Near as I can tell, Marvel is doing precisely fuck-all to commemorate the 100th birthday of the man who created pretty much their entire corporate universe, but DC , to their credit (not a phrase you’ll hear coming from my mouth very often) seems to think that a century of Jack Kirby is very much worth celebrating indeed : we’re four issues into the year-long Kamandi Challenge as we speak, the superstar creative team of Tom King and Mitch Gerads has just been announced as helming a forthcoming Mister Miracle revival, and Gerard Way’s still-nascent (and, to date, uniformly interesting) Young Animal line has now gotten in on the act, as well, with the release of the first issue of the six-part Bug! : The Adventures Of Forager. Chances are there will be even more to come as the year proceeds, but as far as company-wide love letters go, I’d say they’re off to a more than good start so far.
In many respects, the character of Forager is probably the last Kirby creation you’d ever expect to see again — he was a “bit player” (to put it kindly) in the Fourth World saga, making a brief but memorable appearance in the pages of New Gods before disappearing for well over a decade only to re-appear just in time to get himself killed in Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola’s Cosmic Odyssey, and that was — what? Damn near thirty years ago now?
Still, the Allred family always seems to know a good unused concept when they see one, and so modern-day legend Michael, here confining himself solely to artistic duties, has teamed with wife/colorist Laura and brother/writer Lee to resurrect — in this case quite literally — comics’ most hapless (and, who are we kidding, only) “food-seeker” to see how he fits into the world of 21st-century funnybooks. Are you excited? ‘Cuz I sure as hell am. In fact, the $3.99 I plunked down for this issue had been positively burning a hole in my pocket ever since this project was first announced a few months back.
Choosing to address the elephant in the room right from the start, answering the question of whether or not their protagonist is even alive or dead is the first order of business here, and it appears as though puzzling that out — as well as what it means either way — is going to form the backbone of this series. To that end, there’s no better guide to help Forager along than another under-utilized late-period Kirby creation, the one and only — well, shit, that would be telling, but for long-time fans of “The King” like myself, seeing him and his two sidekicks turn up and assume de facto “co-starring” roles is a genuine “fist-pump” moment, and offers the promise of mind-bending psychedelic adventures galore in the months ahead. Several other products of Jack’s boundless imagination come in for cameo appearances, as well, and the hope here is that they’ll play a more active part in the proceedings in future installments as we go. Forager, therefore, might be the nominal “star” of this title, but all signs seem to point to this comic being a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Allreds work with any number of Kirby characters they’ve always wanted to take a crack at. Now are you excited?
Good, old-fashioned fun is the primary Allred specialty, of course, and at this point I think we’re just flat-out spoiled by the consistent quality of everything they produce. Mike’s been at the game for going on three decades now, yet his art is just as dynamic, fluid, graceful, and “realistically cartoony” as it’s always been, and Laura’s colors are never anything less than vibrant, eye-catching, and expertly-chosen. Lee’s a bit of a lesser-known quantity than his relatives, true, but his style of scripting fits in seamlessly, and with the undeniable “Spirit Of Kirby” that permeates all that goes on here, it almost feels like calling this a “labor of love” is something of a disservice, simply because it doesn’t feel like a “labor” at all.
Thinking about this book, the only knock I can offer against it is that some of the first-person-narrative caption boxes on page one are printed far too faintly and are difficult to read in anything other than an extremely well-lit room, but honestly, that’s it : a frigging technical glitch. That’s all I got. Otherwise, this is as close to a perfectly-constructed comic as you’re gonna find. Get it. Read it. Love it. And know that Jack himself is surely smiling down on this heartfelt, amazing tribute.