Young Gods & Friends
by Barry Windsor-Smith
(Fantagraphics, 2003)

My evaluation of the re-release of Barry Windsor-Smith's Young Gods is as confused and directionless as was the original comic book series.

By Smith's own admission, his title was a homage to legendary comic-book artist Jack Kirby, who was best known for a wealth of imagination, action-packed melodramatic epics and for co-creating most of the characters still published by Marvel Comics. In particular, Young Gods is a particle of Kirby's Thor (from Marvel Comics) and New Gods (from DC Comics).

So does the admittedly pretty packaging of this new hardback collection contain treasure or trash?

In my opinion, Kirby was a much better artist, plotter and "idea-man" than a writer. So when he wrote, "The dialogue is terrible! But they mean every word of it!" (Mister Miracle, 1971), he was right about his own work and Young Gods as well. As a writer, Kirby was also known for his fast pace, tight plots and characterization. Something was always happening in a Kirby comic book.

As a Young Gods writer, Windsor-Smith's self-proclaimed character-driven story also wandered aimlessly for too many pages. Having these serialized stories collected into one volume doesn't seem to improve the flow.

So is his meandering, purple prose and stilted dialogue homage to Kirby or simply Smith at his best? I don't know; I am unfamiliar with anything else Windsor-Smith has written.

As an artist, Windsor-Smith's style is inherently different from Kirby's and, admitting that art preference is subjective, simply outstrips the former "King of Comics." Both have their own internal logic, but Windsor-Smith is better at anatomy and his characters don't assume melodramatic, stiff poses like Kirby's. And yet, after all of my criticisms are written and done, I still like Jack Kirby and Barry Windsor-Smith's Young Gods.

Don't get mad at me. I warned you this review would be confused and directionless.

- Rambles
written by Michael Vance
published 21 August 2004

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