A great read that might take a pass or two to really get the most out of.
Mister Miracle #1, by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, kicks off what looks like a disorienting, largely self-contained maxi-series. Steeped firmly in Kirby’s Fourth World but with familiar Tom King elements, this is an intriguing opener that almost begs for a second reading.
Right from the get-go, Mister Miracle #1 is not your typical superhero comic, mainly because it opens with Scott Free sitting on his bathroom floor, wrists slit. The rest of the issue chronicles his recovery: a dissociative hospital visit, tough love from Orion, an interview on Glorious Godfrey’s late night talk show, and visits with Highfather and Oberon. Finally, months after the incident, Scott’s Mother Box starts pinging, calling him and Barda back to New Genesis.
There is a lot of good stuff going on in this book. What jumps out at me the most is the facade of normalcy Scott tries to settle into as he moves through his recovery. Each time a scene make it look like Scott’s life is back to normal, something twists and breaks the illusion. Scott is clearly freaked out trying to deal with his trauma, but he can’t share his motivations or feelings with anyone. The way King is really able to capture Scott’s uneasiness, making the book feel like a realistic take on PTSD, is very impressive.
Throughout King’s script, the phrase “Darkseid is” is repeated on almost every page. It’s very ominous, especially since the phrase repeats more and more as the issue progresses. By the end “Darkseid is,” in white text on a black background, takes up a whole page. It’s obviously unclear what the rest of the phrase is yet, but damn is it spooky.
Gerads knocks it out of the park in the art department. The first thing you notice when you open the book is that almost every page has a nine panel layout. It is something Tom King and his collaborators have used in other works, like Omega Men (which you should totally read if you haven’t). Here, the layout is used for a variety of effects. On some pages, like Scott’s hospital stay, each panel is a snippet of the hazy experience. On others, they break down time into little chunks, expanding moments to capture all kind of expressions and moments. It is a very useful technique to help portray a very isolating, small, focused story.
Not everything is perfect in the book. If you’re unfamiliar with the Fourth World characters, some of the references and weight of the story might be kind of lost, as King doesn’t bother with introductions. Also, some of the characterization, particularly Orion, is a bit off-putting, especially on the first read. For example, Orion punches Scott a couple times, seemingly without provocation, and then abruptly leaves. On my first read, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it, but on subsequent reads, I interpreted that sequences as kind of a “tough love” moment, that it’s Orion’s way to try and help him out of his trauma. I’m not sure if that is “right” but, this is definitely a book where subsequent reads help some of the ideas surface.
Mister Miracle #1 a book about a super escape artist trapped in his own trauma. It’s compelling, disorienting, intimate, and ominous. Tom King and Mitch Gerads have made quite a name for themselves, and this book is the two collaborators keeping that success going.