Review: MISTER MIRACLE #1

MISTER MIRACLE #1
Written by Tom King
Art by Mitch Gerads, Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: August 9, 2017

Hope.

Since his creation – sprung from the mind of Jack Kirby – Mister Miracle has been an icon for hope. Brightly garbed, able to navigate any trap, and as much a part of the spotlight as in it, Scott Free shines in direct opposition to the dire environs of Apokolips, the planet where was raised. On Apokolips, Free viewed Darkseid as his father, suffered under lash and boot of Granny Goodness, but never lost his goal – to live as his namesake: free.

Hope fueled his adventures under Jack Kirby. Hope fueled his time with the Justice League, where I first met him. Hope may as well be Scott Free’s middle name. Free recently reappeared in the DC Universe in a prominent role in Justice League, during the Darkseid War, just before DC’s Rebirth efforts.

So it only makes sense that this Mister Miracle series would be a pinnacle of hope.

Except, well, it doesn’t start out that way.

Using the same opening lines that Jack Kirby wrote to introduce Mister Miracle to the world in the April 1971 cover-dated Mister Miracle #1, writer Tom King, artist Mitch Gerads, and letterer Clayton Cowles usher in a new era for the world’s greatest escape artist. That new era is one filled with mystery and drama, despair and surrender. And maybe, if you squint hard enough, just a glimmer of hope to focus on.

From the first page, where a near-life-sized, maskless Scott Free stares back at the reader, Gerads makes this comic visually unique, mining classic styles and conventions through the use of modern tools. The Ben Day dot coloring welcomes readers, punching them in the face with the incongruent appearance of antiquated printing and coloring on modern, new-smelling media. From there, Gerads uses the dots, flat colors, gradients, and every possible combination, including Photoshop depth filters and effects to make Mister Miracle #1 as cinematic as possible.

His drawings fit that range magnificently, leveraging the nine-panel pages for every bit of their storytelling potential. The cast is kept tight, which makes the story more impactful as Gerads is able to carve deeper impressions for each character, going so far as to give readers a diverse range of expressions for Mister Miracle, despite his mask only featuring white, oversized eyes and a lip-hugging mouth opening. The nine-panel grid enables precision in storytelling, allowing Gerads to break King’s script into seconds, such as when Barda intervenes during the lesson Orion tries to share. This is one of the richest scenes I’ve read this year, yet it’s one very small sliver, even within the context of a single issue of this Mister Miracle maxiseries.

Gerads maintains Mister Miracle’s outfit as the brightest, boldest piece in this issue, equaled only by Barda’s own armor. That’s definitely worth noting as the rest of the story has a dingy coat over it. Gerads lines are rough, his settings detailed and gritty, and his world lived in and used.

Oberon’s appearance is faded and nearly monotone, even stained with what appears to be tape residue, insinuating that it was perhaps reclaimed from beneath something else. The backgrounds of that scene are different (I’ll keep it spoiler-free) from the rest of the issue, separating it from the rest of the issue. On my second or third read (yeah, I’ve read it a few times, and will probably read it a few more) I noticed the background distinction, which drives the pointed plot in a whole lot harder and deeper.

Visually, Mister Miracle #1 is a spectacle, complete with Kirby Krackle.

At the intersection of script and image, Cowles drops “Darkseid is.”

These two words echo throughout Mister Miracle #1 like a drumbeat, or a heartbeat, or the stomping footfalls of marching destruction. King, Gerads, and Cowles use that element to punctuate the story, underscoring the story beats, driving home the plot, and magnifying the emotional drifting Scott Free is experiencing. Almost reminding the reader to breathe, “Darkseid is.”

The story itself heaps trauma and despair on the shoulders of hope. Scott is at a crossroads. He’s done everything, escaped every trap. Only death is left to challenge him, as it has been from the beginning. And, carved from hope, if anyone can escape death, it’s Mister Miracle, right? I don’t know. And I’m not sure if Mister Miracle knows either.

Uses the variety of storytelling tools in an intriguing mix, Mister Miracle #1 is a tale of discovery and despair, life and death, relationships and their purpose. King gives us all we need to know about Barda and Scott, Scott and Oberon, Scott and Orion, Orion and Barda, and Scott and Mister Miracle. Except there’s more to all of it. Something is off, weighed down or altered. Mister Miracle #1 doesn’t shine with hope. But it does shine.

This comic book is one of those creative masterpieces that will find its audience quickly and effectively. Praises are already being sung. King, Gerads, and Cowles give readers a wonderful, moving, reflective tribute to Jack Kirby. They also hold up a mirror for the reader. Mister Miracle #1 is a comic crafted to make readers think. To make them wonder. Maybe to give them hope. Or at least to give them thankfulness for what they have. And any comic that has a passionate following almost certainly finds detractors who might not be able to relate. At least not immediately. A second read might be required. Or a third. Or some time to process. Mister Miracle #1 is so much more than a sci-fi fantasy adventure with capes and tights. The more you know about the history of the characters in this issue, the more you will undoubtedly gain, but you don’t need to know anything before opening that cover and walking into the lives of Scott Free and Barda.

As it began, so does it end. King lifts the script from Kirby’s Mister Miracle #1 to close out his own debut issue with the same text: “And so the act goes on. . .” Thus King makes this the ultimate tribute while pressing the edges of what Kirby created.

Throughout Mister Miracle #1, readers are not only invited on this psychological, metaphysical adventure into and through the unknown with Mister Miracle, they’re invited to figuratively join him. By the end of this issue, I found myself devastated, but invested. Mister Miracle is me, and I’m him. I know I certainly cannot escape this, and I’m quite positive I don’t want to even try such a feat. So bring on Mister Miracle #2.

The Verdict: 10/10

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