So far, this series has been pretty challenging. There is a lot of reading between the lines to do, and a general sense of disorientation. I have this persistent feeling that I’m totally missing everything. Issue #3 is perhaps the most heady of the series thus far, so I’m going to throw this out there: if I’m being a totally dense idiot and missing something, please feel free to let me know. Of course, being on the Internet, I probably won’t have to wait too long for that…
The symbolism and metaphor starts right from the beginning. In the opening few pages, Scott retells a story told to him by Granny Goodness. It’s about a kid, Sven, who is sent to a concentration camp after accidentally outting his family for hiding Jews. Mass genocide just happens to be on Scott’s mind. “Coincidentally,” another Fourth World-er, Forager, then shows up, asking Scott for help. Orion has been using Forager’s fellow bug-like inhabitants of New Genesis as cannon fodder for his war. He says that 6.5 million bugs have been killed, and many more will die if Scott doesn’t save them from Orion’s war plans. Just as suddenly as Forager appeared, Lightray steps out of a boom tube and executes him.
The comparisons to Nazis and genocide — 6.5 million is a common estimate for Jews killed in the Holocaust — are powerful and disturbing. Orion wasn’t great before, but now he is straight-up evil. If the bugs are the Jews in this metaphor, perhaps Scott is Sven, someone who can try to protect others. He probably could, but Sven did died at the end of that story. Not sure that bodes well for Scott.One other interesting point during the opening was the cryptic, fourth wall-breaking narration. It’s something the other issues have had, but this one is probably the most straightforward. It references Dr. Bedlam, a Fourth World villain and servant of Darkseid, and his paranoid pills which “drive people insane with fear and hatred.” This is the first explicit reference to an agent of Darkseid manipulating Scott. To reinforce this idea, Scott pops some pills. They’re probably normal, a result of his suicide attempt, but the timing and symbolism is hard to ignore.
After Forager’s visit, we catch part of a Mister Miracle act. A crate, supposedly containing Scott, plummets to the ground and shatters on contact. We don’t see him or how he escapes, but in light of the previous scenes, this feels very foreboding.
Next, we catch Scott and Barda at a cafe, where she tells him Orion has called them back for his invasion. Scott tries to talk to Barda about how something is wrong with him, how he can’t trust what’s real anymore. She doesn’t quite seem to understand what he means. When a fan interrupts to take a selfie, the two put on happy faces and pretend nothing is wrong. It’s an intimate scene that feels real. The things Scott has gone through must be hard to talk about. It reminds me a lot of the first issue and how it alluded to PTSD.
When Scott returns to New Genesis, he confronts Orion. Scott suspects that the Anti-Life equation is responsible for how he feels, for why he cut himself, and he thinks Orion might have been infected too. Instead of answering him, Orion beats him to a pulp. As Scott passes out, Orion’s face, “the face of God,” appears to take on a very Darkseid-ish appearance.
As usual, Tom King’s script is incredibly well written, compelling, dense, and requires multiple reads. So, par for the course. What’s cool about this book, and really stands out this issue, is how much it draws from the Fourth World canon. This issue mentions or features Forager, Dr. Bedlam, and Funky Flashman, all of whom I was unfamiliar with. For someone not super well-versed, like myself, this book requires some Googling. It can be a bit of a holdup, but on the other hand, learning more about this crazy corner of the DCU makes me want to dig up the old issues.
Mitch Gerads’ art also continues to impress. While there isn’t much action in this issue, the multi-panel, multi-page escape sequence really stands out. It’s a bright spot in a really dark book. One of the cool things he does this issue is play with colors for contrast. When Scott is awake in the middle of the night talking to Forager and Lightray, Scott and his house are a dark, blue-ish gray hue. His New Genesis visitors, though, are in their vibrant multicolored costumes. The pop of color makes them stand out as alien in this mundane setting. It reinforces how Scott and Barda straddle the two worlds to which they belong.
So yeah, Mister Miracle continues to be pretty awesome. It’s deep, disorienting, and moody. King and Gerads are telling an epic story here. It might read smoother in trades, but single issues are keeping this reader on his toes. If you aren’t buying this yet, you’re missing out on something really special.