Kirby's Late Period

2001: A Space Odyssey #3-4

2001: A Space Odyssey #3

"Marak!"/"Wheels of Death!"

Written and drawn by Jack Kirby
Inked and lettered by Mike Royer
Colored by George Roussos & Glynis Wein

One man's sense of destiny sparks a revolution in the early dawn of time! Is it an accident of history — or the plan of an alien intelligence? All we know is that somehwere, at some date in the distant past — someone rode the wheels of death!

2001 #3 starts off with a typical Kirby splash...

2001: A Space Odyssey #3, pages 2-3

2001: A Space Odyssey #3, p. 2-3

Now that's chaos. If the drawing has a fault, however, it's that the composition is too chaotic — other than the airborne figure, there's really no unifying direction to the composition. Even the spotting of blacks doesn't help separate the picture planes. What could really help would be a better coloring job — by muting the colors on the background figures the foreground would come into much sharper focus.

In the distant past, a warlord named Marak encounters an inventor named Egel. Egel's latest discovery — bronze — would greatly assist Marak's conquest, and so Marak suggests they team up. Unsure, Egel consults the Monolith — and is surprised when it accepts Marak as well. Drawn into the world of the Monolith, Marak is given a vision of the far future and the fabled queen Jalessa..

Egel and Marak work tirelessly, creating numerous inventions such as armor, swords, and the wheel, and ultimately Marak's army marches through the gates of Jalessa's kingdom. Marak and Jalessa marry, and history is made (though I'm not exactly sure how).

In the future, Marak's descendant Herbert Marik is the military commander of a scientific outpost. When the outpost is struck by a meteor swarm, he sends the crew to safety and remains behind to meet his death. But the outpost's sensors detect the Monolith floating in the middle of the swarm, he goes out to investigate — and is sucked inside. There, the Monolith presents him with an idealized fantasy world — but Marik doesn't age and doesn't become a star child.

These issues mark Kirby's first departures from his 2001 formula. While the changes are a breath of fresh air, they actually wind up making the issue even more maddening. Because Marak's story is given so much space to breathe (27 pages) it seems strange that it's not really about a momentous development in humankind's past and it makes the Marik story (7 pages) seem even more rushed and incomplete. Marik's non-transformation actually makes a good point about great men — that many of them are not great on their own terms, but in how they inspire others — but it changes the end of the story from a climax to an anticlimax.

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