by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
How do we characterize a remix? As a self-aware riff on whatever work is being remixed, it feels somewhat postmodern, but in my mind, remixes don’t necessarily share the skepticism and ironic distance we associate with postmodernism. Indeed, many remixes might be better understood as reverent tributes to their source material, taking what I’d argue is a decidedly romantic approach: offering an unabridged window into how the remixer sees a given work of art (or entire oeuvre). I was first struck by this idea when listening to The Beatles’ Love, which feels very much like bouncing around inside a Beatles fan’s head, but it came back in a big way as I read Bug! The Adventures of Forager 2, an issue that takes the same approach to comics mythology (both DC’s and others).
Last month, Patrick and I talked a lot about how the series riffs on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, but also tied it into a larger “Kirbyverse,” and it’s that latter theme that is on full display in this issue. Forager lands in WWII, smack in the middle of an issue of The Losers, a deeper cut of Kirby’s time at DC. An even deeper cut is Kirby’s association with the Blue Beetle, which apparently happened not only before the character was part of the DC universe, but even before the character was owned by Charlton Comics. These are characters that never could have interacted under Kirby’s pen, but have managed to find their way back to one another in the DC universe as conceived by Lee, Michael, and Laura Allred.
True to the remix aesthetic, the issue is a bit of a fever dream of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them references (was that Deadman’s dad?), all held together with a plot that is entirely linear, but somehow feels incredibly shaggy. Part of that comes from the logical leaps Forager is able to make in head (often to the surprise of his scene partners), but another is the way Michael Allred crams little mini-narratives onto the page. Check out the way he intercuts between General Electric’s arrival at the mine and Forager spying on him.
Those circular panels at the beginning and end of this page give us some spatial context, but the cut to Forager in the middle of the page is less about what is immediately happening, and more about tying this issue to the previous one. Even at its most disjointed, this series is about its interconnections. We’re reading the map of the inside of a Kirby fan’s brain (or at least the DC side of it) — it’s all connected, even if we can’t yet see how.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
This comic is an absolute trip for someone like me, since I have not only almost no knowledge of the kirbyverse (I picked up volume one of the Fourth World Omnibus from the library after issue 1, but I’m still only halfway through) but also, since I’m primarily a Marvel guy, almost no context for DC at all – I can count on one hand the number of comics I’ve read from the Distinguished Competition. I started buying this book out of sheer love for anything and everything Allred, and I’m glad I did, even if I can’t make head or tail of, well, pretty much any of it. If anything I feel like not being worried about following continuity or catching references freed me up to just enjoy the art and – especially – the writing in this issue. Bug’s voice is so distinctive, Mike Allred never disappoints with his artwork, and I think I would be remiss not to mention the always outstanding coloring from Laura Allred, who seems to have accessed the forbidden palletes unattainable by any other colorist in comics. I even have to praise the sound-effects lettering: how great is “Swap! Fix! Replace! Discard!” when Bug assembles the Mother Box, or “Bounce off! Dropped!” when General Electric takes a domino to the face and loses his gun? Anyway, even if this is the only DC book I’ll buy this…ever, I can’t heap enough praise on the Allred clan for being the only ones able to pull my attention over to ‘the other shelf.’
Most of this stuff is over my head, too — I had to do a bit of digging to confirm that these were all characters Kirby worked on. Mike Allred has been doing covers for DC for a while, but I think it’s interesting that his recent career seems to parallel that of Jack Kirby, working on series like FF and Silver Surfer at Marvel before doing some even weirder stuff over at DC. Obviously, that summary does a disservice to both Allred and Kirby’s much more complicated careers, but it’s kind of there if you squint.
Got to say, I’d love to see Allred break away from Kirby a bit. Kirby is a legend, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, in any medium (and played a key role in a CIA operation during the during the Iran Hostage Crisis, fascinatingly). But with Allred being slightly hyperbollically called the second coming of Kirby, I’d love to see him reflect one of Kirby’s best traits, his imagination. Kirby was the creator of an entire genre (romance comics), a major architect of the Marvel Universe, then went off to create an even more imaginative story in the DC Universe. I’d love to see more of that.
iZombie is one of the best comic book TV shows on TV, and one thing I love is how it celebrates Allred’s art. One of the very few comic book adaption that takes effort to celebrate the artist and the style of the original material. And the original comic is a great reminder of how imaginative Allred can be when not riffing directly on Kirby. His approach on horror tropes, going so far to even approach cosmic horror, in the original iZombie was imaginative and incredible.
The Kirby influence will always be there, but it would be awesome to see him use that influence on something other than Kirby itself. FF, Silver Surfer and Bug are very reliant on the original Kirby source material, but if Allred really is the second coming of Kirby, I would love to see him use those talents on something else. As great as FF and Silver Surfer are, there is part of me that really feels Allred is at his best when he isn’t riffing on Kirby, but doing what Kirby did. Blazing a unique and weird trail, putting his distinctive mark on everything and creating something unlike anything else. To me, I can’t but but love his work on iZombie more than his recent Kirby riffs for Marvel.
Be like Kirby. More books like iZombie, please