As of this writing, I’ve stayed off of other comic sites to the best of my ability. In my week long pondering after reading the issue, I’m sure I will be inundated with near-to-perfect reviews after I post this and finally peak beyond the other comic site’s catch head lines for King and Gerard’s 1st of 12 issues to Mister Miracle. And all the words written singing it’s praise will be well deserved. It’s a master class in comics story telling as far as first issues go.
No one in current comics writing does the 9-panel layout better than King. He showcases the tried and true formula of why this simple storytelling layout is maybe the best in comics. Consistently using it to its greatest effects to punctuate the relentless brutality of a fight scene (see: The Button), to the perfect resolution finale that no big budget summer blockbuster could ever replicate (see: Omega Men). It’s also no surprise the decision was made to tell a Jack Kirby creation’s story in the same way Jack Kirby did.
Every step of the way is menacing and foreboding. The opening scene showing us a Mister Miracle in the middle of a suicide attempt on the floor of his bathroom. The cheery costume and somewhat whimsical take on what we typically understand the character is juxtaposed with wrists bleeding out and a deadpan expression. Given that this is not King’s first foray into examining the relationship of superheroes and suicide, and as he already explored this with a new layer of mythos added to Batman’s origin, I’m not 3 pages into this thing when I give serious thought whether or not I want to continue with this comic. Then that contradictive voice kicks in. Sure he’s done this before to Bruce Wayne. Sure, I’m nervous that King has prematurely written himself into his own trope. But don’t you want to see what he does this time with it? The sick curiosity wins out over me.
I’d wish someone had warned me to take breaks after every few pages. I’m not going to mince words here. This comic is unrelentingly brutal. On a viscerally emotional level. It gave me pause. It made me question everything that King (and Gerad for that matter) have worked on. The ongoing themes of existential dread and self-reflection that this creative team puts their characters through over and again is a testament. Mitch and Tom as a team, have gotten VERY good at it, in a very short amount of time.
There is no shock value here. For as unrelenting as this Mister Miracle story starts out, it’s not done in an exploitive or overly obscene way. Through all the Lynchian slight of hand conjured around all our players, there’s heart at the center. Scott’s wife, Big Barda, plays the strong support and gives very relatable texture to the book as their marriage becomes some very much needed levity for our main character, and more importantly, to the story. There’s a tactfully done scene as Gerad’s art uses static and snow on an old television set to tell the story of Scott’s first public appearance in full Mister Miracle showmanship that delivers to the world a perfectly reasonable explanation why he tried to end his life that leaves the studio audience and the reader chuckling nervously. All conducted by a late night tv show host that shouldn’t be there.
I will need to pull off to the side of the road, gas up the ride, stock up on snack, and take breaks reading this series every month. But I can’t wait to get to the destination.
New God or not, Scott Free is an escape artist first. Every escape spectacle is not what it seems. You are only shown what you’re supposed to. And your eyes will deceive you, and that is why I’m wary of what this issue has shown us. Mister Miracle #1 is good, but I don’t think we’ll realize just how great it was until we’re further along down the road.
Verdict: 4 out of 5… for now