Break from the Bat: Mister Miracle #4

Scott Free is on trial.

Yet how can you rely on the testimony of a man who isn’t sure who he is?

Scott Free, as he says, is a name Granny Goodness gave him when he would try and escape.  It’s a taunt, a mockery of his natural skills, and not his real name.

Nor is he Mister Miracle.  That was the name of another man whose role he took over, along with the costume and Oberon as his assistant.  Mister Miracle is a persona and an identity, but it is not who he is.

So who is Scott Free?  Is he a god?  A showman?  A superhero?

Is he Barda’s husband, or a refugee, or the very Anti-Life Equation incarnate?

What is his identity?  What is his purpose?

Who is Scott Free?

Mister Miracle is a tough book: it is hard and beautiful and sad.  It’s difficult to read, yet easy to write about because it’s actually about something.  Even if the answers aren’t obvious and the direction isn’t clear, the tale of Scott Free is one of the most rewarding books on the stands.  It’s about him and his identity.  Is he suicidal?  Angry?  Depressed?  We don’t know, and neither does he.

Up to this point, Scott has been existing without truly living.  As I said before, he’s going through motions, doing what’s needed of him without embracing his life.  He seems to be relatively happy with Barda, but as a general of New Genesis he performs his duties because they are just that: duties.  It’s what’s required of him to have a good standing with his superiors.  Nothing more.

Even his performances and stunts seem to lack heart.  He ascends a high scaffold or locks himself in a barrel while an oncoming train inches closer and closer, yet the perspective Gerads uses may indicate Scott’s connection to his work.  The panels are distant and static, with a tiny Scott Free posturing and expositing to an unseen audience.  Is anyone actually there?  Does it even matter to him anymore?

There’s a great balancing act here, both in King’s script and Gerad’s pencils.  These are the affairs of otherworldly beings, nothing less than New Gods of the Fourth World.  However lofty and grand their presence, however, they are still people.  With the entire universe as his playground and an endless number of worlds available to him, Tom King instead chooses the most mundane of locations for the action to play out: a living room.

Indeed, besides the opening scene (which is in an adjacent bedroom) and Scott’s performance in the railyard, the entirety of the issue takes place in Scott and Barda’s living room.  Such a common location for such an important meeting: it is, after all, a trial where Scott must defend his life.  But how can he defend himself when he’s under such duress?  Especially when the accuser and judge is Orion, a man whose anger is second only to his arrogance.  He demands black and white answers, “true” or “false.”  It wouldn’t be a statement if it could not be classified either way, he claims, so he isn’t interested in doubts.  He’s interested in beliefs.  What Scott believes to be true.  What Scott believes happened.  No justification, no explanations, simply “true”… or “false.”

As heavy as the subject matter can get, King and Gerads know how to inject appropriate humor.  The sight of five people in such lavish costumes, three of them seated on a too-small couch is funny enough.  Gerads is great with expressions, too, showing Barda’s disgust toward Orion and Lightray’s attempts at being regal and composed after his face is bruised from Barda’s beating.

Guy totally deserves it, though, trust me.  He’s so pompous.

It’s not what I would call a funny book by any means, but it never succumbs to the heavier weight of its themes.  While Mister Miracle is far more serious than it is fun, the balance is spot on.  There’s enough levity to keep the drama from becoming too much, and the severity of the situation carries the stakes that it needs.  Just look at the opening narration, taken directly from Kirby’s original series: big, bombastic, flowery exclamations that take on a chilling tone given Scott’s peril, punctuated by a brilliantly bubbly “MISTER MIRACLE” graphic.  Brilliant stylistic choice from letterer Clayton Cowles.

After four issues, I’m beginning to piece together what Mister Miracle is about.  Or at least, what it might be about.  It’s about a search for identity, a search for purpose when what you’ve been doing doesn’t seem to be enough.

It’s about having doubts tempered with belief, and enough conviction in your beliefs to weigh them against your uncertainties.

It’s about the absurdities in life that, if we let them, make us who we are.

It’s about the dangers in settling for the mundane when you are meant for so much more.  Much like lime Jello before it, I dare you to look at a veggie tray the same way again.

Bonus: Another incredible variant cover from Mitch Gerads.  Dig that Kirby Krackle.


Recommended if:

  • You love great comics.
  • You love Scott Free, Mister Miracle, or whatever he chooses to call himself.
  • You want to see Lightray get punched many times.  Seriously, that guy

Overall: Bar none, Mister Miracle is the best comic being published at DC.  Perhaps even in general, it’s that good.  To go from a war on an alien landscape to two consecutive issues that mostly take place in a town home is risky and shouldn’t work, yet it does.  King and Gerads balance drama, tragedy, and even humor to make the tale of Scott Free’s struggle with identity and purpose both grand and intimate.  It never feels so big that it loses focus, nor so  small that it loses consequence.  I feel for Scott Free.  I fear for Mister Miracle.  I love this comic.

SCORE: 9.5/10