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Before Barda by Ngozi Ukazu, you need to understand DC's Fourth World

From Apokolips to New Genesis, here's all you need to know

Image credit: Ngozi Ukazu (DC)

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Jack Kirby is best known for co-creating the Marvel universe as we know it, but that is not the only universe he dreamed up. In the early ‘70s while working for DC, he created the Fourth World, an epic fantasy so vast and so thrilling that it continues to generate new surprises to this day. DC has published numerous series that add depth to Kirby’s vision, including the acclaimed Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, as well as Female Furies by Cecil Castelluci and Adriana Melo.

One of the newest explorations of the Fourth World is Ngozi Ukazu’s Barda. It promises to shed light on Big Barda, a deadly warrior who falls in love with a rebel and gives up everything to start a gentler life with him on planet Earth. With this exciting book set for release in June 2024, now is an excellent time to brush up on what the Fourth World is, who lives there, and what happens when new gods confront age-old dilemmas of love, loyalty, and greed.

Origins of the Fourth World

Image credit: DC Comics

The earliest Fourth World tales were told in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. From there, they branched out into three separate, concurrent titles: The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and The Forever People. Each of these titles focused on different characters who shared the same home planets and origin story, which is as follows:

The Old Gods were super-powerful beings who hailed originally from Asgard. After they destroyed themselves in battle, two new planets formed from the ashes. One was New Genesis, a seemingly idyllic world where the New Gods could learn and grow in harmony. The other was Apokolips, a fiery wasteland run by a dictator whose main goal was to discover the Anti-Life Equation, which would enable him to override free will and take control of the universe.

Apokolips and New Genesis fought often. Their war became so intense that the New Gods were at risk of suffering the same fate as the Old Gods: utter destruction. Finally, the leaders of each planet agreed to a heartbreaking compromise. They would trade their sons to ensure eternal peace between their worlds.

But, of course, the peace did not last that long. When Apokolips’s dictator allowed his young charge to escape, the contract was null and void, and war commenced yet again. Each planet’s champions have engaged in combat many times since then!

Residents of Apokolips

Image credit: DC Comics

Beauty, kindness, and freedom are not tolerated on Apokolips. Here are some of the key figures responsible for these edicts… or who fight against them.


Darkseid became dictator of Apokolips after arranging his mother’s assassination. Since then, he has used force and omnipresent propaganda to cultivate a disturbing devotion in his subjects, making them believe that abuse equals love and that it is better to die for him than to live for themselves.

His obsessive desire for power rules every decision he makes. Between his cunning mind, unshakeable authority, and inescapable Omega Beams, it’s a rare opponent who can fight Darkseid and emerge alive, let alone victorious. Even the entire Justice League all working together can’t always triumph.

Granny Goodness

Don’t let the name fool you: Granny Goodness is just as brutal as Darkseid himself and twice as manipulative and vindictive. She runs an orphanage that trains its most promising young charges to become merciless, unquestioning warriors for Darkseid. She does not tolerate dissent or rebellion, and anyone who disappoints Granny is subjected to cruel punishments.

The Female Furies

Among Granny’s most famous graduates are the Female Furies Battalion, cutthroat women with their own unique powers. Big Barda is the toughest of the Furies. Using her Mega-Rod as a weapon and a teleportation device, as well as the super-strength she honed in training, she ably led such aggressive, ambitious fighters as Bernadeth, Mad Harriet, Stompa, and Lashina.

Though loyal to Darkseid for most of her life, in time Barda grew tired of the misery and killing and defected to join the man she loves, Mister Miracle, on Earth. Even after settling in to a life of comparative quiet, Barda hasn’t lost her edge and leaves every opponent, from Darkseid’s soldiers to random human misogynists, in the dust.

Mister Miracle

Sarcastically named Scott Free by Granny, the future Mister Miracle was traded to Apokolips by his father Izaya as part of the peace agreement. Like Barda, he was raised by Granny Goodness. Unlike Barda, Scott was never fully brainwashed by Granny and, with help from Barda and the Furies (and Darkseid’s secret blessing), escaped to Earth. There, he became a “super escape artist,” as his title’s tagline puts it, who uses Apokolipsian technology to both entertain and protect the masses.

Residents of New Genesis

Image credit: DC Comics

New Genesis is a much more pleasant place to be than Apokolips, but its residents still have to deal with their share of trouble.


Also known as Izaya the Inheritor, Highfather is the ruler of New Genesis and the biological father of Scott Free. Once nearly consumed by bloodlust, he learned to control his temper and do what was necessary for the good of New Genesis. Though haunted by the terms of the peace agreement, he remains a wise leader who treats his adopted son, Orion, with kindness.


As Darkseid’s biological son and Highfather’s adopted son, brooding Orion is the ultimate experiment in nature vs. nurture. Thanks to Highfather’s guidance and a weapon called the Astro-Harness, Orion became a great champion willing to give his life to thwart Darkseid’s schemes. At the same time, he has a violent streak that manifests at the worst times.


A brilliant scientist, Metron invented the Mobius Chair, a device that lets him travel through dimensions in the blink of an eye. His only loyalty is to knowledge, and he is willing to do anything for anyone to acquire more of it. On one day, he might build weapons for Darkseid; on the next, he might help Scott Free evade Granny’s brainwashing techniques.

The Forever People

A bystander in The Forever People #2 likened this heroic quintet to “motorized hippies,” which isn’t entirely fair: Big Bear, Serifan, Beautiful Dreamer, Vykin, and Moonrider are better fighters than your average hippie. They each have special abilities, but when they face a really tough opponent, they merge into the ultra-powerful Infinity Man.

What’s Next for the Fourth World?

Image credit: DC Comics

We’ve barely scratched the surface of the Fourth World. In addition to comics, Fourth World characters have appeared in other media, such as the cartoon series Justice League Unlimited and Harley Quinn, and the video game DC Legends. A feature film was even announced in 2018, but sadly got the axe in 2021.

Looking forward to more comics, however, Barda will focus on its main character’s struggle for freedom—a common enough theme in Fourth World tales, but one that so rarely gets told exclusively from Barda’s perspective. The fact that her story is now in the hands of Ngozi Ukazu, known for fun yet emotional comics like Check, Please! and Bunt!, is a big point in its favor and a sign that we are in for an amazing time.

The Fourth World has infinite room for expansion, and it’s always exhilarating to see how new creators carry on Kirby’s legacy!

Barda by Ngozi Ukazu hits shelves June 04, 2024. You can preorder it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Eileen Gonzalez

Contributing writer

Eileen Gonzalez (she/her) is a freelance writer from New England.