting to know Slig and the Deep Six better in the next issue, but for now, we quickly (a little too quickly) learn of his ability to mutate creatures simply by touching them, which he proceeds to do to a clump of seaweed. The tendrils reach out and overwhelm Orion, but he blasts free using the Astro-Force, only to be stopped dead in his tracks by a glimpse of…something off-panel.

“What does Orion face? It has destroyed a God—and threatens the entire Earth! Don’t miss—SPAWN!!!”

What, really? That was a pretty terrible comic and all, but I don’t think it threatens the entire—

Oh, OK. Different Spawn.

So, we now have all three of the “real” Fourth World books embroiled in a multi-part storyline, which, perhaps not coincidentally, seems to have elevated the level of the storytelling and the intensity. However, whereas this was a sudden improvement for Mister Miracle and the Forever People, I can’t help but notice that (with the arguable exception of the last issue, which featured the last-minute inclusion of the Black Racer), The New Gods flows extremely smoothly from the first issue to this one and beyond. Each issue is discrete, but the stories evolve logically out of the end of the prior issue, and there’s even ground being laid for future story developments right from the start. That Comics Should Be Good article I linked to above calls The New Gods the best comic Kirby ever did, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks so.

But then, I’m just Adam Prosser, simple but snarky cartoonist and blogger. What do I know?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

End Of The Year, End of the World

Hi! Miss me?

It's been a crazy few months here at Phortress Phantasmic, mostly due to an overload of illustration work (which is a very good thing, of course, for my ability to not starve to death and those who enjoy watching me not starve to death). Things are calming down a little now, so it's time to take inventory of...stuff.

Firstly! Lemuria is back, obviously, and if you haven't been following it, it's recently featured the return of Hordo of Atlantis from the second-ever story. Plus lots of pirates. I do have every intention of colouring these strips as soon as I can find a moment to do so...

I also want to finally return to Freak U. and yes, even Night Shift; I'm going to say Freak U. will return sometime in February. Night Shift, I'm not sure about. Even Amazon Space Rangers, which is effectively dead as a comic, is sort of back in the form of a series of prints I'm working's the first.

More on that later. Um, what else? I guess I'll bang out some reviews for the end of 2011 and early 2012:

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows and Sherlock, Season 2: It's kind of weird how pop culture is suddenly Sherlock-happy, isn't it? And now apparently there's an "American Sherlock" TV show in development, which will probably just be "House meets CSI" crap. Anyway, it must hurt Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. right down in their spleen to know that their big-budget theatrical steampunk version of Sherlock Holmes is being so consistently upstaged by a BBC production starring a previously-unknown and the guy from The Office. I mean, the Downey Sherlock Holmes movies seem to make decent bank, and I actually liked the first one somewhat--putting aside the stupid action movie setpieces, the script actually captured the tone and characterizations of the stories, and avoided some of the pitfalls modern Holmes adaptations sometimes fall into (Watson isn't an idiot, the supernatural is revealed to be fraudulent). But Game of Shadows was just awful--loud, bloated, bombastic, without a trace of wit or refinement. Yes, refinement. Sherlock Holmes should be REFINED, dammit. He should also spend at least a little of his time, y'know, solving mysteries, something Ritchie apparently has no interest in whatsoever. Even worse, the movie's version of Moriarty is staggeringly bland, which seems like it's the last thing Ritchie would get wrong.

This, more than anything, is something that looks completely embarrassing when stacked up against the Stephen Moffat show, because this was the season they got to play with Moriarty, and they absolutely nailed it. The accepted wisdom on Moriarty is that there's something "everymannish" about him, as if he had no personality of his own and could blend in perfectly with the background, the better to manipulate his criminal network. The movie interprets this, as I said, as "let's make Moriarty really, really boring". The show has a very clever take, as we saw last season: first by having Moriarty "speak" using other people's voices, and then revealing him as an unsettling creature whose speech patterns seem to vibrate at random across the entire spectrum of human speech, while never once sounding natural--an obvious advantage when your archnemesis is a guy who can tell everything about you from a glance and a few words. Some people seem to have found this a little annoying, and actor Andrew Scott has toned it down a lot this season, but it's still present. Scott is creepy every second he's on screen--he knows exactly when to go over the top and when to tamp it down a little (but only a little). His over-the-topness is employed in a highly restrained manner, if that makes any sense. But then, it may be necessary to go a little over-the-top when you're sharing the screen with Benedict Cumberbatch. On the flip side, Lara Pulver plays it perfectly cool as Irene Adler, in "A Scandal in Belgravia", somehow managing to be impassive and expressive at the same time, and she too strikes sparks with Cumberbatch--if this season has an overriding flaw, it's that Martin Freeman as Watson gets pushed a little too far to the side by all the larger-than-life personalities.

In general, though, this season is better than the mostly-great first, which was weighed down by the inferior (and racist) "The Blind Banker" and a somewhat chaotic plot in "The Great Game". This seasons' weakest entry is "The Hounds of Baskerville", which is a little padded, but which still manages to get some real mileage out of pitting Sherlock against the supernatural, and develops the theme of Sherlock's increasing humanity in a smart way, by having him deal with crippling terror, something he never thought he'd have to do. "Belgravia" is probably the best single episode of the show so far (for the record--SPOILERS--my opinion is that Adler faked the whole scenario at the end for the sake of faking her death, but also to see if she could draw Sherlock out; so did in fact "win" their game in a sense, by revealing him to have feelings. That's just my interpretation, though, and if Moffat meant for it to be a straightforward "Sherlock saves the day" moment, I do think that's a misstep). And Moriarty's plan in "The Reichenbach Fall" is extremely clever, a brilliant way of upping the stakes and showing why he's a real threat to Holmes, as opposed to just a guy with a really epic scheme to take over the world.

I *am* a little skeptical that Moffat can pull off the reveal of how Holmes pulled off his triumph at the end there--Moffat's shown he's not immune to illogical deus ex machinas in Doctor Who, as the last season showed--but I'll definitely be watching. Oh hell yes.

Hmmm, that ended up taking a lot more space than I expected. OK, I guess I now have the material for a whole series of posts!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fourth World Fridays: The Forever People #4--"The Kingdom of the Damned!"

So to pick up where we left off last time I reviewed The Forever People…Kirby wasn’t the first to try to say something a little deeper with comics than “good will always triumph over evil!” He was, however, the first (with Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) to really try and push “bigger” ideas into the superhero genre in the form of subtext, and in the context of the Fourth World, Kirby grabbed that ball and sprinted with it. As we’ve seen, of course, the weirdness and action which were by that point ingrained in Kirby’s work, combined with the natural dictates of the superhero form, meant that this commentary often wasn’t particularly profound. Despite Kirby’s pretentions (in every sense of the word), the primary motive of the Fourth World is still to tell an entertaining story about dudes in tights beating each other up, and in that context reflections on the meaning of life tend to be reduced to laughably simplistic forms. Or else they seem awkwardly shoehorned in, especially when delivered in the form of wordy monologues. The demands of a visual medium and an action-oriented genre tend to overwhelm subtler commentary.

But not always. A talented comic book maker can still hit that sweet spot in which a simple idea turns out to have endless ramifications, both as a source of entertainment and a reflection of life or human society. The key is usually to find some new way of delivering an old archetype, one that hasn’t been used much before but, when tweaked the right way, seems instantly logical and resonant. And in this issue, I think, Kirby comes up with a very good one.

As you’ll recall, I thought that Kirby took an issue or two to really figure out what this series was going to be about, but with issue three it came into focus: it’s basically a bizarre cosmic superhero version of Easy Rider, with a gang of biker hippies trekking across a warped alternate America. What’s more—and this is a touch I simply love—most of their encounters seem to be inspired by roadside attractions. It’s a cross-sampling of the various sights and experiences you might have while motoring across the country during the summer of love on a quest to find yourself…or, possibly, while crammed into a wood-paneled station wagon with 2.5 kids squabbling in the back. You know, whatever.

Anyway, the last issue saw our erstwhile god-hippies visiting a revival show…of evil!!!…and getting captured by their nemesis and ours, Darkseid of Apokalips. They awaken to find themselves in another roadside attraction*, the sprawling theme park…of evil!!…named Happyland.

Here’s where that whole subtext thing I mentioned at the beginning comes into play. Plotwise, the story is that hoary old comic book chestnut where the archvillain has captured the heroes and turned them over to his sadistic henchman to be tortured or otherwise forced to undergo a test of endurance. In this case, the henchman is Desaad, and his torture palace takes the form of an amusement park. Again, an “evil amusement park” was nothing new to comics at this point—the Joker had been turning them into deathtraps for decades already—but it’s what Kirby does with it that makes it a gas.

See, Happyland may house a battalion of prisoners, subject to torments of all kinds at Desaad’s cruel whims, but they’re concealed by illusion. In the opening splash, we see a group of wretched souls pound on the glass of their prison, pleading for help, only to see on the next page that their screams and visages are concealed by illusion from the milling throngs of parents and children attending the park. For all they know, Happyland is just a fun place to visit on the weekend, and they’re oblivious to its true, nefarious purpose.

It doesn’t matter how bluntly Kirby drives the point home later on; this twisted setup is too solid a concept for storytelling, and too great a metaphor for the world as a whole, to be messed up even by ruining it as subtext. It makes for the best issue of “The Forever People” to date.

Elsewhere, unseen by the masses, Darkseid himself is paying a visit to the park, while the Forev Peeps brood on their fate in Desaad’s dungeon. (Since both the FPs and Darkseid were in the same place last issue, you’d think they would have arrived together, but never mind.) Our erstwhile Scooby Gang catches us up on the events of the last issue via some heavy-duty exposition, also informing us that, as you’d expect, Mother Box has been taken from us. But they don’t know where they are, until a medieval-looking type enters and informs them that Desaad is now the master of their destinies. “Desaad! We’re in the hands of Desaad! Darkseid has given us to that demon!” moans Vykin. “He worships torment!--Refines it to an art!” Agrees Moonrider. It’s Serifan, of all people, who’s actually trying to do something useful, by surreptitiously pulling a stun capsule from his hat, but the minions are too fast for him. They hit him with a “Nerve Beam” that causes him to…bend backwards…and make a bored, pouty face? Well, I guess the Comics Code Authority was still going strong at this point, and there was only so much “torment” they could show. As if to drive the point home, the minions deploy a no doubt effective but curiously painless weapon to subdue the FPs: “Vertigo Grenades” that cause them to lose their sense of balance and fall down, to be dragged away to their doooooooooom.

Meanwhile, Darkseid is paying witness to Desaad’s attempted “murder of a Mother Box!” It seems that this is the first of the group to suffer his depredations, in the form of an electronic green warthog shoving glowing spikes into it. Mother Box “screams” and then disappears with a “ZZOSSH!” “They always do that!” sniffs Darkseid, to which the clearly unhinged Desaad responds, “No! It disintegrated! That’s it! I’ve made it commit suicide! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Um, yeah, good one, master of torment. I have a couple of balloons you can make commit suicide, too, if you want to keep going. Darkseid is rightfully unimpressed. “Does the Mother Box vanish—or disintegrate? You don’t really know! Nor do I!

Desaad tries to get back in the bosses’ good graces by inviting him to watch the Forever People “thrashing around in his net”, but Darkseid has no interest in petty cruelty. Again, it’s obvious the guy has no interest in other thinking beings in any capacity, not even as something he can destroy for fun. Other people are just an annoying obstacle to him, to be transformed into mindless slaves to his will. Darkseid doesn’t crush you because he enjoys it. He does it because that’s just how things ought to be.

As if to emphasize his callousness towards humanity, he brushes off the vehicle he came in and casually walks out amongst the masses attending Happyland. “Grandpa!” whines a small child, “That man is scary! Make him go away!” Grandpa tries to reassure the kid that The Master of Evil is just a costumed character, but Darkseid is having none of it. “No, Grandpa! I’m the real thing!” Then, as the old man leads his sobbing child away, D.S. continues, “All young humans recognize the real thing when they see it! Young humans see me—even in “Happyland!” But you elders hide me with “cock and bull” stories to keep the premises smelling sweet!” Oddly, the old man’s reply is to yell “Fool!” at Darkseid. Um…fool? Wouldn’t “jerk” or “douchebag” be more appropriate? I mean, isn’t that the kind of thing that a quasi-medieval character like Darkseid should be calling other people, not being called himself? Especially not by confused grandparents?

Anyway, Kirby’s really intent on running this whole “people are distracted by the suffering of others by a theme park” theme into the ground, so we now get a series of vignettes showing the Forever People in peril while attendees remain oblivious. To sum up quickly: Mark Moonrider is trapped in a glass box in the tunnel of terror, but people think he’s just a fake-looking skeleton prop! Big Bear is enclosed in the shooting gallery, where the pellet guns produce intense vibrations that cause him pain! Beautiful Dreamer is immobilized and kept in another glass box, surrounded by visions of monsters, but the onlookers think she’s that “Sleeping Beauty” exhibit a lot of old carnivals used to have! And Serifan is hooked up to a monitor showing Vykin strapped to the roller coaster, his head protruding through the boards, where he’ll be decapitated if Serifan doesn’t press the pedal to lower him out of harm’s way every time the coaster runs overhead! Which is probably, like, once every two minutes or so!

…Uh…OK, these are fairly lame torments. Damn you, Comics Code!

Still, it’s clear that this is going to be pretty rough on the FPs if someone doesn’t come to their aid soon! But have no fear—Mother Box isn’t dead after all. As it turns out, she did in fact teleport herself out of danger, and towards the most likely candidate for help.

Who could it be? I bet it’s Orion! He’s on the ball when it comes to Darkseid’s schemes. Or Mister Miracle! He’s the master of escape, right? Sure! Or any one of hundreds of New Gods. Or how about Superman? I’m sure he’ll save them!

Well, no. Turns out…the FP’s potential saviour is…this guy:

…The ancient winds of trouble blow…inside the box?

This does not look good.

*© The Tragically Hip.