“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…”- Isaiah 53:10(NIV)
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth, writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads have teamed up to tell a twelve part saga featuring the New Gods, who are probably the King’s finest creation and an inspiration for Star Wars. But Mister Miracle #1 isn’t just about bright costumes, boom tubes, and the anti-life equation. It’s a story about a man, who although he is the greatest escape artist ever, finds out that cheating death is more painful than he bargained for. The comic opens up with cheerful, carnival barker like narration from King, but Gerads’ close-up of the dying Scott and the distorted blood around him in the bathroom
Mister Miracle #1 effortlessly sets the stage for a final, epic battle between the New Gods and Darkseid with the repeated use of the pitch black “Darkseid is” panel and references to Mister Miracle being a Christ figure: the suffering son of Highfather. Isaiah 53, a famous passage in the Hebrew Bible about the suffering of the Messiah, could easily be used to describes Scott’s experiences in this story. His half-brother Orion, the son of Darkseid who was raised on New Genesis, beats him almost senseless when he gets out of the hospital like some kind of bullying ritual until his wife Barda intervenes and shuts him up with a reminder that she and Scott grew up in the torture pits of Apokolips while he got to chill with the New Gods. Later, Barda slaps him when he hesitates to return to New Genesis to fight Darkseid, and the moments of peace are few and far between as Mister Miracle is either getting hit, trying to escape out of one trap or another, or wandering around sleepless.
In his rare moments of peace, Scott is usually talking with or in the arms of Big Barda. Based on the relationship between Jack Kirby and his wife Roz, Scott Free and Barda are one of the iconic superhero couples and are adorable based on their height difference alone. Early in Mister Miracle #1, King and Gerads use the nine panel grid to show Barda’s grief in the hospital while she waits to see how Scott is. Even though they’re immortal beings, Gerads draws Scott and Barda with lines, wrinkles, and human expressions like when tears stream down Barda’s face when Scott has to stay in recovery longer. He even uses subtle visual shorthand like Scott growing a beard to mark the passage of time, one of many tools in his TARDIS-meets-Batman’s utility belt of storytelling skills. For example, Gerads’ Orion has a similar chin to his estranged father Darkseid that is colored in a more shadowy manner compare to his silver helmet and bright, red suit. He is definitely overcompensating for something, and even Highfather dresses more casually than him.
Before getting cosmic, Tom King and Mitch Gerads probe the psyche of one of the most fearless people in the DC Universe. Throughout Mister Miracle #1, Scott experiences his own mortality and has difficulty coping with it like when he hallucinates his old friend Oberon, who died from throat cancer, smoking and telling an old joke. Until Barda tells Scott that he’s alone, it seems like he is just bantering with his old friend because Gerads doesn’t draw their chat like his hazy flashbacks of a TV interview where Mister Miracle darkly jokes about suicide. Scott is a Chosen One figure as hinted by the “I drew God” joke that repeats in the issue, but he struggles with self-doubt and the fact that maybe death is the one trap he can’t escape. The black “Darkseid is” panels that end up engulfing Gerads’ grid show his stress and fear about the war to come. However, Barda is here for him every step of the way helping him up when they return to New Genesis at the end of the comic.
In Mister Miracle #1, Tom King and Mitch Gerads begin their likely-to-be-classic tale on a micro level honing on Scott Free’s thoughts, feelings, and relationships as he hangs out at his house, walks on the beach with his family before going to the macro level of the conflict between New Genesis and Apokolips. They give us a power couple to root for in the Biblical battle between light and darkness, life and anti-life, a tyrant and the world’s greatest entertainer, and Gerads’ art makes the nine panel grid fresh and sometimes freaky again.
Mister Miracle #1 is character-driven, visually innovative comics at its finest and continues the time-honored Jack Kirby tradition of giving godlike heroes feet of clay.
Story: Tom King Art: Mitch Gerads
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy