Cracking the Equation: Mister Miracle #6

Part 6 of our running conversational commentary from Thomas and Adam on the 12-issue DC Comics series, Mister Miracle, by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. Previous installments can be found here

Adam: The second movement of Mister Miracle kicks off here with a full issue of non-stop action. A full issue of non-stop action juxtaposed with non-stop domestic discussions about re-arranging the condo. Our heroes, Scott and Barda very casually chat their way through their siege of Orion’s heavily-guarded palace. The story really, really, really moves forwards in this issue with some huge developments, but I want to start this installment of our commentary talking about Mitch Gerads’s artwork and storytelling in particular.

The majority of this issue’s pages take the shape of a side-scrolling platformer video game. This keeps the action sequences contained, but no less powerful or brutal than we’ve come to expect from Gerads at this point. The action is also packed with characterising nuance, illustrating how these two very differently specialised fighters do combat, and how, as a couple, they work together. Barda does the heavy-lifting, Scott handles the precision acrobatics.

In addition to action, Gerads balances proceedings with a peppering of wonderful comedic breaks. Many of them come at the expense of Orion’s goons who suffer some awfully painful endings throughout the issue. The physical comedy at work using the very different body types of Barda and Scott is amusing, smart, and in one particular instance quite moving…

Gerads also makes particularly striking use of colour, especially in how he flats backgrounds in this issue. During a tunnel-crawling sequence, the characters operate in a tiny space within the standard-sized nine panels of the grid. The rest of each panel is flatted out in pitch black. At another moment as Barda props up a lowering ceiling, the brilliant white that generally makes up the gutters of each page begins to descend on the heroes. They just manage to crawl out of shot, at the bottom right panel of the centrefold two-page sequence. Layouts beyond belief, absolutely brilliant.

And those television distortions do appear at a pretty critical moment, of course…

Thomas: The art is stunning and the design conceit for this issue is both particularly inspired and deliciously grim in equal measure as Scott and Barda deal with defence after defence on New Genesis. The juxtaposition of the action and the conversation is just great character work especially when you’re ahead of Scott in realizing what Barda is trying to tell him.

It’s interesting that we’re finally starting to make our way to the birth of Avia especially when you realise that it’s been twenty-two years since her first appearance in Kingdom Come by Mark Waid & Alex Ross. Having said that though it’s somewhat appropriate considering this series and where it appears to be heading in terms of themes and story, this not-so little announcement of new life amidst so much death.

The moment is beautiful and funny just as the relationship of these two wounded and battle-scarred Gods has always been, and comes right before the other key moment you alluded to. And the television static is, as ever, very important this issue. Scott enters Orion’s throne room alone to find him dead at the hands of Darkseid who is sat imperiously on the throne of New Genesis; Darkseid is. But when Barda enters it is Scott who sits on the throne and states, “I saw the face of God”. Was Darkseid really there? Is Darkseid working through Scott by proxy? Is the face of God Darkseid’s or Scott’s? Whatever the answer, Scott is assuredly Highfather.

Adam: We definitely fall another level further down into the Scott / Highfather / Darkseid / Anti-Life Equation mystery with this issue, and the final two pages here, replete with distortion, are a blistering and painful sequence.

Despite his obnoxiousness throughout, I’m slightly saddened to see Orion meet his fate at this point in the series. I felt some kind of rehabilitation, or at least a reckoning was probably due to him. In many ways a simple man, he clings to a black-and-white morality and when complexity threatens his limited perspective, he acts out desperately and with savage cruelty. At the same time, in his defence, Orion is not conceited. He’s working very honestly within the confines of his own understanding and trying to win a war whose stakes he absolutely cannot grasp.

One aspect of this book that continues to be remarkable with each passing issue is how it simultaneously does unfold in the way we’ve broadly envisaged whilst also taking such unexpected and powerful narrative turns. Such a thrill to have six more issues of this unparallelled series still to come. The tension left at the end of this installment is particularly clench-worthy…

What can we expect from Barda as the Darkseid mystery becomes clearer?

Thomas: We were wrong about ‘ole Funky being dead so I think that Orion may still be alive despite appearances – he’s just been battered to a pulp. I would argue that Orion’s obnoxiousness comes from fear. It’s already been shown that he’s afraid of Scott as beloved son, as rival for the throne, and simply as a potential enemy. The end of this issue would seem to prove his fears, both real and imagined, to be well and truly warranted.

The Barda question is an easy one: I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that she would be the one to put Scott in the ground should the need arise, though obviously current circumstances would make that act a little harder than it would have before. Scott is a hero and would prefer to be dead than be used to destroy the universe, especially with a child on the way and Barda knows this better than anyone – and EVERYONE knows Mister Miracle. It’s why Bug came to him and why that guard on page two didn’t want to fight them. Which brings us back to the “why?” of his suicide attempt and what triggered that internal war in the first place. Darkseid is.