By: Greg Pak (story), Paulo Siqueira & Netho Diaz (art), Hi-Fi (colors)

The Story: This is the rags-to-riches story of a little fella named Darkseid.

The Review: It’s been a while since the Fourth World had anything like an ongoing series, but they remain one of DC’s most important properties.  Its cosmic mythology weaves in well with the science fiction of superheroes, yet also has an epic, high-fantasy quality that makes the DCU seem that much more profound.  The mystery of the New Gods’ goals and their very nature is what keeps them above the comparatively petty going-ons of the rest of the universe.

So it’s kind of a double-edged sword when writers start delving too deeply into the Fourth World mythos.  It might satisfy our hunger to know more about them, but it also risks reducing them to just another plot device for the DCU.  Indeed, characters like Madame Xanadu, the Phantom Stranger, and the Guardians of the Universe all devolved into less impressive figures as a result of revealing too much about them.  For that reason, it was probably a mistake to force Pak to explore the origins of Darkseid, which is obviously tied to the origins of the Fourth World itself.

You don’t have any problem accepting Darkseid’s humble beginnings as a “mud grubber named Uxas,” but you do take issue with how shallow Pak characterizes him even at this point.  Only once does he reveal a bare flicker of dimension, in a shouted warning to his sister Via and brother-in-law Izaya to take cover from the Old Gods’ merrymaking, but after that, Pak is content to let Uxas be the ruthless, evil being we all love to hate today.

Even more frustrating is how Pak leaves so many points open-ended, especially since we have no idea when we’ll ever have an opportunity to revisit them.  For one thing, it would’ve been valuable to learn more about the Old Gods first before disposing of them within a few pages.  They really are just means to an end here, a convenient source for Darkseid and Highfather’s powers, no more.  Their passing is thus straightforward, bland, and forgettable.

Maybe this is all just part of the New Gods’ powerful, yet basic, makeup.  As embodiments of fundamental forces, perhaps they’re not meant to ever be as complicated as mere mortals are.  And there is something interesting about the “final blessing” Izaya receives from the “Lord of the Sky,” the only named Old God in the issue.  The dying divinity expresses no remorse or reflection for his past actions or present predicament, and although his transformation of Izaya into Highfather seems like a benevolent moment, it can be just as easily interpreted as a god’s final revenge against the one who caused his death.

Ultimately, this issue doesn’t reveal much insight into Darkseid, even if we do get a perturbing last-page reveal of an ongoing plan involving Supermen from across the Multiverse.  It may have been more accurate to name this one-shot “Kaiyo” instead, since we learn more about her than we do her pursuer.  I’ve speculated that Kaiyo may be this daughter of Darkseid we’ve heard so much about, and Pak does throw in a few lines that could support the theory.  Darkseid comments to Kaiyo, “I was so like you in my day.  You know my mind.  But then again, I know yours.”  Doesn’t that hint at an intimacy between the two that could be familial?

Perhaps this issue would have been more successful had the art conveyed the sophistication and grandeur you’d expect from the Fourth World.  But between Siquiera and Diaz, we get mostly your usual DC house art, especially in the latter half of the issue.  While the art is pleasantly shaped, the storytelling is bland and uninspired, interrupted by the occasional pinup-worthy image, like the births of Darkseid and Highfather.  Hi-Fi’s colors are bright and vivacious, but prone to running all together in a dizzying way.

Conclusion: A very simple, unambitious rendering of the Fourth World and its most famous villain, with similarly simple, unambitious art.  Honestly, you sort of preferred it when you knew less about the New Gods.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – In a business where grammatical and spelling errors are rare, it doesn’t look good when the few defects seem to come from the same person.  In the last five months alone, I’ve read two comics with such errors from letterer Dezi Sienty, and now you can add this issue to the list.  Apparently, he can’t tell whether Highfather’s name is spelled “Izaya” or “Ixaya.”  Not that this is the bottom line or anything, but Wikipedia says it’s Izaya.