Return of the New Gods #12 (1977)

Return of the New Gods #12 (July, 1977)
“Prelude to a Holocaust: Part One, Chapter One”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Artists – Don Newton & Dan Adkins
Colorist – Liz Berube
Creator – Jack Kirby
Cover Price: $0.35

Welcome to the first installment of “1st Issue Special: Where are they now?” or, “Where were they then“, I suppose.

A few weeks back we discussed 1st Issue Special #13… the final issue of that strange and wonderful series.  It reintroduced the concept of the New Gods… and the “Story Behind the Story” letters page promised that the story would continue in the pages of a the resuming New Gods book… and, in the rare case of something being promised in a letters page actually coming true… here we are!

Of note, this issue includes some Bug… Forager… whatever you wanna call ‘im.  He’s somewhat topical these days as he’s just about to star in his own miniseries coming out of the Young Animal imprint of DC Comics written and illustrated by more Allreds than you can count!  Reggie and I will be covering his adventures during the Young Animal segment on the Weird Science DC Comics podcast… and (I’d assume) one of us will be reviewing the book for the site.

We open with a neat two-page spread which gives us the quick and dirty on the embattled planets of New Genesis and Apokolips.  From here we meet Orion and his current running buddies Lonar, Jezebelle, Metron, Lightray, and Forager… the Bug!  They chat about a nebulous warning from the Source regarding Darkseid and his nefarious plot.  As they approach Apokolips, they’re greeted by the welcoming committee… a whole slew of Parademons!

The battle is brief, and landfall goes off without a hitch.  They head to Darkseid’s domain, and deal with a few palace guards.  Once they are out of the way, the heroes come to the realization that the city has been deserted… and they’re all by their lonesome.  Orion works his way to his father’s throne room… and the only man their is Metron, who had disappeared during the earlier battle.  Orion accuses him of betrayal… tipping Darkseid off so he might flee.  Metron assures him Darkseid was long gone before they even arrived… gone, to the Moon!

And so, our heroes boom tube it to the Moon… where Darkseid has erected a base on its dark side.  The heroes are surprised to find that this facility, like the palace before, is deserted!  They head on in anyway, and come across a computer display that lists the names of six Earthlings who are believed to possess equal parts of the Anti-Life Equation.

The story resumes with Orion flying in the Colorado sky, hopeful that he might speak to one of the names on that list… a Brigadier General Maxwell Torch.  It gets a bit sticky here… as several fighter planes see him in the sky… and want to take him down.  It’s strange, they seem surprised to see a flying man… one even says, “Yes, General, I know that’s impossible!”… I mean, doesn’t Superman live in this world?  I dunno.  Anyhoo, Orion gives them the slip… and then fires a blast at one of the planes.  That doesn’t exactly scream “I come in peace”, does it?

Once everybody is on the ground, Orion finds himself face-to-face with General Torch… and dude don’t seem terribly pleased.

We shift scenes to Forager, who is looking for Donald Bradford at “The Project”.  He works his way through the ventilation shafts and prepares to sidestep all of the potential security measures this installation might have in store for him.  He runs into some soldiers, who… as luck would have it, are more than happy to bring him to Mr. Bradford.

Here we get a welcome bit of backstory for our buddy the Bug.  Turns out some “bacteriological” weapons on New Genesis created a race of sorta-mindless insectoid people who called themselves “The Colony”… the Forager was part of it, however, through adoption… and therefore is still capable of independent thought.  Bradford doesn’t look completely convinced… but he doesn’t kick our man out either.

At the same time, in Fairbanks, Alaska… Lonar seeks an Eskimo named Nomak… and it looks like he does!  We don’t get to see them chat, but we can probably assume everything’s cool… right?

Jezebelle is in Metropolis, looking for a David Lincoln.  Metron’s in New Orleans, seeking a young lady named Lorraine Hampton.  Again, these scenes are brief… almost “blink and you miss’em” quick.

In San Francisco, Lightray looks for Vietnam veteran and (recovering?) drug-addict, Richard Roe.  He decides it’s probably in his best interest to “dress down” for the meet n’ greet.  We see Mr. Roe… who looks rather frazzled.  His hippie girlfriend, Debbi, answers the door.

We rejoin Orion as he’s trying to talk with General Torch.  It’s really not going well, as the General is… well, a jerk.  Orion decides that they’ve talked just about enough, and lunges in to just grab ’em.  This ends poorly with several soldiers opening fire!  Like, seriously… these goofs are inside a warehouse or something, and just “braka braka”ing all over the place!  Orion takes this opportunity to leave.

We wrap up with Orion swearing that he will finish the battle Darkseid started… a threat that daddy Darkseid sees via his video monitor.

Had a lot of fun with this one.

I should probably get my bias out of the way… I’m kind of a sucker for these “split up and collect stuff” stories, so seeing the gang all searching out 1/6 of the Anti-Life Equation really scratched an itch I didn’t realize I had!

Now, this is my first run-in with Forager… and, I really dig him!  Makes me really excited to see the Allreds’s’s take on him later this Spring.  He’s got a super cool design, and his backstory (at a glance) seems like one of the more interesting of the Fourth Worlders.  I was quite pleased that they spent a couple pages filling us in on his backstory… he’s the main character I came into this wanting to know more about.

Orion seems like a rather conflicted chap, no?  I mean, what’s dude thinking blasting military aircraft just to get their attention?  That’s just insane, right?  Not bad, though… I kinda like him being portrayed as on edge… perhaps not thinking straight.  We got a glimpse of this in Darkseid’s throne room where he straight up accuses Metron of snitching to daddy dearest.  Paranoid to say the least!

I will say I’d have liked to have spent a bit more time with the rest of the crew.  Jezebelle, Lightray and Lonar get precious little screen time here… and we also don’t get much in the way of clarification if their 1/6’s were agreeable to joining the cause.  Though, I suppose that might be something that’s made more clear next issue.

Overall, a great start for the Returning New Gods series… and a run I’m going to keep my eye out for when bin-diving.  I’m rather surprised to report that this is available digitally, and you don’t necessarily need to have read 1st Issue Special #13 to appreciate it!  Well worth a look

(Not the) Letters Page:


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