As part of the larger Countdown to Final Crisis event, DC created several related mini-series and specials. One of that event’s many storylines focused around the New Gods, particularly their deaths. Lightray died in the pages of Countdown #48, but most of the New Gods would be killed in the pages of Death of the New Gods, an eight-issue mini-series that would theoretically give these characters the send-off they deserved.
To helm the mini-series, DC chose Jim Starlin, who had produced Cosmic Odyssey (and helped launch New Gods Vol. 3 in its wake). Starlin had a reputation for cosmic work (including on Marvel’s Thanos, to which he had recently returned), and he was a logical choice.
Unfotunately, the mini-series itself largely failed to live up to its promise. To some extent, this was due to the somewhat antiquated style of the narrative and art. But the culprit behind the mysterious murders of the New Gods turned out to be the Source itself. For a while, as Metron discussed events with the good side of the Source, depicted as a small sphere, this twist seemed like a combination of Kirby’s mythology and something resembling serious science fiction. But the good part of the Source combined with the evil part, becoming a rather silly-looking entity that was rather disappointing as the final culprit.
Admirably, the story tried to make sense out of all of New Gods history, even incorporating elements of general DC Universe history. But this history was also a problem, in that readers had seen Darkseid (and others) die many times before. In the end, the Source combined New Genesis and Apokolips, which readers had also already seen. Also, the fact that the Orion who would finally confront Darkseid was a kind of zombie, and that this confrontation occurred with the rest of the New Gods already dead, detracted from the prophecy of their confrontation. Still, Starlin probably did the best within the constraints he had.
Finally, the series was also lessened by the fact that it was a tie-in to the incredibly poor Countdown to Final Crisis. In fact, the deaths of the final two New Gods — Orion and Darkseid — occurred in the pages of that series, not in Death of the New Gods. (While Death of the New Gods wasn’t favorably reviewed, it was certainly better than the series of which it was an offshoot!) Supposedly, all of this was to set up Final Crisis, but the silly Source entity (perhaps for the best) would not reappear, nor would the combined world formed by New Genesis and Apokolips.