I remembered what Orion's dark secret was in all of this ... but I'd forgotten about Scott Free.
Much as I enjoyed the second volume of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, I get the sense the third volume is where the action's really at. What I was looking for from the Volume One Omnibus was more interaction between the various series, and while we got that here (Lightray in the initial chapters of Jimmy Olsen, and Superman's mention of his meeting with the Forever People later on), I still remain eager for the full, whole-hog crossover.
Of course, the more I read the Fourth World Omnibuses, the more I see just how much Grant Morrison was riffing on Jack Kirby in his recent Seven Soldiers miniseries. Indeed, part of the fun is how close, but not quite, all the characters come to meeting, and how the various stories interlock, almost more than the reader realizes. Case in point is that little secret Orion and Mister Miracle share, binding the two disparate series together.
Also of great use here is Walt Simonson's introduction to the volume, where he positions New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People, and Jimmy Olsen as four perspectives on the same battle: that of the warriors, the contentious objector, the young adventurer, and the citizen bystanders. This perspective really illuminates the way the stories are related, even without the characters meeting. I admit I haven't been a fan of Simonson's Fourth World material, finding it too overwrought and heady, but this exposure to the original Kirby material makes me eager to give Simonson another try.
In his introduction, Simonson praises Kirby's New Gods story "The Glory Boat," and it's a fine story indeed. For every cookie-cutter story in the omnibus -- no matter how wondrous, most of the stories deal with the hero of the moment fighting a random Apokolips creation -- there's ones like "Glory Boat" and the initial Forever People arc, where Kirby's walk-on supporting characters are just as strong and rich as his heroes, that shows the power of Kirby's creations.
Frankly, I think the Fourth World has become distilled -- witness the generic grumpiness of Orion in Grant Morrison's JLA series, versus Kirby's initial three-dimensional hero -- and the Omnibuses are a nice reminder of the power these characters once had. I was especially struck by the scene in this volume, for the first time ever, of Metron flying to the Source Wall and gloating over those trapped there. We seen this sequence so many times (at least thrice, I'm sure, in Superman/Batman) that it's become tired, but just something about seeing Kirby do it for the first time makes me say "Oh, now I get it."
Jack Kirby brought a sheer, unmitigated wildness to his stories, and more than that, you can tell reading these stories that they contain not just Kirby's writing, but his personality. I've enjoyed the first and second Fourth World Omnibus far more than I thought I would -- I don't have the third and fourth yet, but no question they've gone on my wish list.
[Contains full covers, introduction by Walt Simonson, afterward by Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby sketch pages.]
On now to a Superman trade, and then the sky's the limit!