I can always escape” is a frequent claim made by Mister Miracle, superhero escape-artist, but as his foster-brother Orion informs him, “we’re all bound by something.” Duty, family, trauma and religion all intersect and entangle Mister Miracle throughout this award-winning twelve-issue comic, where beautiful artwork and fantastic writing present an ambitious puzzle for readers to unravel.
Mister Miracle originates from the legendary world of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, where the twin planets of virtuous New Genesis and evil Apokolips are engaged in an endless war. To stop the fighting, its leaders establish a ceasefire by exchanging their children. New Genesis’ Highfather is given Orion, the child of Apokolips’ Darkseid (archenemy of the Justice League), who in turn is given Highfather’s child, who is tortured and trained upon arrival, earning the nickname ‘Scott Free’ from his constant escape attempts. Eventually Scott escapes to Earth, taking the mantle of Mister Miracle, and marrying fellow Apokolips refugee Big Barda. This comic begins with the planetary war reignited, Darkseid having finally uncovered the ‘Anti-Life Equation’, a formula which changes reality. Meanwhile, Scott is just recovering from a suicide attempt, his own existence an issue he cannot face, or escape from.
All this complex backstory is provided within the book, but new readers might miss its intricacies and significance. Scott’s relationship with Orion, or the unsettling sporadic reminder that “Darkseid is” (peppered in an all-black panel throughout the comic) might lose their impact for those unaware of who they ‘are.’ Mister Miracle is no easy introduction to these characters or the medium, being very experimental with its formatting and presentation, with each page having the same nine-panel grid. Additionally, the heavy themes filtered through bombastic super-heroics might be jarring to some, its presentation not fitting conventional moulds, leaving the resolution ambiguous and opaque.
However, with these concerns acknowledged, those able to engage in both deep DC comics lore and high-concept philosophy will find that Mister Miracle combines them exquisitely. The intensity of New Gods’ colourful mythology is balanced by Scott and Barda’s domestic life, from which the comic derives its heart and humour, particularly during when they discuss home redecoration whilst traversing deadly security systems. Even for those completely unaware of Kirby’s New Gods, Mister Miracle grounds itself in familiar, human stakes. You grow to truly care for this couple and their well-being, despite the insanity that surrounds their lives. For all his dangerous adventures, no feat matches Scott’s anxiety from waiting for Barda to give birth.
Tom King’s own experiences of combat and fatherhood (already shown expertly in Sheriff of Babylon) bring authenticity to his stylised dialogue, while Mitch Gerads’ delicate artwork brings convincing expressions and physicality to these godlike characters. Like the ‘glitches’ that pervade Mister Miracle’s nine-panel restraints, these creators have pushed boundaries, mining a story about New Gods to deal with human struggles of hope and despair, crafting a masterpiece that you cannot escape from.
Mister Miracle (12)
DC Comics (2019)
Image: DC Comics.