So my ongoing quest to read as many of the classic comics has covered a lot of ground. I read and blogged about The Immortal Hulk. I covered Image’s Lazarus. Two weeks ago I blogged about Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Vision. A while ago I talked about a significant chunk of Kirby’s Fourth World. The last two bring me to DC’s 2017 series Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.
In addition to Marvel’s Vision, Tom King has previously written DC’s Omega Men, co-written DC’s Grayson, and Vertigo’s Sheriff of Babylon. His striving for the artistic in comics, and his admiration for Alan Moore are both well-known and he seems to swing for the fences on every outing. That kind of innovation will come with some misses. I know a lot of fans didn’t respond well to King’s Batman or Heroes in Crisis. His natural medium seems to be the maxi-series starring characters who aren’t central to their fictional universes. In Mister Miracle, he and Gerads hit a home run, the kind that netted them four Eisners, a Hugo nomination, and big sales.
[Click the images for miraculous-sized versions.]
Mister Miracle #1 opens with a double-page splash of Scott Free on the bathroom floor, moments after he has slit his wrists. This sets part of the tone for the story, but not all of it. This is a story about family, about trauma and how that affects people. It’s a story about hope and depression and love, set against the backdrop of Los Angeles, New Genesis and Apocalypse.
Scott’s suicide attempt was a result of depression, which comes from the years, the whole childhood of abuse and trauma that he and Barda endured growing up in Granny Goodness’ X-Pits on Apocalypse because Scott was a hostage. His father gave him to Darkseid for peace, and while in most comics until now, this issue is glossed over, that’s deeply, deeply messed up. Nonetheless, Scott has until now endured and made a life for himself. The rest of the New Gods are still dealing with Apocalypse and Darkseid – they’ve never had a chance to see how messed up it all is.
The last writer of any book is the reader, who interprets the story, and there’s a lot to interpret here. I’ve seen people say that the whole 12-issue story is in Scott’s mind in the moments that he bleeds out before death. Other interpretations are that he’s been co-opted by the anti-life equation, which is a handy metaphor for depression. Like Watchmen, Mister Miracle obliges the reader to be a very involved participant in the story, interpreting a lot, finding the linkages, some of which are very visible, some of which are harder to see. This story does what some of the greatest works do, which is to show us what it is like to be someone else.
In interviews, King has said that part of the story came to him when he had a panic attack after his son was born, the enormity and immensity of that responsibility hitting him all at once. Other parts come from having seen friends he served with in the Middle East and their PTSD. Those things mess with perceptions, the way the world can appear safe or not safe, and Gerads is a master of visually unsettling the reader, bringing us into the uncertainty Scott feels as he navigates the world.
But in the end, it’s a story managing all the hurts that people can carry, and deciding if and how to move on, making a family and not repeating the sins of the parents, not recapitulating the cycles that made us, trying to imagine something new and different, without any guidance.
Mister Miracle is a superb book. I read much of my comics digitally, but I wanted this trade for my bookshelf, in part because I’m going to want to be able to go back to it physically and also to read with my son. Highly, highly recommended.
Derek Künsken writes science fiction in Gatineau, Québec. His second novel, the space opera The Quantum Garden, was published two weeks ago by Solaris Books. His first, The Quantum Magician, was a finalist for the Aurora, the Locus and the Chinese Nebula Awards and is being published in Japanese this month.