Now, what do we think of second-hand nostalgia?

In a way, most stories that bank on a sense of nostalgia are that. That we as an audience aren’t necessarily experiencing direct nostalgia of the characters, stories, or concepts, but of a reflection of it through the lens of the creators telling the new work. Even if there is a direct knowledge of the source material. But what if the source material is obscure? Or non-existent?

Where does a reimagining of characters cross into a territory where they may as well be functionally a new property? Especially by two masters of both.

Whatever it was they were looking for, we didn’t have it. Or didn’t know about it. Whatever it was.”

Kirby – Genesis by Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, Jack Herbert, Vinicius Andrade, and Simon Bowland is an interesting thing. It’s pretty much the foundational series of a new shared universe, like Busiek and Ross had done in differing ways before together and with other collaborators on Astro City and Project Superpowers.

Using the Pioneer 10 probe as a catalyst for the vision of humanity, extraterrestrial powers come to Earth searching for…something. In doing so, there’s a cascade of space heroes, intergalactic villains, gods and monsters of myths and legends, and primordial beings that pop up across the planet. Into the mix of that, there’s Kirby Freeman, a university kid just trying to get his friend back, whose body has been possessed by the Midnight Swan.

There’s a lot of moving parts to this. Not only does Kirby – Genesis tell an adventurous story of love and peril of its own, but it works to reimagine and reintroduce characters across Jack Kirby’s career. So you’ve got characters you might know like Captain Victory and Silver Star—probably the most prominent, from Kirby’s Pacific Comics days—and then an assortment of other creations, like the Galaxy Green, the Progenitors, and the Phantom Continent. Many of them will feel familiar which helps in building the wider universal template and the depth to the mystery of this world’s origin.

The art is also incredible. Both Alex Ross and Jack Herbert have wildly different styles from Jack Kirby, but still manage to capture the essence and wonder of his work. Ross captures the grandeur of Kirby’s characters while Herbert’s detail oriented style the heart and humanity. Herbert’s work also reminds me a bit of Brent Anderson, lending a bit further of an Astro City vibe to this.

How Ross, Herbert, and colourist Vinicius Andrade put together the pages is an intriguing process shown in the back of the collection. Ross providing layouts and his painted portion of the pages, Herbert standard line art, and then Andrade’s colours. It gives the entire story a different kind of feel. Aided further by a variety of special balloons and fonts for the heroes and villains from Simon Bowland.

It seemed like lunacy. Lost lands, yetis, aliens — like a dozen pulp-adventure tropes, all happening at once.”

Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, Kirby – Genesis from Busiek, Ross, Herbert, Andrade, and Bowland is a fascinating read. It’s a testament to their creativity in taking disparate elements from Jack Kirby’s creations and crafting a new, cohesive tale out of it. And even a universe beyond. It’s a compelling read of how myths, monsters, magic, and heroes came about in this universe, nestled in the personal story of two childhood friends.

This work, and the other series that sprung out of it, also represent a unique piece of Kirby’s legacy. Not just of what he created outside of Marvel or DC, but of his imagination. And a kind of subtext and metatext of Kirby telling a sort of gestalt mythology across all of his publishers. A grand mythos of human ingenuity that works across the Celestials, Eternals, New Gods, Inhumans, Primordials, and so on. It’s really interesting to see the different analogues across his work.

Kirby - Genesis

Classic Comic Compendium: Kirby – Genesis

Kirby – Genesis
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Jack Herbert & Alex Ross
Colourist: Vinicius Andrade
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: May 25 2011 – July 11 2012

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!