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Book Review: Jack Kirby the Epic Life of the King of Comics (2020)

Jack Kirby is the single greatest comic book creator that ever lived. Period, full fuckin’ stop. You can disagree of course, and of course you would be wrong… I mean come the hell on; the dude created The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, and most importantly to me, The X-Men, and roughly eleven-billionty others (including the genius of his New Gods work for DC, and creations for animation)… and his place in history is well-and-duly preserved, not to mention his influence on modern cinema with all of those Marvel flicks comin’ out every 15 seconds (well they were before the world temporarily turns upside down).

So that brings us to Jack Kirby the Epic Life of the King of Comics; the new four-color opus from Tom Scioli (American Barbarian, G.I. Joe vs. Transformers, Go-bots, and Fantastic Four Grand Design to name a few), a genius-level creator in his own right… and one of my all-time favorite artists around today, who (not) coincidentally has a great neo-Kirby style all of his own!

Over the course of a couple hundred pages, Scioli takes us through the entirety of Kirby’s life… full on womb to grave stuff, ya dig? And what a life it was cats n’ creeps…

Kirby’s tale takes us from the hard scrabble streets of Depression-era New York City (not to mention high-above it in a wild plane ride), to the nightmares of World War II, to the Marvel Bullpen… and beyond, all with equal aplomb as each victory and defeat of Kirby’s life is put under a microscope and laid bare with a joy and verve (even in the shit times) that makes the pugnacious Kirby the ultimate everyman… albeit an insanely talented one… that we can all easily root and cheer for… and believe you me, you will… hell, you may even shed a tear or two (I know I did).

Adding to the mix is a near-Shakespearean level villain in the form of Stan Lee; a talented, if childish, writer that hogs all the glory of he and Kirby’s collaborations, and sits upon a “throne” he didn’t earn on his own no matter what he claims… and is ill-equipped to rule over on his own… but his hubris says otherwise. It’s a daring take on the beloved icon, but is ultimately (and easily proven) true nonetheless.

Of course as amazing as Kirby’s life was, this tome will succeed based on how effective the art that accompanies the story is, and  Scioli is more than up to the task as he takes us from concrete valley of NYC, to war-torn Europe, to suburbia, to the plastic fantastic of ’80s California… not to mention how he portrays the man himself (portraying him as an eternally youthful and wide-eyed child-like dreamer… even if the mirror shows us the truth of a man who has seen true evil, but still has the heart to imagine fantastic, and beautiful worlds and places that would be right at home in the mind of dreaming children).

To sum it up: this is a masterwork from Scioli, and serves as both love letter to a hero, and document of a creative tour de force that refused to give up the imagination of a child no matter what sort of horror and dirty pool life threw at him.

 

 

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