So, the long-anticipated Tom King and Mitch Gerads Mister Miracle series is finally starting! #1 is finally out. Of course, how could I forget about this one? Everyone kept screaming its name at me every time I mentioned that, hey, DC doesn't use a large chunk of its character catalogue right now, as if this somehow proved me wrong.
It didn't, and still doesn't. Though Justice Society, the Terrifics, and rumors of Scott Snyder having plans for Hawkman and Shazam might at least make things a bit better.
As for Mister Miracle, well, we'll get there.
This comic opens with Mister Miracle, AKA Scott Free, in a bathroom in a pool of his own blood. He's rushed to a hospital, where is wife, Big Barda, worries for his health. Upon his recovery and return home, he is confronted by Orion. Highfather later appears and warns of upcoming perils involving Darkseid and Apokolips.
After a television interview, things worsen as Scott's mental health becomes in question and the threat of Apokolips rises. What is next in the story of Mister Miracle? Will the story end soon?
This comic gives me many conflicting feelings, and they are quite difficult to parcel out, even for a contentious comic book critic of high class and taste such as myself *readjusts monocle and swirls glass of champagne*.
For starters, it bookends the story with classical comic book narration that is supposed to be an ironic juxtaposition to the depressing and less-than-heroic events which take place in the story proper.
Now, that's all well and good, but this is becoming something of a stale tactic. Life is complicated, moral lines are blurry, right and wrong aren't always so clear cut. This is something that has been made abundantly clear in newer comics; the altruism and self-assurance of old comics don't often, if ever, apply. This ignores that those same old comics were already challenging those ideas with X-Men, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and the original Secret Empire. Forget that Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme, Alan Moore's Watchmen, and Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns already took this idea of moral ambiguity juxtaposed with classical heroism to new heights (even if it was seemingly accidental on Miller's part).
Even Brian Michael Bendis's New Avengers and Matt Fraction's Hawkeye did this to a degree, too, only with more of a focus on humor and irony. Captain America comics have had its main character questioning what his status as a symbol means in a complex and brutal world for decades now.
At this point, it would be more impressive if a comic took to that altruism without a hint of irony and simply took moral complexity as read without drawing attention to the juxtaposition. Hell, they could even just accept classical heroism as a straightforward positive thing. I'm the guy who champions political themes in comic books, but lining up superheroism with the complexities and low points of life is not a political statement, and it's certainly not a fresh one.
Now, I've harped a bit about the bookends, which only make up for about four pages of the comic, for quite a bit now. I've taken more time to talk about it than it was to read those lines of the story itself, but it's worth mentioning that this is the first and last thing the comic presents to you. It sets the tone of what's to come, and it didn't bring me a lot of hope.
Plus, the seeming attempt at humor by putting this narration over Mister Miracle very clearly (spoiler, I guess) concluding a suicide attempt seems just a bit in bad taste.
The bulk of the comic is Miracle grappling with depression, and that is an interesting place to take this. He is a man who can escape any trap, but now that trick has come to bore him. He's not sure where to go from there. In that regard, the comic is quite successful. You can see what Scott is going through, and you can easily sympathize with him.
Orion and Highfather worsen things for Scott by having no sympathy and their minds on other things, namely Darkseid.
The comic repeatedly has black panels with only the words "Darkseid is" over and over again. This adds little to nothing to the comic, and it gets a bit incessant. The title to this review "Darkseid is…what?" is a bit of intentionally obtuse joking. I get it, he's death, he's god, he's coming. However, hammering that point home does nothing for the story.
(Spoiler again) I was a little disappointed that they killed Oberon off-screen in a thinly veiled anti-smoking metaphor. However, the scene where he is talking to Mister Miracle, and Barda reveals to us that he is dead, does a lot to show where Scott's mind is at right now.
This brings us to Gerads's art, and I have mixed feelings on this, too. The graininess of some panels is pretty damn unpleasant. The outright blurring of the television scenes is clearly attempting to add something to the moments, but it's just not enjoyable to the eye (mine, at least). The remainder of the comic looks really damn good, though, and the pale and faded color work mixed with the tinting of certain scenes is phenomenal.
Overall, I can certainly recommend this one. It's ambitious and unique. It does have a story that draws you in. It has some rather impressive and surface-level flaws that drag it down, but it is worth your time and money to check it out. It's not for everyone, and, if you were expecting anything resembling a traditional superhero tale, it will not deliver on those expectations.
And that's kind of the tragedy of this. It would be nice to see Mister Miracle, Big Barda, and Oberon taking on Granny Goodness or Mantis again after appearing and disappearing on and off again over the last few years and not having a comic with his name for far longer than that. Yeah, I'd like to get a deep-cut reading of him, but I'd also like to see him do his Mister Miracle thing before that.