Mr Miracle #12 review

It’s the final issue of Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mr Miracle maxi-series and I read it with a growing sense of dread; not so much because of events in the story but due to a fear they wouldn’t stick the landing.

The thing is, as I’ve said previously, I’ve bought every issue of this series but odd times have let two or three pile up before getting to them. I’ve appreciated the series more than enjoyed it. I’ve always found moments of pleasure in individual issues, but had to wade through pages of depressing events to reach them. I’m sure that for some people, a story extrapolating out from the darker aspects of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World masterpiece is pure pleasure. But I’m not that guy. Ultimately, I want optimism. This series began with Scott Free hospitalised after trying to kill himself, having slit his wrists. He told a curious public he was challenging his escape artist skills, seeing if he could escape Death itself.

Was this the truth? We soon learned best pal Oberon had recently died from cancer… had Scott given in to despair and decided, momentarily at least, to follow him? Since then we’ve seen Scott and wife Barda fight for the fate of Apokolips, have a baby, struggle to balance their everyday lives in LA with their responsibilities as New Gods. And every now and then the art has fizzed, hinting that everything isn’t as it seems. Scott’s memories of such little things as his wife’s eye colour are skewed. And one message is repeated.

Well, Darkseid is dead by the start of this issue, killed by Scott. But after that happened, at the close of #11, the watchful New God Metron appeared to Scott, claiming that the reality he knows, the one we’ve followed in this series, is a lie… he belongs in the DC Universe of the New 52. Would Scott embrace this apparent truth, leave Barda and ‘Jolly Jake’ behind, and return to a different reality?

Nope. This issue open with Barda waking to find Scott in the shower, where he shaves off the beard he’s sported of late. I’m not sure of the symbolism of a clean chin, but this has to be a nod to Dallas, when Pam Ewing found that husband Bobby wasn’t dead after all, wiping out the previous season. What’s most interesting is a conversation he has with the ghost of Granny Goodness.

Or is that the living Granny Goodness communing with the dead Scott Free?

Later that day, on a visit to Apokolips, Bug also offers insight into Scott’s existence.

And later, the seeming spirit of Oberon has a more optimistic reading of events.

Whatever the truth, Scott decides he’s going nowhere. He’s staying with Barda and Jake, and looking forward to the birth of another baby, this time a girl. For now, at least.

So there you have it. Scott is dead. Out there, in the real world, there’s a Big Barda who’s mourning him, but he’s staying in Heaven/Hell with a fake family. So what if he can escape, he’s choosing not to.

Throughout this series Scott has been under the spell of this Barda, her pregnancies tying Scott’s ever more to this ‘reality’ (the second baby is conveniently conceived after Scott’s message from Metron might have him doubting his environs), constantly reassuring him she’s real, entreating him to stay… perhaps she’s a telepathic construct of his old enemy The Lump, there to keep Scott trapped, like a Black Mercy. Just look at the couple’s final exchange, now there’s sinister.

And despite the final blurb of this issue, I wouldn’t be at all surprised were a 13th instalment to suddenly appear and send Scott back into the current, official DC Universe, maybe as soon as the DC Rebirth/Doomsday Clock sequence is over. Heck, it could be Dr Manhattan trapping Scott for whatever reason – Jack Kirby created Scott as a Jesus Christ surrogate, we’ve seen crucifixion imagery in this run, #12’s cover has red roses – linked in art to Christ. Could a resurrection by Scott prove key to the future of the DC Multiverse?

Or is this really ‘just’ Tom King playing around with Kirby tropes, metafiction and presenting a really depressing perspective on love?

I honestly don’t know; this is a comic apparently (there’s that word again) designed to be discussed, and studied… but is it meant to be entertaining? There have been plenty of great dramatic moments, lots of sweet exchanges, the sheer craft of Gerads’ art and naturalness of King’s dialogue is wonderful, but overall I’m left feeling flat. I won’t say depressed, because Depression is a real thing, something bigger than me not loving a comic I definitely admire. But certainly, reading Mr Miracle #12 had me needing a cuddle from the cats

Escapism is the core of Mr Miracle and the point of most comics; if Mr Miracle isn’t allowed to escape – worse still, if he chooses not to escape because he’s seduced by a fake reality – what’s the point of him? Comic book tee shirts and superhero action figures have been a visual constant in this series – is King actually trolling the comic reader, suggesting we can’t cope with reality and will always choose the unreal world? Probably not, because he comes across in interviews and on Twitter as a pretty nice chap. But still…

Things I do understand include the bittersweet effect of Funky Flashman, quoting his inspiration Stan Lee, in the week of the comic legend’s death…

… the ever-dashing Kanto…

… and a great gag involving Barda’s middle initial.

We also get familiar faces in Scott’s audience on page one, and some nice callbacks to the debut issue. The book looks gorgeous throughout, thanks to Gerad’s increasingly impressive full-colour artwork.

I love his alternate cover, it’s clever, striking and speaks to the story. The Nick Derington main cover echoes the first issue’s nicely, with Scott and Barda taking a bow, though the Female Fury looks far too skinny.

Overall, this has been an interesting experiment, but probably twice as long as it needed to be – a shorter length might have meant less room for existential angst and more emphasis on action. Having read a good amount of Tom King comics by this point, though, I’m pretty sure the questioning/miserabilist moments would have been the last thing to go.

As for the God of Evil, Darkseid is…

… on Scott’s couch.

16 thoughts on “Mr Miracle #12 review

  1. I’ve heard lots of good things about this series, and judging from the reviews I’ve seen and read, this is definitely one of those books that reads better if you sit back and read and re-read the entire thing from beginning to end, just like his Omega Men series.

    So Scott’s choosing fantasy over reality huh? Simply because he believes when he’s ready, he can just up and escape? Huh. Not sure what I think about that, especially since the cover of the next Heroes in Crisis has him and Barda on it, meaning they’ll both be appearing in the proper DCU.

    So that begs the question, what exactly was the purpose of this entire thing?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. I have a MUCH more optimistic reading than yours. I see this as Scott rejecting fantasy (the DCU, and everything that goes with it) in favor of his grow-up responsibilities of being a father and a husband. And that maturity involves him integrating all of his past into his life — including Granny, including Darkseid. Darkseid is — he always is — but for now, at least, he’s tame enough that Scott can use him as a footrest.

    Oberon’s words ring true to me: “All those crises and continuities that never really make sense? That world full of superheroes who always end up hunky-dory? You think that’s more real than that wife of yours? Your kid? Sorry, KIDS. C’mon….sell me another one.”

    Scott’s happy ending, and Barda’s, after the hell of their childhoods, and the struggles of all their lives, is mundanity. He’s able to put that hateful past behind him and grow beyond it, for however long he can. It’s the opposite of a life of adventure and derring-do. It’s parenthood, and his son seeing all the way back in time through his father’s eyes, while he sees all the way forward in time through your son’s. There’s a throughline in the series of gazing into the face of God — Scott’s warned not to do it by Metron, and there are other references throughout. But in that moment, he does. He sees the vastness of the universe, and his small place in it — but also recognizes that for right now, he’s here, and he matters.

    Darkseid is. But we are, too.

    That seems like an optimistic message to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure about “I see this as Scott rejecting fantasy (the DCU, and everything that goes with it)”. This series was about his difficulties with his childhood, not his adventures with Superman.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. But I don’t read this as Barda having a happy ending. I get that he’s in one continuity having been in another, but it seems that to get there he had to die. The Barda he loved isn’t this one. The fuzzy figures, the spectral visitations, they seem to be telling him that this is heaven or hell – one way or another, it’s not the Real he knew. If he can escape being a ghost, why not do that? Because this Barda, constantly on her ‘Mother X-Box’ is sapping his will.

      Well, maybe – have I mentioned that ambiguity bugs me?

      Like

      1. Mart, I’m not even sure that he was in one continuity, after having been in “ours.” I think if you want to reread this and enjoy it, think of it (as I do) as the native Scott and Barda of whatever world it’s set on. Scott has nagging feelings that something’s wrong with reality, but they’re all a symptom that something is wrong with his brain. Call it the anti-life equation, call it depression, call it PTSD from his childhood. But it’s the obstacle he has to surmount, all while balancing his god-duties with his human stuff.

        And Metron offers him an out. A way to escape. And that escapism takes the form of the DCU we’re familiar with.

        And Scott rejects it, and works to live happily with Barda and their kids, named for Jack and Roz. He feels the pull of those bad feelings every day — but he overcomes them. Not by running away, but by facing them as part of himself that he has to deal with — whether they take the form of Darkseid, Granny, Orion, Highfather, or the weird static that makes him doubt himself. In the end, all those special effects weren’t a clue that there was something wrong with reality…but that there was something wrong with Scott. And he’s dealing with it, with the help and love of his family.

        Anyway, seen in that light, there’s no Barda on another earth mourning Scott. There’s just the Barda of this earth, grateful that his suicide attempt didn’t succeed.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. That was my take as well.

    The view of the dc heroes was madness. He could have escaped there, lost touch with reality completely, but he didn’t.

    Instead he is living. Sometimes life is heaven. Sometimes life is hell. Sometimes life is monotonous. But at least it’s real.

    I thought throughout the series Scott was trying to escape something to get back to the living. It turns out the whole time he was rejecting something. Turned the whole book on its head. Blew my mind.

    I love this book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this review Mart. I’m so happy to hear from someone with the same reaction as mine. I remember feeling heaviness in my chest at the realisation that the real Barda was now a widow.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the wonderfully well-considered words, Rob. I really do get what you’re saying, but my personality just doesn’t allow me to see a happy ending as Scott rising above his PTSD to be able to continue a domestic existence while regularly fighting bloody war offworld. Every time he gets happy, sadness or uncertainty intervenes. And I know I’m harping on, but I really don’t trust this Barda.

    Oh Rob, are we incompatible?

    Like

    1. Certainly not! Perish the thought!

      Ah, well. No one ever argued someone into liking a book. I’m sorry you don’t see the hope that I do in this one. We can all use more books with hope.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Remember the claim that while there were infinite different Earths in the multiverse there was only one New Gods dimension? You really shouldn’t trust Barda because in Earth 2 she betrayed Scott and the other heroes. Now obviously the one version idea was never told to the writers but it still bothers me they’ve never said it wasn’t canon any longer. I hate the idea that the real Barda could even be hypothetically tarnished by this!

      Liked by 1 person

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