Out of all the New Gods that received a New 52 makeover, I think it’s fair to say that Highfather had it worse. Sure, Orion was transformed into what was essentially Cosmic Guy Gardner in the Azzarello/Chiang Wonder Woman run, and Darkseid suddenly gained both a taste for surprisingly colorful costuming and shoulders that apparently belonged to Ben Grimm, but Highfather…? He went from kindly old pacifist granddad to a militarized, haughty patrician who showed disdain for almost all around him. (Thanks, once again, Brian Azzarello; this, too, was a Wonder Woman reboot.)
Fueled by something approaching excitement for Justice League‘s current “Darkseid War” storyline — which, in many ways, feels like Geoff Johns purposefully trying to retrofit a bunch of Grant Morrison concepts into the current DCU (Both the prologue’s Multiversity-like backstory for the DCU, and also the death of Darkseid, which was of course a plot point of Final Crisis‘s finale, although it had already happened in other places by that point, of course) while channeling his own Blackest Night — I’ve found myself revisiting other Fourth World appearances in what was once called the New 52. There’s been a handful of them; Wonder Woman, Justice League, Infinity Man and the Forever People, the Earth 2 and Earth 2: World’s End stuff… and, most interestingly of all, Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead.
There’s a lot about Godhead — a crossover that ran through Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Sinestro and Red Lanterns last year, with pretty inessential tie-ins in Infinity Man and the Forever People (It was, to be honest, a pretty inessential series, all told; the loss of Keith Giffen on art by the book’s second issue took too much of the momentum and goodwill away too early) — that is likely to turn off Kirby purists, on first glance. For one thing, it’s a story that’s based fairly explicitly on the idea that Highfather and his followers are bad guys, albeit villains with good intentions; it’s also a story that binds the Green Lantern mythology even tighter to the New Gods mythology, by defining the “light energy” that powers the rings as the literal opposite of the Anti-Life Equation, only to see Highfather harness it and call it, duh, the Life Equation.
(Other purists might be upset to see so many new New Gods introduced in the storyline, crowding out old favorites; outside of Highfather, Orion and Metron, it’s predominantly new characters who get the most time on panel, with a few glimpses of Bekka or Lightray for brief cameos. I’m actually okay with this, in large part because newcomers like Malhedron — a former soldier from Apokolips who’s defected to New Genesis — feel more classically Kirby in tone than the contemporary Orion, say.)
More than anything, though, Godhead feels like a story that existed as a course correction for the way the New Gods had been treated by the New 52 up to that point; it’s not giving anything away to say that Highfather doesn’t succeed in using the Life Equation to defeat Darkseid —instead, he comes to realize that, hey, he’s become Darkseid through his obsession with winning the war. (A war that, notably, Darkseid doesn’t seem to care about at all; note that the majority of his appearances have seen a distinct lack of commentary about Highfather one way or another. I love the idea that Highfather is obsessed with an enemy that doesn’t even think about him at all, but that might just be me.) This allows him to turn back at the last moment and maybe, just maybe, start to become the benevolent old duffer that we know from Kirby’s original comics. Albeit one that looks decades younger, because of course. In many ways, this could be looked at as Highfather: Year Zero, if whoever writes the character next decides to take him in a more traditional direction.
Whether that next writer will be Geoff Johns is unclear; “The Darkseid War” so far continues the strange trend of keeping Apokolips and New Genesis separate, for whatever reason. I’d like to think that there are, somewhere, plans are afoot to bring the two together, ideally in a New Gods series of some sort, now that the mythology has been thoroughly seeded throughout the rest of the DCU, but that’s optimism more than experience talking. For now, I’ll take Godhead and The Darkseid War and like them, relatively safe in the knowledge that it’s the best I’ll be getting any time soon.
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