Kirby’s Here! And so is Homo Geneticus!

by
Jack Kirby’s Silver Star
By Jack Kirby (natch)
Image Comics – hardcover, $34.99
 

I was really excited to open up the gorgeous new collection of Jack Kirby’s Silver Star, since before pre-ordering it I had never heard of it. Turns out that it’s one of Kirby’s final creations, dating from 1983. Silver Star was his second series from Pacific Comics, the first publisher ever to offer him complete creative control and ownership of his work. The new book collects all six issues of Kirby’s run on the series in an oversized hardcover with color restoration by Erik Larsen and Eric Stephenson.

The story follows some basic Kirby beats. I was reminded of The New Gods and The Eternals in the appearance around the globe of a group of super-powerful people, some aware of who they are and some not. Silver Star’s themes are fairly different, though; the fight between good and evil has its place, but takes a backseat to the question of morality in creating science with both beneficial and destructive potential. The series’ name comes from its main character, Morgan Miller, who is code-named Silver Star after discovering his powers while fighting in Vietnam. He is the son of Bradford Miller, creator of a new breed of human, “Homo Geneticus.”

Whereas Kirby co-creation Homo sapiens superior (The X-Men) has at times been a metaphor for race, adolescence, homosexuality, evolution and others, Homo sapiens geneticus is compared most often to the hydrogen bomb. Miller’s father engineered them so that humans could survive the unintended consequences of a weapon that could destroy all life. In turn, homo geneticus allows the survival of the best traits of humanity, as embodied by Miller, but also threatens to wipe out humanity entirely, in the form of the evil Darius Drumm.

As you might expect, these philosophical issues will be solved through punching, but what punching! It’s Kirby, so the art is incredibly dynamic, the scope of the battles and the later destruction is huge, and there are plenty of stunning double page spreads, like when Miller first discovers his powers and throws a tank or a later scene when he, as the Silver Star, smashes into a car that is plummeting off a cliff. The last two chapters, inked and lettered by D. Bruce Berry, are scratchier and less finished looking than the earlier chapters with Mike Royer, but the look overall is classic Kirby.

Drumm (who bears some resemblance to The New Gods’ Darkseid) makes for a charismaticly self-indulgent villain, explaining his backstory while eating a chocolate popsicle and drinking a malt. Claiming to be the future while displaying all of the worst traits humanity hasn’t grown out of, he has discovered that the appeal of the more authoritative religions is “frustration and fear — and the need for ego,” and his followers in the Cult of Self-Denial are entranced by this form of Darksied’s Anti-Life Equation. In fighting him, Silver Star is joined by such over-the-top characters as love interest, Norma Richmond, a stuntwoman who doesn’t know she’s homo geneticus, and Big Masai, “the Goliath of the Ghetto.”

As in many of this works, Kirby’s habit of making it up as he went shows, as some plot points are poorly explained and others are left dangling. Who exactly a young girl that Miller has befriended when the story begins is unclear and after it is mentioned in the second chapter that she has been frozen in time by Drumm for the ten years between chapters, she is never seen again. The whole thing could have worked better if a bit more time had been taken to tighten up the scripts. In the end, the story is enjoyable enough and the concepts compelling enough that the exuberance of it allowed me to get past details like that. This might be a minor Kirby, but even that implies big ideas, fun, and beautiful artwork. Definitely recommended for Kirby fans.

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One Response to “Kirby’s Here! And so is Homo Geneticus!”

  1. Isotope — The Comic Book Lounge » My Favorite Jack Kirby Panel Says:

    […] lounge specials staff events city My Favorite Jack Kirby Panel August 28th by James Sime In honor of Jack Kirby’s birthday today here’s my all-time favorite Kirby panel, from his 1982 “visual novel” series Silver Star. […]

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