Mister Miracle, by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, was a comic that featured heavily on a lot of peoples’ Best of 2018 lists. But not mine. Oh, fool that I am. I did pick up issue 1 when it came out, enjoyed it, and then singularly failed to pick up any of the other issues. Fortunately, the collection of the 12 issue series is out in mid-February and, now that I’ve read it, I can join in the chorus of praise. It really is one of the best superhero comics I’ve read in the last decade, probably more.
This is Mister Miracle…
[*Trigger Warning for suicide imagery below!]
Now, before going any further, I’ll assume most folks reading this know who the characters are and have some idea of their history. But, in case you don’t, fear not, it’s written in such a way as to make prior knowledge something that is no way necessary, just a bonus, adding layers of meaning, homage, and depth to what you read.
Scott Free is Mister Miracle, escape artist, superhero, as created in 1971 by Jack Kirby. Raised on the nightmarish Apokalips, Scott is one of the New Gods, son of the Highfather, traded as a child to Darkseid, part of a diplomatic truce. He grew up on Apokalips, in one of Granny Goodness’ Terror Orphanages, but his eventual escape to Earth and his assuming the Mister Miracle identity made him a hero.
However, it’s his love for his wife, Barda, that makes him a man. And he’d be the first to tell you she’s better, smarter, not to mention bigger and stronger, in every way, than he is.
This is Scott Free and Barda, and this is the magnificent story of two people in love…
The magnificence starts from the off, with the first issue leaving readers wondering just how it all came to this…
And from the very first page you know just how different, how disturbing, how complex this version of Mister Miracle will be, with Scott Free bleeding out from his suicide wounds, sitting, alone, on a bathroom floor…
Now, that is an opener, and a conundrum. The next issues skate around things, giving you ideas of why it might all be happening, why he did it, what torment he’s going through.
But, from about issue 5/6, it ramps everything up, and, certainly, as a reader, I spent the remaining issues on the edge of my seat, desperately trying not to fall prey to the lurking sense that everything was going to go wrong.
The first time I read the whole thing, I did so late at night, and slept fitfully after it, the whole thing managed to unsettle me that much. I read it again, and again, and again, and each time I found it the same disturbing read. Disturbing not because of any overt horror or shocking events, but because of the complexity of the deep and dark ideas writer Tom King puts forward using the disguise of a brightly coloured superperson tale, with the, seemingly, never-ending battles of the New Gods a backdrop to a far more personal and profound tale.
Now, for the lion’s share of the review, I’m going to talk about Tom King’s writing, how the story, the emotion hits home so beautifully well. But, please don’t think that I’m, in any way, underplaying the truly masterful role that Mitch Gerads plays in Mister Miracle.
Artistically, it’s simply a triumph, with Gerads matching King beat for beat, but adding so much, whether it’s the epic scale of Apokalips or the simple, yet breathtaking moments of togetherness between Scott and Barda. And then there’s the artistic manipulation at play, and not just the digital manipulation Gerards makes incredible use of, the best I’ve ever seen in comics frankly. The artistic manipulation goes further, story is crafted through image just as much as words here.
Essentially, you could write several thousands words just on Gerads’ use of digital imagery and the meaning behind the static, the interference, the signal drops that Gerads adds in to the pages throughout. But this is not the place for that.
Basically, the way King and Gerads work together is, simply, brilliant. It’s an incredibly complex work, it’s open to the reader’s interpretation, and there’s a darkness running through it, thanks to how engaged and involved you become in Scott and Barda’s lives.
The thing is, I’d already read enough about the series online to know some of what went on. But, here’s the strange thing, it’s, actually, something that benefits, at least in my reading, from spoilers, from knowing the basics in advance. It made my reading experience so much more visceral, raw, and brutal for me.
I knew issue one’s attempted suicide played large in it all. I also knew that Mister Miracle and the utterly magnificent Big Barda made a go of setting up their happy home, I knew that they both became embroiled in a classic war between New Genesis and Apokalips. I knew about the babies. I knew it all broke down to the end, I knew the ending was deliberately downbeat, vague, definitely, defiantly, open to interpretation.
What I didn’t know is just how unbelievably emotional and incredibly tense knowing all that would make my reading of it all. Not just that though, King manages, through it all, to develop that sense of impending doom and still fills page after page with both laughter and love.
The laughter comes, absolutely, from the war between New Genesis and Apokalips, with the utter ridiculousness of the situation, Barda and Mister Miracle effectively alternating commuting to and from the war, depending on who’s looking after the family, or a swiftly convened trial in their front room, the New Gods squashed together on an old couch.
The love comes from Barda and Scott, who’ve always been one of the best, most well-rounded couples in comics, but no-one has ever got the loving dynamic quite so right as King does here.
Each issue filled me with a tension, each subsequent twist would increase the tightness in my chest. I cared, deeply, about what Scott Free and Barda were going through, worried about how it would all end. And, by that ending, I was equal parts heartbroken, elated, and yes, unsure of just what had gone on.
It is beautiful, epic, homespun, something that twists and turns, makes the reader think, imagine, believe, hope, fear. That’s something very special in comics. Mister Miracle is, definitely, something incredibly special in comics, created by a writer and artist who are absolutely producing career best work.
So, if, like me, you were too taken up with other life things to get around to reading Mister Miracle, then make it a New Year resolution to rectify that mistake. Enjoy the best book of 2018 that’s, I’m 99% sure, going to be my best collection of 2019.
Mister Miracle, Issues 1-12, published by DC Comics, written by Tom King, art & colours by Mitch Gerards, letters by Clayton Cowles. The collection of Mister Miracle comes out February 19th 2019. Definitely one to get.