I think it time that the hoary old chestnut that is Return of the Gods: Twilight Of The Super Heroes was cracked open again.
And how better than to re-post the review from Tales From The Kryptonian?
Black Tower Comics & Books
Black & White
RETURN OF THE GODS ( I just love the logo font on page 4 ) is a new paperback reprinting the complete saga that combines several story-lines into one big event. If this was published by DC, Marvel or any other of the bigger comic companies it would be one of those big summer crossovers with a gazillion spin off books to rack in the comic buyers hard earned samolians.
Now the question is, after ZEIT GEIST which was the big Infinite Crisis of Parallel Earths of the Black Tower universe – how can one possibly top that ? We had heroes from all german parallel universes uniting against a common threat and you really have to up the ante to go one step further.
In come the gods.
Now this idea is not the most original because everybody does that from DC with the WAR OF THE GODS crossover or the NEW GODS comics to Marvel´s various Greek, Norse, Celtic or Egyptian phanteons fighting with / against the superheroes who themselves are seen by some of new versions of the gods. There is even the current storyline MAYAN RULE in the HULK books written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Dale Eaglesham in which El Toro Rojo ( or Red Hulk as the gringos call him ) teams up with everyone´s favorite Canadian unkillable ( at least in the long term ) superhero team Alpha Flight against the returning old Mayan gods.
Everybody loves a good superhero vs gods / new gods vs old gods / good gods vs evil gods slobberknocker. Since some scholars say that Todays superhero comics are the sagas of the gods of the modern age it´s only natural to have the modern gods fight against the older gods. Especially when you have so many of the more popular gods like Odin, Thor, Herkules, Zeus, Pluto or Aphrodite in the pages of the comics anyway. Throughout pop culture and also practically in every culture there are stories of gods battling each other and one or two endtimes of the gods no matter if it´s called Armageddon or Götterdämmerung. It´s also one of the oldest genres of horror books, novels or comics, the old dark gods returning which was forever made immortal by horror icon Howard Phillip Lovecraft and his stories about the Necronomicon and Chthulu.
NOW IS THE TIME THE OLD GODS RETURN EXACTLY WHEN THE WORLD IS NOT EXPECTING IT
In our story heroes around the world disappear after being chased by glowing orange spheres – the world believes them dead but they have actually been transported to a huge walled city on a dimensional plane. The home of the gods.
Unknown to the heroes, they are pawns in a game by the gods to use them to fight of the return of the Ancient Old Gods. Of course it´s not as easy or else it wouldn´t be a Black Tower Comic so, just to add another wrinkle to it, while a big part of Earth´s heroes have been transported away an alien invasion is taking place and the remaining heroes have to fight this off. The hero community as well as world governments find their resources stretched on several fronts. Join BTCGs Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Singaporean, British and other international heroes where heroes DO die and death is final.
And oh boy, is it ever. Like SAVAGE DRAGON on steroids heroes are killed off left and right and I think the final body count is a few times that of the original SQUADRON SUPREME miniseries.
Which shocked me a bit because in this story you know they are not coming back and you wish you had gotten to know those heroes a bit better. Here death means something and will not be retconned in a few months or is just used to streamline continuity before the next reboot, here it all works together to tell one heck of a story and there´s no parachute under the seat. I mean on one side it is hard to see this many heroes kick the bucket and you wish there was a way to bring some of them back. On the other side I have to applaud the guts to not take the easy way out and make it a dream or have some allmighty entity bring everything back to the old Status Quo. And I think it´s a better story because in the end a lot of the heroes pay the ultimate price.
Of course there are also some funny parts in this and one of the things that has always been a mainstay of such big crossover events from CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS to SECRET WARS is the sheer number of heroes especially heroes you don´t know. I mean, the exciting parts were not to see the heroes you were familiar with but those heroes with the cool costume, the freaky superpowers and the weird back story you just wanted to find out more about. And in that department Terry Hooper surely delivers since you´re probably unfamiliar with most of the characters to which he adds his usual cosmopolitical input.
If it was a joy to read so many German superheroes in ZEIT GEIST here Terry Hooper has heroes from India, China, Russia, America, England, Afrika, heck, every part of the world. And he seems to create them effortlessly, which for me has always been the sign of true genius. Like we would say in Spain : Chupate esto, NEW 52.
Like I said in my review of D – GRUPPE ZEIT GEIST, the art may not be to everyones liking ( one of my brothers was very surprised to find me reading it ) but Terry Hooper manages to evoke the feeling of Silver Age heroes whose roots lie more in the pulp genre like the great classics without resorting to silly stereotypes or parody. If there´s one thing I wanted to critique is that on some pages Terry should be a bit bolder using blacks. Otherwise the art reminds me of the comics from the Golden Age which sometimes were drawn a bit crude ( you have to remember that a lot of the professional artists were drafted ) but still had a lot of energy and excitement. Which is one of the reasons why I´m recommending this book : excitement. When was the last time you read a comic that was exciting and all over the place and pure fun ?
I´m going out on a limb here but I think Terry just put everything he liked reading about in comics into this story. Otherwise I can´t explain the Tohuwabohu of comic characters and concepts in this one. You have the old gods, which are kind of Chtululike monsters with the necessary number of tentacle appendixes, you have the ” regular ” gods which include gods from every pantheon, Mayan, Egyptian, Greek, heck even Monkey King is in it. And then – on top of that – you have all the heroes which are all kind of pulp heroes, super heroes and teen heroes you could think of. Some reminded me of the heroes I read about in KOBRA like Mr. Arachnia who looks a lot like The Spider or Mark 13 who could be the next model of Archie, others seemed to be inspired by american heroes but all were kind of familiar yet different.
There are also different cultures fighting against each other for the amusement of the gods, so you have Romans fighting Mayans, Christians fighting Indians, Babylonians against Sumerians etc. Not to mention robots, cavemen, aliens, cowboys, goblins, vampires, zombies, talking apes, walking skeletons, Sasquatch, Gilgamesh, Merlin and even the monster of Frankenstein.
And of course there´s a second encounter with German heroes like Rotkäppchen ( Little Red Riding Hood never looked so hot in the Fairy Tale books I read as a kid ), Deutscher Michel, Kopfmann and Goldener Soldat from D – Gruppe. I still get a kick out of seeing german superheroes in a comic, since they killed off german X – Man Kurt Wagner. By the way, best clobbering of a god goes to The Hornet in the garden with a lead pipe.
You have also factor in that RETURN OF THE GODS started out as ” The Cosmic Fulcrum ” in about 1992, had various artists, stopped, started and the finished item was drawn in 2002 by Terry himself. So the art reflects that. Which is not to say there is not some very elaborate sideway splash page depictions of the various armies from different time periods going at it or any of the superhero teams charging. Or, one of my favorite splash pages, the magician ( I can´t find his name right now ) floating upside down in his sanctum sanctorum / shop with shelf upon shelf of stuff behind him. You can see case files, books about other Earths, Dr. Mabuse, Alice´s adventures in Wonderland and on parallel Earths, a book about Adam Eterno by a certain Terry Hooper, Big Jugs ( probably a book about drinking vessels ) various occult books, maps, tapes and magazines. There are even various bottles with ingredients for magic rituals labeled ” eye of Newt “, “horse testicles “, ” tongue of toad “, ” wings of Beetle”and “Not sure ! “.
And the book can be ordered online here: