Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Nick Derington
Publisher: DC Comics
Mister Miracle is back with his first solo series since the 90s, and with Tom King & Mitch Gerads helming it, we’re in for a very different kind of superhero book.
I was mostly drawn to this relaunch simply because of the creators involved. Both are proven entities across the industry, but what struck me was that neither have journeyed this far into the absurd. Mister Miracle is a unique character, even within the stable of Kirby creations. King stays firmly in the New Gods toybox, cutting this title off from the rest of the DCU. There’s a beautiful juxtaposition going on between the dark story elements and the cartoon voiceover narration. It adds an extra level of sadness to Scott’s current situation. The story is purposely disjointed, showing us the fractures happening in Scott’s mind as he tries to hold onto reality.
Artistically, this book was a treat, seeing Gerads stretch his art to new limits with bright sci-fi visuals is worth price of admission. While his pencils are spot-on, he really does an incredible job manipulating the panels with after effects and textures. He delivers the feel of silver age comics, even with his contemporary style. There are numerous blacked-out panels with a simple line of text that build in frequency as the book goes on, but with nine panel grids packing most pages, you don’t feel cheated out of story.
It didn’t seem like we got a full story in this issue, but King’s sharp writing and Gerads unique art make this stand out from the rest of DC’s offerings. Plotted for a twelve issue arc, this is just the beginning of what seems like a must-read title.
I have been reviewing printed fiction in one form or another for 16 years. Short stories, novels, comics, you name it, I’ve reviewed it. In all that time I have NEVER given a story of any sort a perfect score. In my mind, it needs to be an absolutely flawless piece of work to deserve a perfect score.
Tom King and Mitch Gerads have today broken my personal glass ceiling.
Mister Miracle is a perfect comic book.
Per usual, SPOILERS ahead.
The issue is about a god struggling with his mortality. On the second page, we see that Scott Free has attempted suicide. The rest of the issue grapples with the consequences of that. Is Scott depressed and suicidal? Was he just trying to escape death? Or is there something else happening here?
Meanwhile, in the midst of this very personal, very human struggle, Scott is visited by his father and adoptive brother, Highfather and Orion. Something very wrong is happening in the Fourth World, and while neither are straightforward with Scott, it’s clear Scott knows already. And in one last turn of the knife, Scott appears to be losing touch with reality, as he’s visited by a dead friend as well.
It’s remarkable how powerful King’s script is. Scott Free is perhaps the most fantastic character in DC canon, yet here he’s extremely fragile and human. Although it appears at first glance that Scott is grappling with depression, King does a great thing casting doubt on it. Was he attempting to escape death? Was he battling a malicious foe? And perhaps most haunting of all- is Darkseid behind it all?
Gerads’ art is at its peak here. He swings from the human (the heartbreaking hospital scenes while Scott recovers from his self-inflicted injuries) to the fantastic (Orion and Highfather’s appearances) to the unsettling. I have to talk about that last one at length. In the center of the issue, Scott appears on a talk show. Gerads makes the choice to put each of these panels out of focus, with key moments blurred by static like a bad TV signal. But each of these moments seem to bring to focus on the hints that something is wrong with reality. None of it is more clear than a panel where the host, who bears a striking resemblance to Darkseid minion Glorious Godfrey, suddenly has his face blurred by static. In that one panel, suddenly this handsome man is a Lovecraftian horror.
Letterer Clayton Cowles steps it up here as well. He does two things to help the story. He gives his narration boxes an irregularity throughout, especially when things are seeming wrong with reality. Then, the bold two word statement that appears repeatedly through the issue. It’s direct, bold and extremely unsettling.
It’s all perfect together. An absolute knock-out from DC Comics, and I can’t wait for more.
Review by Tony Thornley