What is the nature of reality? Is it what we touch, taste, smell and hear? Or is it simply the brain creating images for us in an endless cycle? These are the kind of questions that are asked in Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle series, a graphic novel I’ve been waiting to read for a long time. Expanding on the universe of New Gods and Old Gods that legendary writer Jack Kirby created, Mister Miracle takes the reader of a mind-warping journey through the eyes of one of DC’s most obscure superheroes and reinvents him for a modern audience. Read on to find out why I think Mister Miracle is one of the most important comics of the decade.
Reinterpreting Kirby’s Fourth World
Before reading the graphic novel, I only knew a little about Mister Miracle and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. From the very first page, King does an excellent job of introducing the concept to new readers. Mister Miracle, called Scott Free for his superhuman ability to escape from any trap, settled down on Earth after running away from Apokolips. As the adopted son of Darkseid, Scott spent his life being tortured.
The story begins with Mister Miracle attempting to kill himself and being rushed to hospital by his wife, Big Barda. It’s a ballsy way to open a comic, feeding into the theme of escapism that runs through the bizarre world that King constructs for his protagonist. After recovering from his mental breakdown, Mister Miracle is drawn into a war between the New and Old Gods in an attempt to stop Darkseid from finding the Anti-Life Equation.
A growing sense of dread fills each page, personified by black panels that say ‘Darkseid Is.’ There’s the idea that not everything about Mister Miracle’s reality is what he thinks it to be. For example, a scene involves Scott noticing his wife’s eyes change colour from blue to brown. The acid trip quality art fuels the questionable nature of Mister Miracle’s existence. Gerads uses a lot of dark colours and blurry graphics to disorientate the reader’s perception. It feels as if you’re watching a show on TV that is filled with static.
As Mister Miracle is drawn further into the war, he is forced to confront old enemies like Granny Goodness and face the scrutiny of his brother, Orion. King takes his time to introduce key members of the New and Old Gods, infusing them with human quirks that highlights the brilliance of Kirby’s universe.
I found Mister Miracle to be an emotionally relatable character. His desire to escape is poignant from a mental health perspective because many people struggle with feelings of being stuck in place or feeling trapped. He doesn’t come off as an all-powerful god, so much as a regular guy who likes coffee and superhero t-shirts. His awkwardness and aversion to fighting is contrasted with the violence of his family and race.
Mister Miracle’s relationship with Big Barda forms the heart of the story. Their bond is hilarious, poignant and realistic. Barda’s protectiveness of her husband is a true joy to read, with her beating down anyone who tries to harm him. But despite her bravery and strength, Barda displays insecurities of being too tall. Scott comforts and reminds her on a regular basis why he loves her.
One of my favourite sequences involved them discussing how to renovate their condo while fighting off groups of enemies. Another scene featured the couple being stuck in traffic and deciding on the song that best described their relationship. Scott and Barda settled for ‘The Moans of the Damned’ AKA the screams of people dying on Apokopolis. King invites readers to revel in every moment of the dark humour that permeates Mister Miracle and Big Barda’s marriage.
Mister Miracle hits all the pressure points of emotion, characterisation and relatable themes. Scott’s talent for escaping is a reflection of how easy it is for us to feel entombed by our limitations. Some people look for a way out no matter the cost. Others come to accept their lives and enjoy what they have built for themselves.
King and Gerads have created an adult-orientated comic that doesn’t need gratuitous violence or language to make a statement. They have re-imagined a character I thought I’d never end up caring about and transformed him into an icon of modern day living.