Mister Miracle: A superhero for this generation


Mister Miracle, the maxi-series book by writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerards, which recently wrapped up in 2018, has recently been released in trade paperback. 

Every generation or so, there comes an arc, graphic novel or mini-series, that really shakes things up and changes the perception of how comic books should and can be written. They cross over into the mainstream, and shines a light into the comic book industry at a certain place and time. These redefining stories also have a big impact on a generation of readers because it directly speaks to them about their dreams, problems and norms, which can be very specific to their time and place, and can be a snapshot of society.

The book for this generation, for many, has been the Tom King-written and Mitch Gerard-drawn masterpiece, Mister Miracle. In this 12-issue mini-series, King and Gerards delve into the Fourth World and how Mister Miracle the escape artist, aka Scott Free (get it!), and his wife Big Barda deal with maintaining a marriage and raising a family while having to defend New Genesis from the armies of Apokolips.

As with anything that King writes, not everything is at it seems. In the very first issue, we learn that Scott has survived a suicide attempt, and as readers we’re not entirely sure if the events after his suicide attempt are real, or something else entirely. We have to deal with the fallout of Mister Miracle trying to take his own life while dealing with Darkseid and the birth of his first child. A meta-existential crisis, 22 pages at a time.

Credit to DC Comics and artist Mitch Gerards

This then is the framework that King and Gerard use to explore some very modern, and very real issues we face on a daily basis, like mental health, PTSD, depression, anxiety, family life and fatherhood for a nihilistic generation, that might feel as though they are trapped or lost between two worlds.

We explore Scott’s PTSD, anxiety and depression by looking at his past with Granny Goodness, who “raised” him in one of her Terror Orphanages, after he was given to Darkseid by Highfather, to bring peace between New Genesis and Apokolips. The trauma inflicted by being raised, nameless, by a woman who tortured him during his childhood while dealing with the fact that his father, willingly gave him up to the enemy. That would weigh heavy on any person, even a god.

Credit to DC Comics and artist Mitch Gerards

That juxtaposition, along with many other antithetical arguments, are at the heart of the series and drives of the narrative of what King and Gerard want to do. Whether it is the Jack Kirby gleeful, third-party narration that introduces and closes each book, when the book’s tone is very much the opposite, or if its Scott and Big Barda traveling between two worlds, where one is at war and the other is here on Earth where they are raising a family, this is what makes us feel so claustrophobic and anxious, just like Scott does.

While it shouldn’t be, the story of Scott Free in Mister Miracle is very relatable and personal to so many man, because it speaks of these very modern issues in very modern storytelling that embraces all of Scott’s issues, even if he is a fictional space deity from a distant planet.  The issues of mental health are ones that we, as a society deal on a daily basis, which makes Scott a sympathetic character.

But perhaps the most endearing and enduring aspect of Mister Miracle is that, it is completely out-there, yet, so damn relatable at the same time. The creative team of Mister Miracle made no mistake in using Kirby’s New Gods, and that was done to juxtapose the idea of being a deity with very human problems like the one Scott is going through.

On a personal level, there are a few issues where Scott and Big Barda deal with the birth of their first child, and being a few months removed from the birth of our first child, those issues hit extra close to home. I can remember the day my wife and I spent in the hospital and the worries that go with that. I saw myself in Scott’s shoes, as he was excited, anxious and having to deal with family at the same time. These type of storytelling is exactly what spoke to me, during my time and place, which is exactly what this mini-series was set out to do, and relate to anyone who picked up this story and read it.

Credit to DC Comics and artist Mitch Gerards

Although the character of Mister Miracle, the escape artist from Jack Kirby’s 1971 created New Gods universe might not be the first character that might come to mind when trying to come up with a DC property that became so influential, but the Kirby created character, when left to King’s writing style and Gerard’s art, is just the perfect example of how a former C-list character, character can become the face of a generation.

Besides the writing what makes all of this work, is the amazing artwork from Gerards. If you have heard anything about Mister Miracle, then you have heard about the nine-panel grid, and how it was used as a storytelling method for Gerard and King.

Gerard, and to a certain extent King, use the nine-panel grid so masterfully in a way that they can manipulate time and let the readers know exactly where they want their eyes to follow the story. It also allows them to emphasize what parts of the story need to be emphasized and what you need to pay attention to. A 9-panel grid might seem very limiting and constricting, but Gerard doesn’t seem to be hindered by them as he uses the interconnected panels masterfully to cony space and time.

Credit to DC Comics and artist Mitch Gerards

The nine-panel structure is also used to help tell a very surreal story. As the “Darkseid is” panel constantly sprinkled in to derail us from the situational events going on, to tell us something is off,  Gerard’s VHS tape like glitches makes the whole thing wonderfully unsettling and lets us know that there us more going on than what King and Gerard are letting on.

The surrealism that built up throughout the book pays off at the end, with and ending that is not spelled out for you or spoon feed. It is a very Sopranos-like ending, in a generation of pop-culture consumers who want endings that tell us what happened, and not left for interpretation. All the anxiousness and claustrophobia that has built momentum towards the end, makes us fell as though we are in the middle of this fever dream with Scott, and it lets us interpret the ending how we see fit.

We are left to try and figure out if Scott’s suicide attempt was successful, and went to either heaven or hell, depends on how you see it, or we are made to belief that Mister Miracle was hit with Darkseid’s anti-life equation, which is tearing him by the seems. Scott is ultimately left with the decision to go back to the “real” world and the main DC continuity, but to him, in a world that is constantly reset and rebooted, why is what he created any less real to what he has created in this existence. In a way, it speaks to a larger point, to let the readers know that it’s okay not to be part of the norm and that its okay for us to be, us. That is such an empowering point to make, in a time where we need it the most. The ultimate escape artist didn’t have to escape this time.

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Mister Miracle will age well, as time passes by because these issues, while told in a very modern way, are not things that will end as soon as we age or our kids grow up. What King and Gerard were able to do with a relatively unknown character, and tell an everlasting story was masterful. If you haven’t yet, make sure to pick this up and be prepared for a wild ride.