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Sunday, July 06, 2008

 
Silver Star -- Jack Kirby's latter-day work could be wildly uneven, but Silver Star holds more than a little of the brilliance that informed New Gods and the other Fourth World titles, and his earlier Marvel work.

Silver Star himself is one of a number of members of a new species, Homo Geneticus, specifically designed to live through and beyond a nuclear holocaust. Man's headlong rush toward self-destruction was obviously weighing heavily on Kirby's mind as he developed this idea (which originated in a movie pitch, included at the end of this beautifully-realized Image Comics hardcover, released in 2007), and given the current state of the world, it seems Kirby, as always, was way ahead of his time.

Silver Star's suit is designed to prevent the fantastic energies that he possesses from escaping and destroying his body; his opposite number, a failed, previous experiment in creating Homo Geneticus, is Darius Drumm, who longs to bring about mankind's end a little sooner than on man's own timetable. Norma Richmond is Silver Star's love interest, but also his equal, and an unpredictable firecracker in the Big Barda tradition.

Kirby's story unfolds over the course of the six issues collected in the book, and it has a definite beginning, middle and end, something somewhat rare in Kirby's career. The narrative almost never takes a breath -- things seem to happen between the panels, so much so that when, late in the story, Kirby takes the luxury of three silent panels to depict a military leader making a decision, the sequence is as arresting as Kirby no doubt intended it to be.

The artwork in Silver Star is not the prime Kirby of his latter-day Fantastic Four, but neither is it the unsure and outsider-art look of The Hunger Dogs graphic novel that was Kirby's last word on his Fourth World stories. It reminds me most of Kirby's last go-round on Captain America -- looser and less weighty than his very best work, but still solid and confident with occasional flashes of his glory days.

The closest you can get to new Kirby nowadays is Casey and Scioli's Godland, and a lot about Silver Star, especially the villainy of Darius Drumm, will be pleasingly familiar to Godland readers. Drumm's fate is pleasingly reflective of the thought that Kirby gave to the true nature of man, no simple super-battle to bring things to a close, but a genuine insight into the urge to self-destruction and the ways in which it might be tempered.

At $35.00, the Silver Star hardcover is not for a reader who is unsure of their level of appreciation of Kirby's work. But for those of us who remain entranced by his work and the intellect that propelled it, Silver Star is a pretty wild ride, and one you might wish had continued further, at that.

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