Let me begin by professing my eternal love for Jack Kirby and his creations. Dubbed The King and deservedly so he perfected the melding of Science Fiction and Super Heroes. The apex of this concept was his Fourth World mythology. Created for DC Comics in the 1970’s Kirby’s Fourth World introduced the archaic cosmic deities known as The New Gods. These larger than life characters possessed many varied powers that served them well in the never-ending battle between good and evil. Originally developed as an epic space sage with a definite ending Kirby’s opus continues to this day without ever being conclusively summed up. In fact, the Fourth World has endured to this day and over the years has been the basis for some of the most intriguing stories featuring these cosmic characters including: Orion, Darkseid, Desaad, Steppenwolf, Big Barda and Mister Miracle. Many of the best and brightest writers in comic books including John Byrne, Walt Simonson and even Grant Morrison have given us their takes on these innovative heroes and villains, they have been at the core of the DCU, both in their own series as well as showing up in top-tier titles like Superman and Bat Man. They have fueled line wide events like Crisis changing the status quo earning their place beside these other iconic characters thus becoming as ingrained in continuity as the Flash and Green Lantern. So it makes perfect sense to recruit another King to continue the reign of Kirby’s creations during his centennial birthday celebration year, a King who has ruled Gotham since the Rebirth event and now brings us his take on Mister Miracle, a king called Tom.
The début issue of this limited maxi series begins with our hero, Mister Miracle aka Scott Free in a bloody post suicidal heap upon the bathroom floor. Admittedly an odd place for a super hero story to begin, but this is Tom King the man who took us into the Vision household and reminded us that androids do cry, so I have all the faith in the world that we will get to our desired destination, however, and this is the fun part, we have to go on Tom’s wild ride to get there.
Immediately you get the feeling that King has a firm grasp of the elements that make up Kirby’s imaginative world. This enables him to build a narrative that while completely his own brings the more esoteric details to the forefront in a way that recalls the best of Kirby’s character work. During Free’s journey from death back to life we see him through various stages of recovery that are not always readily visible as recuperative, I refer to a visit from Orion during which Scott is shown so very ‘tough love’ in the form of unanswered blows. King blurs events conveying a sense of hazy half conscious episodes, in one of these Scott finds himself the guest of Glorious Godfrey on his late night talk show. These episodes are masterfully woven into a psychedelic tapestry of soul baring interactions between Scott and Oberon as well as Scoot and Highfather. The pace is measured to perfection as King purposefully pulls us deeper into the plot, Scott’s Mother Box begins to alert, beckoning him and his wife Big Barda back to their home world of New Genesis. This is just one of the many times Scott’s fragile sense of peace is shattered as he grapples with the demons of his self-inflicted trauma. The paramount obstacle Scott must negotiate is the feeling of isolation and the absence of anyone to confide in. This is where King really shines and his very astute observations on the humanity of Scott Free serve to deepen an already amazing characterization. This book feels like an intervention.
There is an ominous element at play here as well, a very chilling tattoo, like the beating of the cannibal drums as the cauldron begins to boil, the repeated phrase, ‘Darkseid is’ appears like a raven above the door. These two words are quite obviously a harbinger of the darkest ilk. ‘Darkseid is’ begins to appear faster as the page count dwindles toward the final one which is an entirely black page with the words in stark contrasting white text. Talk about your cliffhangers, man oh Manischewitz is this effective, and a bit unsettling.
Visually Mitch Gerads destroys. He makes the nine panel grid sing like a choir of angels. Anyone familiar with Tom Kings work will recall that many of his stories have put this device to effective use, but I cannot call to mind an instance when it was used to this divine result, particularly because Gerads is able to get so many varied effects from it here. His art is filled to bursting with kinetic energy lending King’s already tense narrative a feeling of unbearable suspense much like when the two collaborated on the genius Vertigo limited series, Sheriff of Babylon. Mister Miracle may be set in a much different realm but the same brilliant storytelling is evident in both works. There is a density and weight to this story that is undeniable even to those readers without a working knowledge of Kirby’s Fourth World. Obviously a familiarity with the characters would deepen your experience, however King makes the complex concepts accessible and extremely new reader friendly. Granted some of his takes may not be traditionally Kirby, but at their core you will definitely find a foundation of the spirit and tone of Kirby. I do strongly suggest reading this issue more than once to get as many of the subtle nuances as possible as well as just to fully absorb the complexities of King’s plot.
At its core Mister Miracle is the story of a man who has reached a perceived plateau in his professional and perhaps what’s worse, his personal life. He feels this so deeply in fact that the only thing left for him to escape from is death itself. Tom King and Mitch Gerads have teamed up again to bring us an engrossing, frightening and deeply poignant tale of one man’s journey through self-destruction. It’s gorgeous, smart and one hell of an entertaining read. 5/5
Writer- Tom King
Artist- Mitch Gerads
Publisher: DC Comics