by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
That this series riffs on the entirely of Jack Kirby’s DC work isn’t just a given — it’s a primary draw. And there’s plenty of work to touch upon. While this series is tangentially related to Kirby’s well-known Fourth World mythology, much of the focus has been on Kirby’s lesser-known DC creations. But what fascinates me about this issue isn’t just the presence of deep-cut characters like Atlas (and his vendetta against Hyssa the Lizard King), but that it does so while also making allusions to non-comics works. The effect is a densely literate work, as crystalline as the shards of “possible outcomes” that feature so prominently in this issue.
We might dismiss the issue’s title “Atlas Bugged” as an incidental pun, simply riffing on the names of the characters with no meaningful connection to Atlas Shrugged, but it’s only a page later that Hooligan the teddybear is paraphrasing Robert Frost.
It’s no coincidence that Hooligan is the most literate of the group — he’s in a position of power and knowledge throughout this issue, even if it seems like he can’t really move under his own volition. He knows what’s going to happen when, as if this were all already written down somewhere.
Which brings me back to those crystals. As Hooligan explains, they aren’t parallel universes, which are so probable they spring into existence naturally, but “possible outcomes,” which are so improbable that they have to be created artificially. That is: they’re works of fiction, which have somehow managed to manifest themselves in the very story we are reading. It’s a heady concept, but Hooligan reminds us not to “sweat the small stuff” — this issue may touch on the dense metaphysics of fiction, but it’s all in service of a light, irreverent romp through the Kirby-verse. Anything could happen, and that’s exactly the point.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?