BOOK REVIEW: Jack Kirby’s New Gods: Artist’s Edition HC

176 pages of groundbreaking artwork from Jack “King” Kirby, packaged in a gorgeous hardcover at its original size. What’s not to love?

In a career that began in the Golden Age of Comics, Kirby virtually kick-started the medium. He created (or co-created): Captain America, Manhunter, The Newsboy Legion, The Fantastic Four, Challengers of the Unknown, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk… the list goes on and on.

Now, for the first time ever, you can see Jack Kirby’s stunning originals in all their full-sized glory—You think you’ve seen Jack Kirby’s art before? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Artist’s Edition format, IDW have been getting access to the original artwork from some of the most legendary comic runs of all time, scanning them in at a high resolution (warts and all, from Tippex/WhiteOut to editorial notes) and then printing them in glorious hardcovers at their original size. What you get is something halfway between a graphic novel and a piece of art history, and whilst there’s no prose accompanying the work, the beautiful artwork speaks for itself.

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The time and effort that goes into sourcing, cleaning up and printing these books comes through in their price. The RRP for this volume in the UK is £145, which is serious money, so when I saw that a reputable book seller had new copies for just a shade over £50 on Amazon I couldn’t resist making my first foray into these collections.

The hardcover collects the entirety of the artwork for issues 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of Jack Kirby’s acclaimed 70s “Fourth World” New Gods series, with inks by Vince Colleta and Mike Royer. IDW claim that the paper chosen for the printing matches the original stock as closely as possible, and that’s easy to believe as it’s had a solid feel unlike any other collection I own. It’s a pretty immense book, dwarfing everything else that I own, other than the Wednesday Comics HC, which is a similar size if not as thick.027

The images themselves are high resolution colour scans of the originals (all bar 3 pages which couldn’t be sourced, and one page which is recreated by the original inker), and are as close to holding an original Kirby page as I ever expect to come; a quick Google showed that his original art sells for a minimum of a few thousands dollars per page. The guys scanning this in must have had some serious nerves.

I’ve read these issues before as part of DC’s Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus line of hardcovers, as this is really an art book I won’t talk about the plot and characters other than to say there’s a reason why Kirby’s work upon joining DC is still talked about 40 years later.

As you’d expect from an artist of such status the artwork is beautiful at the original scale, there’s one two-page splash in the 5th issue which is breathtaking, I sat gazing at it for a number of minutes just taking in all of the detail. The splash is somewhat over-used these days but 40 years ago I can only imagine the impact this must have had.

Initially I was a little disappointed that there’s so little of Kirby’s pencils in the book, whilst his work is still amazing when inked I had hoped to see some of it before brush and ink got to work! It makes sense as at the time this was originally created I believe the pencilled pages were physically handed over to the inker to do their work, unlike the modern “scan and send” approach. However at the end of the book there’s a gallery section which has a number of pencilled pieces as well as two fold-out pieces which measure about 34″ x 24″!

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I found the difference in the inking of the issues fascinating, the first issues are inked by Colleta who appears to make liberal use of correction fluid and seems to have a heavier hand. After his work I found the art blockier and somehow less graceful. Royer on the other hand appears to work incredibly cleanly, with hardly a correction and a much lighter use of inks.029

The scans appear to be a little cropped outside of the margins, there are a number of hand-written notes in blue-line that are truncated. You don’t lose any of the artwork but I was as interested in what this showed about the process as I was the art, so this was disappointing.

All in all I’m glad I got this book, but at the full price I think you’d have to be a real Kirby aficionado to go anywhere near it.

AUTHOR: Jack Kirby

PUBLISHER: IDW

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Dave W

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