Review: Kirby Genesis #1

The worlds of Jack Kirby collide with our own, as Kirby Freeman tries to make sense of it all.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Kirby Genesis #1 is unquestionably a love letter to the works of Jack Kirby. But I'm starting to wonder if there's a little too much Kirby in this book. I mean, even the main character's name is Kirby!

But the first issue also follows the Jack Kirby trope of a lot fantastic things happening with little to no explanation behind them. And it makes for a disjointed reading experience.

In Kirby Genesis #0, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross laid out the premise that a piece of artwork created by Jack Kirby was attached to the Pioneer 10 space probe; which then passed through the universe where it was ultimately discovered by powerful beings that reshaped themselves to look like the man and the woman in Kirby's drawing. Along the way, the probe also briefly encountered a lot of characters that were independently created by Jack Kirby outside of Marvel and DC. 

As a preview, it was effective. But we actually got more of an explanation about who those Kirby characters were from the back material of #0 than in either issue of Kirby Genesis. Concepts and characters like Captain Victory and Galaxy Green are dropped into our laps without any real attempt to flesh them out. It's almost as if Busiek and Ross expect us to know who they are going into the story instead of giving them a proper introduction to readers.

Instead, the book focuses on Kirby Freeman, a young man in college with his lifelong friend, Bobbi Cortez. Kirby's a lot like Shia Labeouf from the Transformers movies, if not quite as annoying. Presumably, Kirby is going to play a major role in this story, but Busiek and Ross seem to be taking their time getting to that point. For the most part, there's just no immediacy to Kirby's role until the final pages. Even that felt tacked on as opposed to a natural progression of events.

Kirby himself seems like a likable guy. However, Busiek uses a bizarre (and frankly, off-putting) narrative device that sees Kirby actually stop the action as he turns to address the audience about his backstory with Bobbi. It's one of those "only in comics" moments in which Kirby almost seems aware that he exists within a story. The artwork in that flashback sequence is actually an amusing mixture of Peanuts and Archie; which was enjoyable on its own. But the way the flashback was set up feels like a very lazy writing decision. If Kirby is going to make a habit of shooting the s*** with the audience, I'm probably going to check out of this story early.

The greatest upside to Kirby Genesis #1 is the art by Jackson Herbert under Ross' layouts. Herbert's style is very crisp and as the flashback sequence demonstrates, he can change it up according to the needs of the story. On a pure visual level, this book is stunning. The only drawback to the art is that Ross occasionally paints a few characters in over Herbert's pencils. And those painted characters are depicted with such garish colors that it's difficult to even look at them.

After spending several pages introducing us to Kirby and Bobbi, the rest of the book focuses on the arrival of the two alien beings who resemble Jack Kirby's Pioneer artwork and the subsequent visitations from the rest of the Kirby character catalog. As mentioned earlier, the introductions are done in such a haphazard way that we don't really care about any of them.

The end of the issue does give Kirby a personal stake in the events as something happens to Bobbi. That page in particular was the best fusion of Ross' paints with Herbert's finished art. I can't say that what happens to Bobbi makes a lot of sense within the context of what we've seen, but if it moves the story forward than it can only be an improvement to the pace we've seen so far.

At this point, my main interest in this book is the art. I'm hoping that the story will come together before the end of the miniseries, but as a standalone read, Kirby Genesis #1 is unfulfilling.