Break from the Bat Special: Mister Miracle #2

Mister Miracle is an escape artist.

Mister Miracle is a devoted husband.

Mister Miracle is a reluctant soldier.

Mister Miracle is Scott Free.

And Scott Free is tired.

Or maybe he’s depressed.  It’s hard to tell.  I’m not even sure Scott knows how he feels or what he’s going through right now; he’s just there.  Existing, going through his day, doing what he’s asked and, more accurately, what he’s told.

Scott Free has become a soldier, a general in Highfather’s army.

Or, if he had his way, a general in Orion’s army.  Because Highfather is dead, and Orion has taken his place.  Barda goes along with it, as she recognizes the necessity of duty, but Scott… he’s a little more reluctant.

It’s hard to say what this series is about as of yet, as it’s not clear what King is ultimately trying to say.  That is in no way a knock toward these two issues, though, as they serve just fine as examples of near-perfect standalone storytelling.  If the first issue set the stage and showed a man first starting to spiral into some sort of identity crisis, this second issue sees him throwing everything to the wind and simply existing.

The plot is basic enough: Scott and Barda have been leading troops against Apokolips’ forces, and they’re called upon to carry out a secret mission.  It’s not what it’s about but how it’s about it that makes a story, though, and this is one of the best single issues I’ve read this year.

Truly, the character work here is astounding.  Scott goes from a ruthless warrior, taking down hordes of Parademons in the opening pages, to the most relatable of every-man when the battle is over.  After winning a fight against endless waves of enemies, it’s charming seeing him unsure of how to operate the showers.

To be fair, he’s been on Earth a long time.  No doubt the New Genesis plumbers are a bit more advanced than the guys we have here.

It’s those scenes of domestication that leave the longest lasting impression.  Seeing Scott and Barda talk and rest and flirt perfectly illustrates these characters and how they relate to one another.

“You’re beautiful,” he says.

“I’m too tall,” she responds.

“You’re perfect,” he replies.

These are two people, two gods, who truly know each other and are perfectly happy together.  Theirs is conversation, not dialogue, words spoken between two people who have spent so much time together they know the other almost as well as they know themselves.

Conversely, there’s the throne room dialogue of Lightray, perched atop pomp and ceremony, relishing his position as the right-hand man of New Genesis.  His words feel rehearsed and empty, as they should, for he is putting on the pretensions of nobility while everyone else in the room is uncomfortable at best.  King’s writing has often been described as abstract and spare, but not so here.  Scott and Barda and Lightray and Granny Goodness all sound like they should

Make no mistake: this entire issue is strong.  There’s not a panel out of place or a single line that I would change.  Amazingly, it’s even better than the inaugural issue, which was just about perfect on its own.

I’m honestly scared for Scott.  There’s an air of uncertainty that permeates each page, and his mindset seems to be just a little off.  Besides his suicide attempt, which is cause for alarm on its own, the way Scott reacts in each situation just seems… off.  The blank stare he has when trying to work the shower hints at some sort of trauma haunting him, and the meek, childlike way he asks Barda if she ever liked Granny Goodness highlights his insecurity.

And then there’s the use of Kirby’s original narration, which was once bombastic and extravagant only to be recontextualized to be almost sinister.  It’s a stylistic choice that could have easily come across as forced or even pretentious, but King successfully sidesteps that.  He uses just enough to call back to Kirby’s original creation and utilizes it to frame the story he’s trying to tell.

As I said, I’m not sure what Scott is actually going through, but I know it isn’t good.  I know it’s just the second issue, but King is pacing this story perfectly so far.  We know something’s wrong, though we don’t know what, and the events of each issue unfold so richly and compellingly that it’s making the journey worthwhile.

While this is certainly a very heavy book, it’s also very, very funny.  King and Gerads (who just became a dad, so go congratulate him) aren’t afraid to go do some laughs among the grim events that bookmark the issue, and even go a bit slapstick with a truly hilarious infiltration scene.

That also goes to show just how great Gerad’s work is.  His use of the nine panel grid is truly innovative, and I say that without exaggeration.  There’s not an image or panel that feels incomplete or claustrophobic, nary a sequence that makes you wish for a splash page or a different layout.  That opening battle scene uses so many storytelling devices, and every one of them works: the opening shot of a feasting Parademon plays out frame by frame; the fight between Scott and the slain Parademon’s compatriot; the pink-hued montage of Mister Miracle almost slaughtering Parademons in different locales.

Then, the scene shifts to Barda and Scott in their room, and in its own way it’s just as engaging as the earlier action.  Gerads tells as much of a story with expressions as he does with actions, be it Orion’s smug satisfaction, Scott’s contempt toward the new Highfather, or Granny Goodness’ malicious smile.  He utilizes the nine panel grid instead of being hindered by it, working within the template to create uniquely engaging visuals.

Put bluntly, this is masterful storytelling.  King and Gerads bring their all to this story of a man, a New God, an escape artist.  A high bar has been set, and I’m expecting nothing less than excellence in upcoming issues.

For Highfather.

For New Genesis.

For Scott Free.

Bonus: Much like his interiors, Mitch Gerad’s variant cover is breathtaking.


Recommended if:

  • You love a slow-burn meta narrative with individual installments that stand on their own.
  • You love Mister Miracle.
  • No hyperbole, this is one of the best comics being printed right now.  It’s up there with King’s other masterpieces, The Omega Men and Vision, and this is just issue two.

Overall: This story is taking its time to unfold, but don’t dare call it slow.  As a self-contained issue, Mister Miracle #2 is as great as they come, perfectly balancing action, drama, and a surprising amount of humor.  King and Gerads bring their all to this examination of one man’s mindset in the face of war, depression, and domestication.  I may be scared for Scott Free, but I’m loving Mister Miracle.

SCORE: 10/10