I’ve always loved John Byrne’s work, as long as I can remember. Even when I was little and not paying much attention to creator names, it was his issues of MARVEL TEAM-UP that were always my favorites. Through his epic run on FANTASTIC FOUR, and then SUPERMAN, back to Marvel for books like SHE-HULK and AVENGERS, John Byrne’s name on a cover has always been pretty much a guaranteed buy for me. And in recent years, the same has held true. I thought Byrne’s STAR TREK comics were some of the best IDW published, and his recent return to NEXT MEN, while darker than I expected, showed the confidence and skill of an artist still at the top of his game.
While digging through the last 15 years’ worth of comics for reasons too pedestrian to get into, I discovered this lost John Byrne gem that is most definitely worthy of greater acclaim than it got at the time: DARKSEID VS. GALACTUS: THE HUNGER.
Released in 1995 at the height of the DC/Marvel crossover mania, this book didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved, which is a shame, since it’s one of the best-constructed crossover books ever done, and one that fits seamlessly into the continuities of both the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe (well, at least until next week) without disturbing a thing. The characterizations of both the DC and Marvel characters are right on the money, and it’s got a simple concept that’s downright irresistible: “What if Galactus tried to eat Apokolips?”
The Silver Surfer and Galactus and Darkseid and the New Gods are two of Jack Kirby’s greatest concepts, if not the best, and it’s clear here that Byrne has unbounded affection for them, treating them like the treasures they are. Byrne takes advantage of the opportunity to draw his own versions of famous moments in the characters’ backstories, such as the creation of New Genesis and Apokolips…
By the way, in case you had any doubt that Byrne was doing an old-school Kirby Galactus, note that his Galactus here is even wearing shorts, just as Galactus originally did in his first Lee/Kirby appearance.
Byrne does a great job of making Darkseid feel like a worthy adversary to someone as powerful as Galactus, such as in this moment when Darkseid animates the very face of his planet, and wills it to attack.
In a chilling detail, some of Darkseid’s subjects can be seen falling to their deaths as the very ground rise up beneath them.
It’s not often you actually see Galactus taking a physical beating, which again helps to elevate Darkseid to Galactus’ level.
Of course, it’s not just Galactus and Darkseid mixing it up: soon others join the fray, namely Galactus’ herald the Silver Surfer and Darkseid’ estranged son Orion, who refuses to allow his father to be killed, over the objections of Highfather and the other New Gods.
For Kirby fans, this book is full of moments you never expected to see, like Orion and the Surfer fighting for the first time:
…or the Surfer driving off the Black Racer:
…or maybe best of all, Darkseid unleashing the Omega Effect on Galactus.
The story wraps up elegantly with a solution so obvious, I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me from the start. DARKSEID VS. GALACTUS: THE HUNGER is Byrne at his best, spinning new tales from the Marvel and DC mythologies that feel as if they belong right on the shelf next to the Lee and Kirby originals. If you can’t track down the original, you can also find it in the DC/MARVEL CROSSOVER CLASSICS trade. Well worth the effort, says me.
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