With a really strong debut issue that got the internet buzzing, I wasn’t really sure where Tom King and Mitch Gerads were going to take the story. Were they going to keep Mister Miracle steeped in psychological distress, manipulation and disorientation, or were they going to go for a slightly more traditional route after the last-page cliffhanger? Somehow, the two creators pull off a kind of middle ground, which is a pretty impressive feat.
The issue picks up with Scott Free — excuse me, General Free — and Big Barda leading counter attacks against Darkseid’s parademons all over New Genesis, serving at the pleasure of newly-minted Highfather Orion. It’s a great sequence that sees Mister Miracle charging into battle over and over again, getting more and more violent and extreme. It isn’t a side of Scott Free we see too often, and is really the first hint that something still isn’t right with him.
Shortly after, Scott and Barda are called to Orion’s throne room, and what do you know, he’s more of a dick now that he’s been promoted. Anyway, the three have a tense meeting where Orion lays out his next big mission for the two: take down Granny Goodness, who is leading Darkseid’s army on a second, more successful, front. This could get messy. Once quick note about this scene: Orion addresses Scott and Barda as General Free and General Barda. Does that mean Barda’s first name is Big? Hmm…
After a distressing late-night visit from Metron, that may or may not be in Scott’s head, the duo BOOM to the far side of the planet, right to Granny. Things start to get even more disorienting, as the white-text-on-black-background “Darkseid is” from the first issue shows up. Ominous. There is some discussion about secret deals and prophecy, much of which I don’t trust.
It certainly feels like there is something bigger going on, some kind of manipulation of reality or something. It’s hard to put my finger on, but it seems like everyone and everything is just subtly… off. Not so far off as to draw attention, but enough to not feel right. This last sequence with Granny really captures this feeling. As I was reading, I was actually reminded a little of Grant Morrison’s Batman run, where Bruce starts questioning reality and his own experiences. Mister Miracle is much more subtle about the psychological manipulation, but it is an equally intangible and formidable opponent for our hero.
King covers a lot of ground in this issue, but still manages to inject a lot of great character moments. Scott and Barda trying to figure out New Genesis showers post-battle is a really real moment; I’m 100% sure I’ve had almost the same conversation with my wife when staying at a hotel. Then the tension between our heroes and Orion is immediately felt through a silent sequence of closeups. Classic show-don’t-tell. Even Granny gets a few panels to breathe, in a great scene where she offers Scott and Barda Jell-O. Who knew they had Jell-O in the Fourth World?
A big part of the reason the script is so efficient is Gerads’ art. This whole issue continues to use the nine-panel layout, which again allows Gerads and King a lot of flexibility time-wise. There is even one “full-page spread,” broken up over the nine panels, which is an interesting effect. The downside to purely nine panels, though, is that some of the art this issue could benefit from a slightly bigger panel. I get that the fighting wasn’t really the focus of the opening, it was more about the mental and emotional toll, but seeing some of that action could have been cool. I don’t know, call me old fashioned. Otherwise, Gerads’ sharp line work is top-notch, but it’s really his coloring that adds a distinctive feel to each panel. Often a panel or page is bathed in shades of a single color, tying a scene together. Then, Gerads adds grays to shadow and shade, making the battle and the world of New Genesis feel gritty and dirty. It really is some beautiful, if hard to explain, work.
For anyone who was holding their breath going into this second issue, hoping it was going to succeed, you can exhale. Mister Miracle #2 is really good. Where the first issue had an in-Scotts-head feel, this one doesn’t, and that’s not a bad thing. Instead, it moves the story ahead quickly and confidently while maintaining an uneasiness on the fringes. King and Gerads are batting 1000 so far, so I can’t wait for #3.