Thomas: And we’re off. Issue Two has hit the stands and . . . wow! The high quality of writing and art of the first issue continues with the war on New Genesis, brutal and dirty. The-off balance sense of feeling continues with a strange distance to events as they occur that’s interesting. A good deal happens in here and at the same time it seems almost like a quick summary of events, simple and concise but without any loss of momentum or characterisation. If anything it enhances all of the great little moments littered throughout the issue without necessarily being huge signposts popping you out of the narrative in a bad way.
Adam: You’re right – we’re really in it now, right from the brutal and relentless opening five pages. Nothing is lost in the way of mood or characterisation, but a whole heap of incredibly-sequenced action is thrown into the mix. The war alluded to in the first issue is now very real: Big Barda and Mister Miracle are Generals Barda and Free respectively, reporting to the new Highfather, Orion. On the opposing side, Granny Goodness appears too, Field Commander of the armies of Darkseid.
Not only are the stakes and scale of this war laid bare in this second issue, but best of all, the intrigue of it starts to get peppered in. And gee, is it some intrigue! Intrigue that looks set to play with, build upon, and quite possibly alter the histories of the Fourth World.
Thomas: Oh yeah. And it’s up in the air as to the truth of said intrigue; Orion/Highfather sets Scott and Barda up to be killed by Granny?! Granny has been working for the departed Highfather all along?! Scott is actually the son of Granny and Darkseid?! Massive revelations if true and something that adds greater depth and complexity to the Fourth World, and is bound to be far more devastating to Orion than it is to Scott because it means that Orion is the biological son of Highfather who had always known it and still always nevertheless favoured Scott over Orion.
This also adds greater complexity and ambiguity to Granny whose morality is now far more interesting than ever before and begs further exploration. Make no mistake; she’s clearly a monster as illustrated by the torture of Stormforge, but the line between hero and monster is often very precarious in times of war with either side often having their fair share of both. The worlds of New Genesis and Apocalypse are no longer quite so simply black and white if all of this is true and that, of course, is the nature of war.
Adam: Yeah, I’m massively interested in the ambiguity King and Gerads are sowing into the characters and relationships of the Fourth World. It’s traditionally been a setting for stories where the ideals and motivations are big, clear and very romantic. Now, I’ve not read all of Sheriff of Babylon, but knowing King’s CIA background, it makes sense that he’s introducing complexity and nuance in this fantasy military context. As in Omega Men, shifting perspectives reveal how conflicts and politics are almost never as clear-cut as superhero comics might normally lead you to believe.
The representation of Granny as a torturous Field Commander who is somehow also a gentle old lady offering Jell-O to the enemy generals as they arrive to negotiate a peace treaty – to make both aspects ring true is testament to the craft on display here. And that juxtaposition is itself very human. Gerads’s non-verbal expressions for Granny are terrifying, sympathetic and conceited in perfect measure.
The complications in Granny’s portrayal, especially the differences in how Scott and Barda respond to her become really difficult to digest with the tragic/appropriate/vicious ending to the issue. Not only that but this all casts the scenes with Orion in a new light, as well as Scott and Barda’s relationship. There are some really monumental and loaded scenes in this second issue.
Thomas: The interesting thing about that final scene to me though is that at no time does Scott even attempt to stop Barda from doing what she does, even after hearing Granny’s revelation. The horror on his face might be less about what Barda did and more about what *he didn’t* do. Remember, when we see Scott at the beginning of this issue he’s not just a General but a frontline General in the very heart of the conflict, leading his troops into battle with fury and rage. Couple that with Orion’s commentary in the throne room about Scott and Barda’s successes as opposed to the failures of the rest of Orion’s New Genesis forces and maybe he’s starting to realise what he’s become, or becoming? Adding credence to Granny’s claim perhaps? It’s also rather telling that it’s around this point that “Darkseid is . . . ” makes its return having been mostly absent from this issue.
There is one thing that I haven’t decided on how I feel about it yet and that is the two comments made by Barda about her size. I like that King is reminding us that the names Granny gave the children in her orphanage were insulting monikers, names intended to belittle and mock the individual. Scott owns his as that character would but I think this is the first time that Barda actually doesn’t, a wound she still carries from her youth. An imperfect hero with feet of clay is always more interesting but a part of me wants Barda to be as embracing of her cruel nickname as Scott is. It’s a personal quibble but is part-and-parcel of what King is doing with this series.
And it’s funny that you bring up King’s CIA past in relation to this story, I intend at some point to re-read the whole of the New Gods saga as soon as possible and will try and look at it with Kirby’s wartime experience in mind. It tends to be forgotten or simply shied away from but unlike Eisner and Lee, Kirby went to Europe during World War II where he fought, killed Nazis and almost lost his legs. The New Gods are at war and that is a basic and essential part of the mythos that Kirby created but it was of its time, hello Forever People, and so is this.