Wednesday, January 9, 2019

027. An ending at the door to eternity (Adventure Comics 460)

The ending of the epic by Gerry Conway and Don Newton, again inked here by Augie Scotto, gets no cover presence on Adventure Comics 460 other than a brief bit of text. It's an ignominious end for a grand saga unlike pretty much anything else coming from DC at the time.

The art on this final installment feels rushed, much like the 8 page story itself.
The story begins with Darkseid on his way towards the Final Barrier, flying through the field of the Promethean Giants that Conway seems to have a love to show. Yet where those Giants failed, Darkseid plans to succeed. He posits that his Omega Force coupled with the Anti-Life Equation will be enough to breach the barrier.

He makes short work of the rock trolls and time storm we were presented with as threats back in Super-Team Family. He thinks to himself as he flies towards the barrier that, "when it falls, the cosmic secret will be mine!"

Orion follows him from a distance, but our action quickly returns to the other events. On Earth, Metron realizes the recently arrived humans carry a Mother Box and a possible chance at victory. On Apokolips, Desaad prepares a cannon to destroy New Genesis once and for all. And on New Genesis, Highfather flies off after deciding his time of peace must come to an end for him to finish the battle once and for all.

But Highfather doesn't fly off to confront Desaad and his cannon. Instead he faces off with Darkseid even as Darkseid seeks to breach the Final Barrier. The fight is brutal but swift and Darkseid stands victorious. He flies off to pierce the barrier.

Darkseid vs. Highfather, the (not quite) final battle!
Orion arrives to find Highfather down and injured. But even in his state, Highfather declares victory. For when Darkseid struck him down, he used a significant piece of his power. It would have destroyed any other New God but Highfather. And with his powers drained, Darkseid won't be able to break the Final Barrier.

As Forager, Lightray and Jezebelle look on, Metron gathers the six humans that hold the Anti-Life Equation. With his guidance, they join their minds around the Mother Box and in doing so use their own hidden power to destroy the Antagonist once and for all.

Orion flies off and confronts the weakened Darkseid. They trade blows, Omega Force versus Astro Force. In his weakened state, the Omega Force fails and strikes Darkseid. He's sent hurling into the Final Barrier without his protective powers, declaring as he falls that it means his annihilation.

The Final Barrier spits him back out as a Promethean Giant himself, large and immobile. He collides with Desaad's cannon-ship, destroying it instantly and seemingly Darkseid with it.

Darkseid and Desaad's super-weapon both meet their fate. 
The people of New Genesis celebrate their victory and the many subplots of the series remain forever unanswered. Unlike Kirby's initial work on this series, these issues are rarely used as reference outside a few bits Conway added to the mythology of the Source. It's a sad state of affairs because though uneven, these issues had some truly amazing art and story.

During this revival, the writing talents like Conway, Englehart and Gerber showed different ideas than came before and since. The artwork of Don Newton, Marshall Rogers and Michael Golden all deserves a high gloss reprint on far superior paper. But alas, this era of the New Gods seems destined to the ether, never to be revived or thought of again. It's a sad fate, but I hope these last twenty-seven installments have at least made you consider seeking out a few of these stories for yourself.

Thus ends the first phase of this site and the second phase of the New Gods. We will take a break next week before we head into the 1980s and into an era of guest appearances, reprints and the return of the legendary Jack Kirby to his creations.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

026. The penultimate power-play! (Adventure Comics 459)

The story from Return of the New Gods immediately picks up with the beginning of Adventure Comics 459, with Gerry Conway and Don Newton back in place as writer and penciler with Augie Scotto now on inks.

Don Newton still isn't taking short cuts with his amazing art as can be seen in this double page spread. 

The story opens with Orion attacking Apokolips and the very machine which imprisoned the humans that held the Anti-Life Equation. He frees them. None are too happy about their imprisonment and they all threaten Desaad. The sniveling coward quickly gives the characters (and conveniently, the readers) the lowdown on Infinity Man's death and passing the Anti-Life Equation to the humans.

Orion sends the humans back to Earth, but continues on his own path. We briefly check in with Highfather who feels guilt about Orion's course towards Darkseid.

On Earth, Lightray, Jezebelle, Forager and Metron consider their next move against the Antagonist, but before they can come up with a plan, they are attacked by a horde of humans driven to frenzy by the Anti-Life creature.

The Antagonist takes his assault to the White House where the heroes rush in to rescue a caricature of Jimmy Carter. Though they stop the assault on the President, they cannot beat the Antagonist.

I get the distinct impression Newton wasn't a huge fan of our 39th President.
Metron admits to himself that they may have no chance at all of stopping a creature so powerful, only its creator could do so. And almost as if in answer, the humans return to Earth amidst the battle...

Orion flies out into the abyss of space where he finds Darkseid standing atop a single meteor in space. His father offers Orion a simple deal: join him and they can rule the universe together. This isn't an offer Orion is now or ever willing to accept.

Darkseid tells Orion that the device threatening Earth should he die is now gone. "You realize then we must have an ending to this struggle," he says. "A death, either yours or mine."

Darkseid delivers the first strike, one powerful to send Orion reeling. he flies off into space as our issue ends, an epic battle in our future!

With two pages less than a normal issue of Return of the New Gods, this is effectively another full issue of the series. Though the conflict grows deeper, little changes between this issue and the last however as the creative team seeks to let the new readers in on what they missed in the cancelled series. Still, Conway never insults the readers' intelligence and Newton provides more of the amazing visuals he's shown off in previous stories.

Next up, we reach the conclusion of this epic, so be here next time for as the next issue plug here simply says: "THE END!"