Comic Book Review – Genesis

Genesis (1997)
Written by John Byrne
Art by Ron Wagner

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The power levels of Earth’s metahumans has suddenly begun to fluctuate and send the planet into chaos. It’s revealed that the Godwave is responsible, a force of energy that was born at the start of our universe and is now retracting back to its origins, The Source Wall. This means the denizens of New Genesis aid our heroes against the forces of Apokolips. Darkseid seeks to harness the power of the Godwave for his nefarious purposes. So what we have are a bunch of heroes crowded into different rooms and then confusing action set pieces.

Genesis has to be the most forgettable DC Universe event they produced in the 1980s and 90s. While Millennium remains confusing and terrible, Genesis reaches new levels of generic-ness. In my review of Legends, I noted that the key to making the Fourth World concepts work in the broader context of the DC Universe was not making them direct physical threats, rather ideological ones. Glorious Godfrey whipping the public into a frenzy against superheroes provided a more exciting story thematically than a single invasion force from Apokolips. However, in Genesis, and the current DCU, Darkseid, and his minions have been reframed into another set of beat-em-up targets.

Instead of trying to break this garbage fire down by its terrible plot beats, I’d instead talk about how I might plot a line-wide event that focused on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, something that has surprisingly not been done too much in the DC Universe.

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I would choose to make the “gods” part of New Gods the focus. Grant Morrison partially did this during his Seven Soldiers/Final Crisis run introducing elements like the Crime Bible and having organized crime almost form a religion around the ideas of Darkseid’s Anti-Life philosophy. If given a chance, I would reboot the Fourth World from the ground up, the heroes of DC have never encountered them before. Suddenly, an envoy from New Genesis arrives on Earth and humanity reacts with a strangely hypnotic devotion. Highfather immediately becomes a guru figure to masses seeking meaning to their lives, flanked by Orion and Lightray who represent two opposing takes on these humans.

I’d take some cues from Netflix’s Wild, Wild Country and have a massive commune move to a remote area, maybe somewhere like Montana or the Dakota. The U.S. government is getting extremely paranoid to have an alien force suddenly grow roots in the country without a sought of seeking permission from them. Heck, even have a scene where the president meets with Highfather or attempts but is blown off because Highfather is more interested in connecting with the ordinary people and sees through artificial positions of power. Also, the character will go by his given name Izaya, the moniker Highfather will be something the humans begin to call him. At some point, Amanda Waller sends the Suicide Squad into Highfather’s compound to gather intel and kidnap one of Highfather’s lieutenants. This leads to the first big fight with Orion and an accurate display of his potential destructive power. Highfather fails to contain the darker side of Orion, and many of the commune members are killed in the crossfire.

Meanwhile, The Forever People are reimagined like an Occupy/Resistance group. They have a strong presence on the East Coast inciting youth rebellions and not just non-violent ones. These young gods of New Genesis are targeting groups that promote hateful rhetoric and corporations that gleefully exploit the masses. Think of them like super-powered AntiFa. We don’t want the story told from their point of view, so possibly some of the Teen Titans get caught up in their movement while the rest of the team is emphatically against this. Maybe Starfire could tell tales her people have about these mysterious religious people that travel across the universe with the stories intermingling both the New Genesis and Apokolips groups. It will eventually become clear that the Forever People are searching for something which will be revealed as THE Mother Box. I would reimagine the concept so that there is only one Mother Box and this is akin to the genetic codex from Man of Steel. It holds the essential elements of all life in the universe as well as a psychic history of reality that can be downloaded into a holder’s mind. The Mother Box could be contained inside the secretive Cadmus Project in Metropolis which allows us to incorporate Kirby creations like The Golden Guardian, Dubbliex, and Dabney Donovan.

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Morgan Edge is a media mogul in Metropolis who runs Edge News (a very transparent Fox News analog) which is promoting an extremely negative spin on the arrival of these “new gods.” They play to a very Judeo-Christian audience, and the storyline would provide plenty of fodder for even the readers to question the real motives behind these visitors. Also if someone has read all the Fourth World material, I want to flip many expectations for them. What the readers learn about Edge after awhile is that he is a devotee of the Crime Bible, a tome that we learn is popping up across the globe in the clutches of people and groups like Kobra, Intergang, HIVE, and Black Mask. Some villains scoff at this new cult with The Joker being one of course because he’s too chaotic to follow any organized religion. Lex Luthor is way too independent to devote himself to another (a big flaw of Zack Snyder’s Bats vs. Supes). Gorilla Grodd and Vandal Savage are intelligent enough to exploit the growing devotion to the Crime Bible and use it to sway large groups of people to work for them.

Also, then another smaller ship arrives on Earth. It crashes in Metropolis Harbor, and this alerts Highfather who dispatches Orion and Lightray with hints they know who might be on-board. Big Barda emerges, and Orion recognizes her as an enemy, and a battle begins. Of course, the Justice League intervenes, still not knowing whose side they are on. A second passenger emerges during the fight, Mister Miracle and when Superman and Wonder Woman can calm down both parties, Miracle tells his story of escaping from a gulag on a distant planet turned into an engine of hate by the power of Anti-Life. He also explains that the Anti-Life armada is heading to Earth, that they seek to kill Highfather and swing the balance of belief to their side. Highfather will reveal the real story behind his motives on Earth; that there is an eternal war fought between the power of New Genesis and Anti-Life. Some planets have fallen and had their cores transformed so that they are now balls of magma and fire where their populations have become enslaved. Others have followed the teachings of Highfather and are working towards achieving greater enlightenment.

There is a near-simultaneous worldwide event that occurs after Mister Miracle can explain what happened. The growing number of followers of the Crime Bible become overwhelmed by a dark power that emerges from within them. They are physically transformed into inhuman creatures, essentially parademons with one directive: to overrun all defenses the Earth has to combat invaders. They are paving the way for the arrival of the Anti-Life armada and Darkseid. However, Darkseid has transcended this reality and isn’t a physical being. He’s and Anti-Life are now one in the same, and he uses the influences of hate and prejudice to grow his power. So the battle, much like The Final Night, becomes one of humanity vs. nature or ideology, with heroes and villains falling to either side. Honestly, anything would have been better than John Byrne’s Genesis.

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