Darkseid Special #1
Writers: Mark Evanier, Paul Levitz
Artists: Scott Kolins, Phil Hester
Colorists: Dave McCaig, Dave Stewart
Inker: Ande Parks
Letterers: A Larger World’s Troy Peteri, Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
Review by John Dubrawa
While the inevitable showdown between Dr. Manhattan and Superman looms on the horizon over at DC, the here and now is all about Jack Kirby’s New Gods. Between the launch of the Mister Miracle and Bug!: The Adventures of Forager ongoing series, as well as a handful of oversized one-shots, Kirby’s wonders of the Fourth World are basking well-deservedly in the spotlight at the moment.
Even those readers entirely unfamiliar with the New Gods prior to this recent resurgence will know one name, though: Darkseid. He may be ingrained in the New Gods legacy, but he’s also been a staple in the mainline DCU for quite some time as a foil for the Justice League. So devoting a one-shot to Darkseid makes both logical and financial sense. But while the Darkseid Special #1 seems like an easy sell, the reality, unfortunately, is that the book isn’t such an easy recommendation for me to make.
What’s bound to throw readers for a loop immediately is that this isn’t a Darkseid story at all, per se. Writer Mark Evanier’s focus for this special is on three escapees from a labor camp on Apokolips; Darkseid isn’t even shown until a third of the way through story.
While this seems like an odd choice, Evanier knows that most readers are coming into this book with at least some cursory knowledge of Darkseid. His intent is to establish three human characters as a way to show what
living surviving day-to-day on Apokolips is like, instead. Spoiler alert: living in a place called the Armagetto on a planet called Apokolips is not so great.
Unfortunately, the further along the story gets, the more it becomes apparent that our three entries into this world are not worth following. In fact, I can’t even recall one of the three protagonists’ names because he’s so inconsequential to the story. Another, named Lukas, becomes an utter creep at the worst possible moment, leaving Makayla, the defacto leader of the squad, as the only one worth caring about. It’s a shame this story involves two other characters because this is really Makayla’s show. Evanier does manage to ring some strong character moments from her, but she’s unfortunately saddled with two guys that are completely useless to the plot.
Artist Scott Kolins does a fine job at rendering Apokolips and making it a place you’d absolutely want to avoid if you ever vacationed in the DC universe. His depictions of the towering Darkseid statues littered throughout the world are particularly striking. There are panels later in the issue where his art feels a bit rushed — particularly when it comes to depicting the bounty-hunters-for-hire Female Furies — but the intensity of the character of Darkseid is certainly present in all his key sequences.
Colorist Dave McCaig uses a muted color palette that gives each scene the perfect amount of dinge, dirt, and grime. Seriously, don’t visit Apokolips.
In addition to the main story, the Darkseid Special #1 includes a backup tale about OMAC from creators Paul Levitz and Phil Hester. As someone that knows next to nothing about OMAC (except what that stands for), this is a well-crafted crash course that, in retrospect, I wish had gotten a little bit more of the page count. It’s a short tale, but a satisfying one.
Skip. I hate to not be able to recommend anything Darkseid-related, but the Darkseid Special #1 is simply not worth it. Darkseid makes only a handful of appearances throughout the story and what readers have in his place is the tale of three human characters that aren’t more interesting than Darkseid. Plus, it’s priced at $4.99, which is just asking too much when so many other DC books come in at that sweet $2.99 price point.