I admit I am walking down hollowed halls with a good deal of trepidation, for today I tamper with the King. I've avoided messing with characters from Jack Kirby's Fourth World for a few weeks now, but with only 20 titles left in my reboot, I need to get started sooner rather than later lest I run out of space. I love Kirby's later works for the gonzo "fuck it, let's do this" pacing of his stories and weird concepts that seem to be half-based on pop psychology and half based on fever dreams.
Of the original Fourth World set, Mister Miracle was the longest running. This something I've always found odd as Miracle (and don't hate me for this - you'll have plenty of time to hate me when I get around to the Legion, that other hallowed DC setting subset) always felt like a pretty weak character to me. Yeah, I get that he's the heir to a planet and all, but his escape ability always sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Death traps are pretty common in the superhero world and of course the guy whose name is on the cover will probably be escaping them without coming to permanent harm, so why make a guy whose power is essentially that? It'd be like calling Batman "Winning Man" and giving him the power of always being victorious. Yeah, we know Batman will win in the end, but we don't want it spelled out on the page, yanno?
So instead of Scott Free let's focus on his beloved, Big Barda. At the start of Barda (#33/52), she's still the leader of the Female Furies, that elite group of Darkseid's enforcers tasked with their master's bidding by Granny Goodness. Unlike some of her subordinates, she's not in the job for the ability to cause pain or subjugate others, she's in it for the fight, for the testing of her mettle against others. Working for a monster like Darkseid does not bother her so much - she knows that those fighting for something that the believe in, something they're willing to die for, will put up the best fight possible. She enjoys struggle and conflict and head-to-head clashes.
Until one day, when Barda learns the Dark Secret at the Heart of Apokolips, something that Darkseid is willing to kill one of his most valuable assets for in order to keep it on the down-lo. I'll spoil it now, though. Forgive me, my dark lord!
So you know how Apokolips' most defining feature are the giant firepits? Well, it turns out that Darkseid's ongoing pogrom of shoveling Lowlies into them to keep the fires going, thus powering his planet's dread technologies, is just a ruse. There is another power source chained down deep in the bowels of the planet. In a way, I guess you could say it's one of the Old Gods, but it's not Thor or Mercury or Quetzalcoatl or anything. It's a being like ones we've seen before back in the one of the Green Lantern entries, a Lovecraftian Outer God, captured by Darkseid and held captive. Just as the Council of Oa uses the Lanterns' rings to bleed off Ion's power, the jets of energy that spurt forth from Apokolips bleed off the Captive's.
Darkseid definitely does not want word of the Captive getting out. Not only does it breech some peace accord with New Genesis, but it would bring the Lanterns right to his door (He knows their secret). Darkseid simply is not ready to square off against the combined might of New Genesis and the Lanterns, plus whatever other allies they bring with them. While he can harness the Captive's power to fuel his technology, he doesn't quite know how to simulate the Lanterns' rings yet. And besides, would he really share that sort of power? This is Darkseid we're talking about.
Instead, Darkseid is going for a larger game, one that Barda stumbles on to. He's looking for a way to control these Entities - the Captive, Ion, Parallax, and even the "sentient" one known as Nekron (he's our Nyarlathotep)- and bend them to his will. How will he do that? Say it with me, brothers and sisters:
The Anti-Life Equation.
That the Anti-Life Equation can also be used to control normal sentient beings is a nice plus. "Living under the control of another isn't living, man" is also a pretty good cover as to why the equation is called that. But really, the Entities are anti-life, they're stuff that was left over from the moment of creation, bits of Void forced into forms and driven mad because of it. The equation would give Darkseid control over all of them, not just the Captive, but Ion and the rest too. That's Universal End Game stuff right there.
So Barda sees something she should see. She doesn't quite understand what she saw, the scope of it coming up as Scene Missing in her memories, but the knowledge of Darkseid's plan is definitely locked in there. This way we can stretch out the discovery of the Entities across the Drewniverse. Basically, Barda sees the Truth And Everything, blacks out, and when she wakes up, her boss is now trying to kill her.
Barda then has to escape from Apokolips, a task for which we can bring Scott Free in on. She can certainly bust in to places, so she's able to rescue Scott from the Infinite Prison he's trapped in. She's familiar with him because she's one of the people that always ends up rounding him up when he does make it out of the Infinite Prison, so their initial relationship will be pretty rocky. Over the course of the first arc, the pair will escape to Earth, which is bad news for us humans as it means Darkseid will up his meddling there. Previously, he'd just been supplying Intergang with fancy new weapons, but with Barda on Earth he'll have to step up his game. With powers like Metron watching, though, and Earth's native superheroes hanging around, he can't go in omega beams a'blazin'. It would raise too many questions. So instead he'll send in his agents like Godfrey and Desaad to do his bidding. Things will, of course, ramp up, leading to the arrival of New Genesis folks like Orion and the eventual clash between Superman and Darkseid. And it's not like Orion is going to be too keen to help out Barda anyways - she is a creature of Apololips and was until recently a loyal servant of Darkseid.
So conflict and fighting abound! Just the sort of thing to keep Barda happy.