"It Relates To Justice!" Comics! Sometimes The King Did 'em!

Jack Kirby (28 August 1917 - 6th February 1994).The King of Comics.


Actually, off-panel speaker, I was thinking more of Jack Kirby. Because on 6th February 1994 Jack Kirby died so on 6th February 2012 I read this comic and, later than anticipated because I got distracted, I posted these words about it and about Jack Kirby. Or as he is known 'round here "The King."


1ST ISSUE SPECIAL Vol.1 #5 “MANHUNTER” By Jack Kirby & D. Bruce Berry DC Comics, $0.25 (Aug 1975)


This comic was published by DC Comics in 1975. Also in 1975 Jack Kirby returned to Marvel. When he was creating this comic The King must have known he was on the way out from DC. He must have known what was coming. He must have felt awful. The hideous knowledge that he had to return to where he had once fled from must have been eating him up. But to dwell on his private pain would be unbecoming and I mention it only to say that it is likely that when this comic was created Jack Kirby was probably not in a Good Place.


Looking at the comic it’s easy to see that The King’s heart isn't in it. The cover is oddly un-dynamic, unsettlingly un-Kirby, and on a page turn reveals itself to be a flipped and recoloured reworking of the splash page. The inking is by D. Bruce Berry, who is no Vince Colletta but neither is he Mike Royer. The character Manhunter is a reinvention of an old character The King and Joe Simon had already reinvented in 1942. There are only two fight scenes, only a modicum of Kirby-tech and just a smattering of crackle. It doesn't look like his heart is in this one at all.


Reading the comic it’s obvious that The King’s Heart (capital H) is on every page. D. Bruce Berry dispenses with his often weak line and achieves an almost Royer-esque level of inky excellence. It’s a great performance. After all the Top Ten Jack Kirby inkers are: Mike Royer. All ten of them. So raising your game that high is no small thing, D. Bruce Berry. The King seizes on his old re-invention and breathes life and energy into it; life and energy fuelled by his own inner pain. The fighting, Kirby-tech and krackling are back-benched so as not to distract from the message he needs to impart. And the message? What message could The King want to send the world as once again he turned back to that black maw? I think The King could be forgiven if the comic were an angry howl of despair. We need not forgive The King for it is, in fact, an acknowledgment of life’s imperfections yet also an optimistic call to arms. No, it is not The King that needs forgiving.

Yes, The King’s Heart is on every page of this comic. Listen now and hear it beat:


It begins with severed heads taunting the hero as he descends to confront "The Chopper". So far so standard but the uncanny weirdness on display is mere prologue. The Timeless Fight between Good and Evil enacted one more time according to all the old familiar rules is here displayed in all The King’s mastery. But things are different when the dust settles. Manhunter has won but Manhunter is revealed to be old and near his end. Who will hunt the men who seek to evade Justice when Manhunter is gone? Though the man fails the cause must continue.  For Manhunter is a hunter of men but he is also a hunter who is a man. And in the end all men fail before Time. All men fall before Time. Even Kings for Kings are also mortal. Manhunter embodies mortality and fear for the future; fear for those who will survive us. (B-Dum! Hear The King’s Heart beat.)


While Manhunter ages and frets Mark Shaw, Public Defender, is finding out that sometimes the system fails the people it’s designed to protect. Mark Shaw, Public Defender, is growing up but Mark Shaw, Public Defender, is not giving up. As luck would have it Mark Shaw, Public Defender, has an ex-archaeologist uncle who enjoys wearing dressing gowns during the day and possesses a collection of arcane and mysterious objects. Some of these pertain to the “Shan” who, so it is said, wore the “Face of The Manhunter” to battle injustices in times past. Mark Shaw, Public Defender, who is beginning to suspect injustice is in fact Timeless, contacts the “Shan” via a combination of a lion medallion and good timing because it so happens that the “Shan” are in when he calls. They are also glad to accept his call. The keen reader may have picked up on a few unlikely coincidences by this point in the comic but these are there for a reason. What appear to be unlikely coincidences are in fact manifestations of Fate and, we are repeatedly told, “Fate is KIND!” The Salvation of the future will come from the Young. And there will be Salvation. (B-Dumba-Dum! Hear The King’s Heart beat!)


More things happen and they are the things you expect and they happen much as you expect but what is of importance has already happened. An angry man, a wounded man, a man returning to the Trap his Gift has condemned him to has spoken in the language that has never failed him (the language of Comics; his Gift, his Trap) and spoken of the thing that has never failed him, that will never fail him; Hope. Hope in us. Because, and I may have mentioned this, Jack Kirby NEVER gave up on us.


And then, lo,  an editorial page on which The King speaks so clearly, so plainly it is as though he is there before us, resplendent in his finery (the high-waisters hoisted high, the tank top and short sleeve shirt combo, comfy brogues perchance) his perma-furrowed brow inclined as he speaks from the Heart. Speaking words from The Past to be carried into The Future:


On 6th February 1994 Jack Kirby’s mortal heart beat its last beat. On 6th February 2012 I read this comic and heard his creative Heart beat again. A Heart beating like Thunder. A Heart beating for Justice. A Heart beating for “the little guy”. As long as there are people there will be Injustice. But Jack Kirby knew that as long as there are people there will also be Justice. And I know that as long as there are Kirby Comics the Heart of Jack Kirby will always be beating. Beating for us. Because Jack Kirby, and I may have mentioned this before, NEVER gave up on us. And because of Comics Jack Kirby's Heart will never be still and because of this miracle Jack Kirby never will give up on us.

Which is why Jack Kirby remains EXCELLENT!

Have a good weekend and remember the pleasure of Comics!

Comics of 8/18

Yah, like Lester I was thinking about how good ol internet time made it seem like we never posted. What's up with that? I've mostly been trying to unravel a Mystery in the UK the last few days -- I think I have most of it sussed, but I'm still not sure HOW to solve the crime, as it were.

I also finished TILTING (appears on Friday on Newsarama), and have started making notes on Deppey's NuMarvel essay in the new Journal. Damn, that's one fine issue.

Plus I dinged 30 in CoH, and am now playing the How Long Until I Get Bored and Quit game (I doubt I'll make it to 35, is all I can say, but we'll see -- really this is all a function of running out of Content and having to Street Hunt too much at the higher levels)

I'm going for my bi-annual haircut in a bit, so let's see how many comics we can bat away first....

For some reason, IE won't connect to blogger this morning, so I'm doing this via Opera, which means I don't have easy itals. I probably should learn the HTML commands, but I'm lazy and I'll just use CAPS for stress and titles this post instead.

(After the fact note: When I went to publish this, Opera wasn't working with Blogger either, so you won't see this until I get home tonight)

SIMPSONS #97: Usually I'm the big singer of Ian Boothby's praises -- he's usually the Funniest Writer in Comics, or something -- but I thought this issue was kinda flat and boring. The feud thing really didn't work -- maybe because it's too much of a staple cliche. Anyway, EH.

SHE-HULK #6: Some cute and decent Ha Ha in a few places, but the art, being mostly done in Marvel House Style reduces the humor for me by tons. OK.

NEW INVADERS #1: Too much time spent introducing the characters in far too obvious ways -- the whole first half of the issue passes in a weightless plot free fall. The second half is also mostly plotless as the flat characters revolve around each other in obvious ways. It's not BAD or anything, but, unless you really have a hankering for these characters it is pretty lifeless. For $3, I have to go for a high AWFUL.

TERRA OBSCURA V2 #1: I don't really care about any of these characters, and I'm surprised anyone else did enough for there to be a second go round here. Having said that, I like this much better than V1, and I'll go with a strong OK.

BIRDS OF PREY #72: You might have noticed most of this week's DCs came bagged with a SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW CD. Well, you didn't notice this at CE, at least -- I unbagged all of the copies (that was a fun 45 minutes I'll never get back). One the other hand, this means a certain VP gets a fun package on his desk on MOnday morning. They filled up an entire DoubleWide Diamond box, sheesh! Anyway, this comic mostly felt like marking time to me -- not much happens except setting things in motion for NEXT issue, which, while fine, makes me only say OK

HAWKMAN #31: This is well done comics, but I think this arc (while adding to the Dead Girlfriend in the Refrigerator count [sorta]) really shows why a traditional Hawkman comic really doesn't have much for legs -- at least with the Ostrander HAWKWORLD run they were able to get into neat outsider-looking-in concepts. But this Hawkman is pretty much Just Another Hero. *shrug* OK

GOTHAM KNIGHTS #56: "War Games" 4 Lots of super-villains. They don't do much. There's an attempt to go with the throughline of GK's "Wow, Hush is a badass!" thread, but he's not, really, and he comes off far more as Chump to this reader. Batgirl also feels written very wrongly here. My fav bit is at the beginning where all of the bosses finish each others sentences. Only in a comic book, man. AWFUL.

ROBIN #129: "War Games" 5. Tim shows everyone in the whole city that's he's a super bad-ass, which makes me hope all the more that the speculation of his returning to the mantle at the end of WG (and/or IC) is wrong. My fav bit is right at the last 2 pages where a seemingly invisible gunman shoots the chick, then seemingly decides it's not worth (despite being, y'know, invisible) to follow up and make sure she's, y'know, dead or something. A very low EH

BATGIRL #55: "War Games" 6. Almost nothing happens in this one -- the overall WG plot isn't moved ahead one fraction of one inch. Still, Sean Phillips art makes this the first chapter I've genuinely liked LOOKING at, so OK.

TOUCH #5: Suddenly, the book starts moving right before it gets axed. Huh. OK

FRACTION #5: This one on the other hand just feels like it's standing still. Nice art, but this can't end fast enough. A very low EH.

DC COMICS PRESENTS: THE ATOM: Damn, they both picked a "Julie saves the day!" turn. I liked the Gibbons story better, mostly because Waid "cheats" on the second one and only has the cover be a brief one-panel bit in the story. Still, OK

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #631: Quite a bit harsher than one would expect from a Superman story -- I don't know I'd let a kid near this one. Having said that, very strong and moving, really only undercut by the sequence of Supes hearing that last shot. How does he hear that from halfway around the world when I bet there's guns going off in, say, Detroit too? Meh! OK.

EX MACHINA #3: Finally, something to get excited about! This is a really terrific book, and one of the rare recent example where we're gaining new readers with each and every issue. Between this and Y, THE LAST MAN, Vaughan is cementing himself as one to watch. VERY GOOD.

EXILES #51: I also quite liked this -- the happy twist at the end was both unexpected and was celebratory of heroism. I don't feel that often enough in super-hero books, which is pretty fuckin' weird, don't you think? GOOD.

FANTASTIC FOUR #517: An "Avengers Dissembled" crossover (Which is about as "red skies" of a crossover as you can get), and, to celebrate the sales increase, the book is now $2.99. Huzzah! A perfectly reasonable issue, but the previous points left a nasty taste in my mouth, so I'm going with a patently-unfair AWFUL. (If it weren't for that, I might have gone for a low GOOD)

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #64: IN every technical way this issue is just as good as the book has ever been -- but something in me somewhere says this arc was a mistake. None of this was anything I wanted to see, and it largely strikes me as pandering. So, foo, let's settle with EH.

MANHUNTER #1: There's nothing for it but to compare this with BLOODHOUND, because the two books seem to occupy a similar "space" in the DCU. This one tries way way way to hard to set up it's moral dilemma, and given that it seems to be moving to "Murder is fine, as long as it is scum!" rather than anywhere else, I'm going to give this the big thumbs down. The art is nice, the writing is adequate, but I don't want to read about super-powered murderers, thanks. There's really nothing here, no mystery no suspense, that makes me want to come back for issue #2. The worst part is this is naturally going to sell better to the retailers because of the legacy name, and the suggestion somewhere that this ties into IDENTITY CRISIS somehow (though I can't seem to find that citing now that I'm looking for it -- I know I read somewhere that there was a connection though). Sorry, though, this is AWFUL.

DOCTOR SPECTRUM #1: Not only does nothing happen, but it doesn't happen between panels of earlier issues of SUPREME POWER. Wrong way to do a spin-off, kids. EH.

SUPREME POWER #12: Meanwhile JMS does a good job with the formalist four-panels-across story. Things are starting to move here, and I like what he's doing all in all. VERY GOOD.

JSA STRANGE ADVENTURES #1: Period work, which always fits the JSA. Nice nice art from Kitson. But the story feels a bit light for the HOLY SHIT, $3.50?!?! Man, that's too much. EH.

Right, be back with more tomorrow, I think -- that's what I've read so far. Whatta d'you think?