Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Forever People 7: Find them in the "Once Was!"

"Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper." – Albert Einstein

The story starts with Highfather discussing the state the Forever People have found themselves in, and Kirby uses this chance to recap the premise ("A unit of young people has used the Boom Tube to go to Earth and tangle with Darkseid") and reinforces the designing principal of the series ("Darkseid raises his children to destroy and die!! You know that it’s our duty to provide the Alternative!"). With dialogue between Highfather and Esak, Kirby inserts references to beginnings and endings, preparing us for a story involving slow, patient inevitability. Highfather sends out "Alpha Bullets" to rescue the time-displaced Forever People, and the dejected but present-day-stranded Serifan.

Mark Moonrider and Beautiful Dreamer appear in Ford’s Theatre as An American Cousin is about to be performed. They don’t know it, but it’s 1865, and President Lincoln is about to be assassinated. Lincoln is an expeditious symbol of democratic communalism (well, maybe not to Southerners), but also of the struggle involved in an ideological war. Kirby even goes so far as to compare Highfather to Lincoln in the narration, and by giving both characters similar profile shots (Highfather’s expression is one of mock sternness, while Lincoln’s is one of weariness.)

Vykin has ended up in Florida around 1515 and is found by Spanish sailors who have deserted Ponce de Leon’s youth-fountain search party to look for gold. They’re interesting in that they’ve rejected a search for a mythical possibility, not unlike Glorious Godfrey’s disbelief in the Anti-Life Equation earlier in the series. Vykin agrees to take them to the gold they seek as they plot his murder.

Big Bear descends upon a band of Celtic warriors harassing the "pull-out" of Roman soldiers from Medieval England. Big Bear compares the Romans to Darkseid, saying that they "are his children." And to follow that comparison, the disorganized band of ineffective Celts are the children of what the Forever People stand for, as later it’s humorously revealed that these men will be the Knights of the Round Table.

In the Present, Glorious Godfrey and his Justifiers attack Serifan and the Super-Cycle, without much success. They then bomb the hilltop, causing an avalanche that covers the machine (though Serifan is swept away by the Alpha Bullet sent for him.) To dream mystics, avalanches are a symbol of positive change.

The Alpha Bullets find The Forever People at critical points in their time marooned in history. Moonrider and Beautiful Dreamer just miss stopping Lincoln’s assassination, Big Bear has just introduced the Celtics to their new king, and Vykin is about to fall down a collapsed mineshaft and/or be murdered. Both Big Bear and Vykin work under the delusion that the people who’re actually taking part in history are taking their time and place for granted. Big Bear treats the Celtics like rabble-rousers at a movie theater, while Vykin states that he "met some fools in a veritable ecological paradise—And all they wanted was gold!" In this way, they are taking the time and place they went to for granted. But Mark Moonrider is able to realize the gravity of what he tried to do in 1865 when he says, "We tried to save a man from---History." In other words, he wouldn’t have saved Lincoln from an assassin, but from everything in the history of the world that led to that moment.

Finally, Serifan is shown to have ended up in present-day Japan where he collects Mother Box, which has been waiting for centuries in a Buddhist temple for him to pick it up. It appears that Sonny Sumo was not rescued (or perhaps denied himself rescue) so he could live among the poor in ancient Japan. Instead of living the life of a samurai, he became a monk and farmer, fulfilling both his individualist desires and communal needs.

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