Last week, the scans_daily community on LiveJournal posted the extant pages of Jack Kirby's unpublished version of The Prisoner.
I love the opening on the first page:
In this age, when the individual can find himself at the mercy of advanced technology welded by an organized and ruthless enemy, THIS BOOK BECOMES IMPORTANT TO ALL OF US!!!
That's something Your Obedient Serpent has said for decades, now: McGoohan's eccentric experiment is an invaluable survival guide to anyone living in the (post)modern world. And Jack just comes right out and says it: this comic book is important. No "subtle themes" or "hidden messages" for Kirby. If he thought something was important, he'd SHOUT IT TO THE HEAVENS, in boldfaced italics.
Somehow, he made it work. Which is why we call him "The King".
And this, dear reader, is why it stokes Your Obedient Serpent's ire to hear Starlin and his sycophants expound on how Jack "never really said" what the Anti-Life Equation was. What they MEAN is, "we never read The Forever People." Kirby wasn't at all mysterious about the Equation: he explicitly spells it out (and yes, in boldfaced italics) over and over -- but he does it in the pages of what too many people consider the goofiest, most dated, most embarrassing installment of the Fourth World saga.
Your Obedient Serpent, on the other claw, read Jimmy Olsen, Mister Miracle, and The Forever People when they came out. New Gods, however, didn't cross my path until almost a decade later, thanks to a friend who dragged me to his college library's restricted-access collection of classic comics, specifically so I could catch up on those chapters of the Fourth World that I'd missed.
Perhaps that skews my perceptions of the Great Unfinished Work. Through the '80s, New Gods was reprinted several times, but the other threads of the saga were neglected until their black-and-white collections from a few years back and the wonderful, wonderful Fourth World Omnibus volumes currently being released. New Gods is grand, sweeping, epic, and bombastic -- but I think it's also the Fourth World title that explains the least about the actual philosophical struggles involved.