Jack Kirby’s New Gods saga ushered in the legendary creator’s seminal Fourth World saga for DC Comics. Although the battle between Apokolips and New Genesis follows many powerful characters, the ongoing fight between Darkseid and his son, Orion, is what really forms the core of the story. For many, the biggest question of the Fourth World saga is whether the heroic son is stronger than his evil father.
Orion and Darkseid share perhaps the single most intense rivalry in DC, on par with that of Batman’s battle with Joker and Luthor’s war on Superman. The father and son have spent years locked in battle as the almighty Darkseid has pursued the Anti-Life Equation, which would give him the ability to rob the universe of free will. Orion, the heroic champion of his adoptive home world New Genesis, shares the will and fury of his father, combined with the warmth of Highfather. This motivates him to devote his life to challenging his father and preventing him from acquiring the destructive equation. The fight between the two is one of fury, conflicted emotions and epic storytelling, taking place across the known universe with the fate of existence hanging in the balance.
Orion Versus Darkseid, Explained
In the beginning of the bitter rivalry between New Genesis and Apokolips, Darkseid and Steppenwolf led an assault on Izaya Highfather, killing his wife in the process and leaving him for dead. At this time, Apokolips was actually led by Darkseid’s mother. It was later revealed that this was part of a scheme the villain had devised to create a situation where he could rise to lead his planet. In the wake of the destruction wrought by a vengeful Highfather, Darkseid became dictator of the planet, but was left reeling from the attack. Meanwhile, Izaya sought to unite with the Source and find peace, becoming the Highfather and swearing off his life as a violent warrior. Around this time, the two leaders formed a pact wherein they exchanged heirs, sending Orion to live with Highfather and Scott Free to live on Apokolips.
While Orion does have his father’s rage and lust for battle, the similarities between the two mostly end there. Orion is a child of New Genesis, and even though he has a warrior’s heart, Highfather has instilled within him a value for all life and compassion for others. It was this value for life that came in handy when Orion traveled to Apokolips, where he found four human test subjects in Darkseid’s pursuit of the Anti-Life Equation. It was revealed that the equation was hidden in the mind of a human and the villain was intent on finding out who. Orion pursued the planet’s ruler to Earth, where he, Lightray, and his new human friends set about stopping the villain before it was too late. The original New Gods series established that the father and son were of comparable strength, with Orion having a little more fighting prowess.
Darkseid Respects Orion
One of the recurring themes in the original New Gods series was the immense respect Orion commanded by all. This extended to his father, who made sure Desaad and Kalibak understood Orion’s strength, and that he wasn’t to be underestimated. In fact, the story that told the tale of the pact between New Genesis and Apokolips showed how a young Orion was so ferocious that his guards were happy to be rid of him after he’d killed some of them. He very nearly attacked Highfather himself, but was dissuaded by the ruler’s kindness, the first time Orion had ever known compassion. While some modern DC stories do pay homage to the respect the father has for his son, this sentiment from Darkseid is often sacrificed for a cold, malevolent depiction of the villain.
Some stories have made it known that, as evil as he is, Darkseid couldn’t bring himself to murder his own son, although his actions in Final Crisis tell a different story. All the same, Darkseid is painfully aware of the fact that his son is also his greatest rival, and that to see him as weak is a miscalculation on his part. This isn’t necessarily a point of strength so much as it is one of skill, determination and sheer ferocity. Darkseid’s minions even make repeated reference to the fact that Orion fights like one of them rather than a hero of New Genesis, building to the revelation of their relationship. This, however, only strengthened Orion’s resolve.
That all said, Darkseid is hardly without his own strengths, and Orion has good reason to be cautious when fighting his father. On the level of raw strength, the two are evenly matched, but either one has abilities that can put them over the top. Just as Orion has his powerful Astro-Force, Darkseid has his Omega Beams, rays of energy that shoot from his eyes and can have mixed effects. Darkseid can use these beams to either incapacitate his enemies or outright erase them from existence. However, he has rarely used them against his son, and often falls back to let his minions step in and do the job for him. As Orion has refined his skills as a seasoned warrior and strategist, Darkseid is a tyrant. The villain can fight when needed, but he leaves the heavy lifting to others or depends on his god powers rather than physical prowess.
Orion’s Triumph Over Darkseid
While many think of Darkseid as a Galactus-level, planet-killing cosmic entity, this isn’t actually the case and is certainly nowhere near what Jack Kirby imagined. In truth, although he may be a god, he’s still on the strength level of Superman. He’s a true force to be reckoned with, but he can still be defeated. Much of Darkseid’s threat stems from his Omega Beams, his armies and, at his worst, possession of the Anti-Life Equation.
In Countdown to Final Crisis, the DCU was plagued by an apparent serial killer (revealed to be Infinity-Man) murdering a slew of New Gods, presenting Darkseid with a new opportunity to gain power. Here, Darkseid raised his ambitions beyond merely robbing life in the universe of free will, now seeking to remake the multiverse in his image. He and Monitor Solomon played out a game of chess, using the DCU’s heroes as pieces, their moves mirroring the events of Earth. In the end, Darkseid traveled to Earth, intent on establishing his so-called “Fifth World.” However, he was not unopposed. Orion soon arrived, fulfilling a prophecy of the New Gods that predicted the confrontation. During their battle, even Superman refused to get involved, recognizing that it was a fight between father and son. Here, Orion utilized his powerful Astro-Force to defeat Darkseid, ripping his heart from his chest in one final moment of rage.
Orion’s eventual triumph is also backed up by Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come, where it was shown that, in the future, he was able to overthrow Darkseid. Orion is actually one of the few heroes in the DCU who has no problem with killing and actually believes in using lethal tactics against his enemies. Only here, the new ruler of Apokolips lamented that his father’s rule was so despotic and his brainwashing so extreme that the subjects of the planet had no appetite for freedom. This made Orion’s victory somewhat hollow, as he effectively inherited en empire of pain and death, which shaped him to more closely resemble his father.
Orion Is Committed To Destroying Darkseid
The battle between Orion and Darkseid is unlikely to ever end. This is partly because Darkseid can never truly be killed, and he has been seen to have the powers of resurrection. So, as much as Orion may fight and even appear to destroy his father, this may only delay the inevitable. It’s unclear exactly what will happen in the future of the DCU, and Kingdom Come, and Final Crisis are certainly at odds in regards to this question. However, there is still good reason Darkseid fears his son enough to remain hidden away as he plans his attacks.
Even though Darkseid is tough, he’s rarely actually depicted as a fighter. Even when he has defeated Orion, it’s almost never directly, rather either through his superior number of soldiers overpowering Orion or, as was shown in Final Crisis, by firing a Radion bullet at the hero. Here, Darkseid didn’t confront his son in a one-on-one fight, but instead shot a bullet through time to kill him. In a one-on-one fight, with Orion’s mastery of the Astro-Force, the hero would likely emerge victorious. Still, if Darkseid opted to use his Omega Beams, all of this could change in an instant. All in all, Orion is the superior combatant and his Astro-Force gives him the edge. However, Darkseid’s abilities and seemingly immortal presence makes it hard for the son to ever claim true victory. Additionally, if the villain ever claim his coveted Anti-Life Equation, there would likely be no contest between the two.
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World is centered around the battle between Darkseid and Orion – but which one of them is the strongest? Read More