Cracking the Equation: Mister Miracle #1

Set to run to twelve issues, the new DC Comics maxi-series, Mister Miracle, has made a pretty substantial amount of noise online. And not for nothing. With just one issue out so far, it’s very clear that an exceptionally strong creative team have a very bold, artistic vision for this book. Mister Miracle is written by Tom King, with art by Mitch Gerads, letters by Clayton Cowles, edited by Jamie S. Rich and Molly Mahan, with covers by Nick Derington.

Having both been thoroughly blown away by the first issue, Thomas and Adam are going to attempt to chronicle the book with a running conversational commentary. So…

Mister Miracle #1 opens with eponymous hero Scott Free in the wake of an apparent suicide attempt. As he recovers in the care of Big Barda, Scott’s quiet home life is disrupted by both visions and visitors. The issue closes with Mister Miracle and Big Barda recalled to New Genesis to help in a coming conflict with Darkseid – who may already be in possession of the Anti-Life Equation!

Adam: Okay, so I thought we could maybe start by talking about how we’re each coming to this new Mister Miracle. For me, like most, I love Jack Kirby’s work and especially find he’s undervalued as a writer and world-builder. As much as he’s the defining illustrator of the Western comics tradition, he’s also quite probably the key pop art ideas man of the Twentieth Century. That said, I haven’t ever finished all of the Fourth World saga – and that’s partly because of the presentation order in the omnibus editions. As far as this book, I loved The Vision which featured both Tom King and Clayton Cowles, and as well as Omega Men – easily my favourite piece of work by King to date (and the greatest Green Lantern story of the last decade). As for Gerads, I found his work on The Punisher was really strong, but I have to confess I have still only read the first issue of The Sheriff of Babylon.

Thomas: As comic fans we all have a list of favourites, favourite team, favourite DC character, favourite Ditko character and, of course, favourite Kirby creation. I first came across Mister Miracle in the pages of Justice League International and followed him over to his ongoing series at the time. I enjoyed the character for the fun and joy of both series but it wasn’t until i started to pick up the Kirby originals and a handy black and white trade that collected the first 8 or so issues that i started to really immerse myself in the world of Scott Free and Barda and absolutely loved it.

I must confess to not really knowing too much about Tom King and Mitch Gerads’s previous work together or otherwise. I read the first issue of The Vision but still have yet to come back to it despite having enjoyed it and have had a copy of a friend’s Omega Men trade sitting at home, un-read, since January for no good reason.

Probably one of the least ‘bizarre’ of Kirby’s creations, Mister Miracle is perhaps his most exuberant and life affirming, Scott Free has always been that character who looks at the situation, sees how bad and catastrophic it is, sees no way of escape but remains certain that he will find a way when the time comes. Mister Miracle always pushes forward, is always hopeful which is why the opening pages of this first issue are such a gut-punch.

Adam: Yeah, opening with a depiction of the aftermath of a suicide attempt, this first issue marks the series out very quickly as a serious comic for grown-ups, and one that’s meaningfully heavy-going. It’s refreshing to see something psychological that isn’t just a simple grim ‘n’ gritty masquerade. There’s such a weight to the scenes of Scott’s recovery at home, tended by Barda, because it’s punctuated throughout with really relatable moments of doubt, anxiety and self-loathing. The passages in the hospital, for example, with Scott surrounded by overlaid and un-attributed voices really convey that sense of being a passenger in your own life, in your own story. Similarly, something Amy said on the podcast that really struck me was the idea of those disruptive blacked-out ‘Darkseid is.’ panels being representative of Scott’s struggle with invasive dark thoughts. They work to build tension and foreboding for the reader, but they also work as a great visual metaphor for the main character’s anxieties.

It’s great to be able to invest so quickly with an issue where, although we can’t be sure what’s really happening in concrete narrative terms, everything we experience feels real.

Thomas: Absolutely, the whole situation feels very dreamlike as it moves from scene to scene, a delicate pacing that glimpses at Scott’s depression, which is what this appears to be. The numbness, distance and time that follow him through his ‘recovery’ would certainly seem to suggest so. I can’t remember the last time I read a comic that examined depression so well and as anything other than as a tumblr fashion accessory. And the book should be praised for it.

The unreality of the situation is also possibly a bit of a feint, before The New 52 and Rebirth, Scott was the Anti-Life Equation, I have no idea if that holds here but if Darkseid has the Equation – has Scott, was Scott’s suicide an attempt to keep the Equation safe and away from Darkseid? Are we even sure that he wasn’t successful given the fact that he enters the light at the end of the issue?

“Darkseid is” is reality intruding in his death, a command over the Equation? Or perhaps a countdown, Darkseid is . . . what?