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There is so much that can be said in defense of the New Gods. This is the time to finally go out and say it, because, let’s face it, they are under attack. Threatened by such under-skilled writers like Venditti, Wilson, Bennet, and Johnson. These have done some real harm to the New Gods brand in the “New 52”. Time to remind everyone why the New Gods are great.
First of all, and this is in direct refutation to what Wilson has said, it is not because they are in any way “deep” nor because they have some “rich” tapestry. The New Gods have the perhaps one of the simplest set-ups of any “mythology” ever. Good guys on the Good Planet. Bad Guys on the Bad Planet. Leaders switch babies in secret for peace. Prophecies of big climactic battle when all is made known. It’s not that hard.
It might sound weird to try and downplay the depth that the New Gods have, but that’s exactly what must be done. The New Gods don’t have “depth” as is – they have grandiosity. When you try to take this simple, passionate, and energetic spark and add all of this weight to it, that’s what you’re doing. You are weighing it down. Timelessness is the ability to travel without seeming dated. Placing faux-depth, and it is faux, reeks of dated.
So, if there is no depth, then where is the fun? The concepts and their execution. It’s played for everything it’s worth on the surface level. The New God of War is literally named Orion and whose main power is just punching people? Sure. The happiest New God is named Lightray and is this War’s best friend? Why the hell not. The magic of Kirby was letting them all superficial, and then laying on the character beats as they came around.
Forcing these character beats in some misguided attempt to bring some sort of legitimacy to these concepts is severely missing the point as it, in effect, becomes more shallow than they purposefully are. The same thing goes for the backdrop. I’ll let you all in on a little secret: Kirby was the most blunt writer who ever lived, and that was both his strength and his weakness. Thankfully for the New Gods, it was his strength here.
The God of War is named Orion, we get that. The evil villain is named “Darkseid”, still with me? Here’s the kicker: the literal hand of God comes down and gives messages to the good guys through a wall version of the Burning Bush. The evil planet’s name is Apokolips! Yet, again, it’s so bombastic it works. And there is enough of a twist that it doesn’t come off as the most hamhanded thing ever.
Enter Earth 2. Wilson, Bennet, Johnson, whoever, out did Kirby – in the worst ways imaginable. When you are more blunt than Kirby then you have gone way too far. They amped up the Christian overtones to unbearable levels, taking the name “Apokolips” to it’s fullest extent and creating a new brand of Female Furies patterned after the Four Horsemen. That may seem harmless but the effect is both taking the interesting out of a great concept and then making the audience feel like they’re idiots for being treated like children.
One of the most heinous things that has been uttered by the current handlers is how they feel like they’re humanizing the New Gods. This is the most tone-deaf thing. Since, never have the New Gods NOT been humanized. Orion and Lightray are best friends forever. Big Barda and Mr. Miracle are love-birds. The Forever People are just teens looking for adventure. They aren’t whatever cliched view of gods these writers have, since even classical gods are emotional.
All of this sets up one of the most grand stories to ever come out of Jack Kirby. The story of a child grown into a warrior who is trying to follow his destiny to defeat the greatest evil his planet has ever known. It’s heartfelt, it’s engaging, and it is exciting. Above all of that – it is simple. It is not bogged down by weird personal views outside of the initial sparks of imagination. The story plays out naturally because it is a natural story, a blend of our oldest myths done up as a comic.
Changing it up, especially when the writer at hand doesn’t understand what the hell they’re even writing, is just a recipe for disaster. You don’t even have to be this Morrison level writer to get it. Didio and Giffen have been doing an astounding job in OMAC and Forever People. It just takes a writer who knows when to let the characters play out and not be some pretentious hack about it. The New Gods and pretentiousness don’t mix. That and ridiculously grotesque original characters. Comments and thoughts would be welcome below.