Before “The Kryptonian” stood in Darkseid’s path, there was another powerhouse. In the galactic battle between supremacy and freedom, Orion stands between them. If the ancient Greek God of War “Ares” represented primeval battles of “god vs evil”, then the New God of War represents everything war now: complex.
Arguably the champion of the epic and peaceful New Genesis, he holds the position as the prince of said world. Wielding the cosmic power known as the “Astro Force”, Orion is a powerful ally or formidable foe depending which moral side you take. With such prestige and power, you would think this god is content with his life, and you would be wrong. Orion’s greatest battle is within as he exemplifies the concept of nature vs nurture, but to truly understand the conflict we have to go back to the beginning.
“My destiny is battle – It is a grim and fearful responsibility” – Orion
Tigra, the soon-to-be exiled wife of Darkseid, bears his son. The child is angry, and resembles his father. Against her wishes, the leader of Apokolips makes a pact with his sworn enemies and trades his child as nothing more than a common good. Naturally, being the son of the greatest villain in the multiverse does not help his rating approval. On the beautiful world of New Genesis, a young Orion plots the murder of his newly adoptive father “Highfather”, hoping that he will honor Apokolips. However, Orion stops upon realizing that he is grieving for the loss of his son. Instead of an argument or arrest, the leader extends out his hand of compassion to signal that he would rather embrace Orion. This turning point is where the champion of New Genesis is born, and an early exploration into the complexity of the character. This is a far cry from what you would expect a child of hell to accept, and yet something within him gives hope to a better future. A future that Darkseid wants to eliminate.
“You accepted me when I came from Apokolips. You showed me a world beyond power and destruction. You gave me your divine kindness and love” – Orion
In this new beginning of Orion’s life, he takes on the role of a passionate knight of the galaxy as he fights for hope, justice, and freedom. However much he performs the heroic acts, he still has a dark side that is both skin deep and internal. With his face mirrored his cruel birth father, he was granted a powerful and complex Mother Box, Orion’s face took on a gentle yet stern appearance. Even with this, he still wears a helmet to hide his face. This external shield reflects his self- hatred and struggle to hide his “true self” from the entire galaxy. This internal disgust leads to many allies being kept at a distance due to his fear of getting close and revealing his true nature. His demeanor is abrasive, even admitting to himself “My hostility kept me from making many friends”. If anything, this reflects both Highfather and Darkseid in the way both leaders approach war. He is a wounded warrior and healer in this sense. Despite being a prince of a peaceful world, Orion fights dirty with a smile. When he travels to Apokolips alone, he mocks Darkseid in every way possible, looking for a fight. He’s not shy to go toe to toe with whatever brute challenges him, and oftentimes doesn’t know when to stop. In the beginning of his quest to stop Darkseid from obtaining the “Anti-Lie Equation”, Kalibak challenges him until the New God “Metron” stops it reminding Orion of his task.
“How bizarre. Who would have imagined that I, Orion, considered by some to be the ultimate warrior… would find myself a maker of peace” – Orion
Speaking of Kalibak, the New God of “Savage War” and the first-born child of Darkseid, often clashes with his brother mentally and physically, much like ethical debates on war. In Greek Mythology, an epic battle occurred between the pantheon of Gods and the once feared Titans. This rivalry between brothers echoes these tales as the beast-like Kalibak is feared by many, but the herculean Orion is always ready to go toe to toe in battle. Most of this animosity stems from Darkseid favoring Orion over his brother. In some twisted respect, the leader of Apokolips knew of his youngest son’s destiny and admired the man he grew into, despite being on opposite moral spectrums. This is vastly different to Kalibak’s treatment by his father. The beast would pillage entire worlds to gain the approval and love of his leader, but would be met with more hostility. Darkseid knowingly crafted such a difference hoping that someday one would kill the other. Soon after, Orion does finally kill Kalibak and stands victorious, however the war is not won because Darkseid lives. This moment demonstrates that despite victories in battles the mindsets of the enemy is still very much alive.
“THE NEW GODS” (art by Alex Ross)
“You’ve lost your pretty face, Orion. Just like you’ve lost your guts. Dancing and singing on New Genesis. Let me show you how a real warrior fights!” – Kalibak
In contrast to violence, Orion has an incredibly soft side. He is often lamenting to himself his fury, thinks of a world outside of war, and genuinely enjoys life itself. His great friend and New God “Lightray” is often joining the adventure and lightening the mood despite Orion’s melancholy and focused nature. They share deep conversations regarding ethical choices, war, and the concept of “nature vs nurture” while engaging in death defying escapades. The New Goddess of Love Bekka, also sees the side of Orion that is rarely shown. The calm and passionate poet is embraced when she’s around. A great and intimate example of the couple’s love is during one particulary intense adventure. Orion’s face is shifted and his “monstrous” original form is seen. Bekka shows no disgust, and instead loves and accepts him for all of his faults. The moment between the two represents the true aspects of love they share.
“Can one resist the face – after she’s seen the heart?” – Bekka
Orion is a great character study in what makes a hero. Despite his bloodline he ignored any inner callings to destroy in the name of hatred, and instead fought for the freedom of others (even with an abrasive approach) and never once stopped doing so. He stands with various allies constantly fighting for a better tomorrow.
“If we die, we die for New Genesis!” – Orion