Part 7 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: So. This issue’s another stop-gap of sorts, as far as the series’s narrative action as a superhero comic. It’s a beautiful, tense, consciously mundane portrait of labour and birth. With a rather hearty dose of magical realism peppered in, of course.
The appearance, and frosty demeanour of Barda’s former colleagues especially, The Furies, makes for such a lovely, chucklesome – and relatable family portrait. They even bring along the very useful, and not bizarre god-killing Fahren-Knife just in case. And it does come in handy. The Furies are sweet like that.
Mercifully, everything goes okay for First Name: Big, Second Name: Barda, and her newborn son. Although that is one pretty grey-lookin’ baby…
What’s next? Are we back to the action in #8?
Thomas: It’s the juxtaposition of life and death: life goes on, there is hope for tomorrow – especially in the middle of this galactic horror that is the escalating war between New Genesis and Apokolips.
I agree with you on the female Furies. They have always been a fun part of the background, but here have the added bonus of humanising the enemy in a way that dinner with Granny could never, ever be. There are always two sides to every conflict. Yes, Darkseid is the ultimate evil, but how far does that go for the inhabitants of Apokolips? King loves moral ambiguity, and as laugh-out-loud as this whole issue is, at times the Furies are a clear reminder of that fact.
And then there’s Jacob.
Adam: I love that reading. The Furies are at once comic relief, and a reminder of Darkseid’s hand at work in all things. But yeah, even more than serving those functions, Bernadeth and her sisters raise the much bigger question of how much anybody really internalises the rhetoric or propaganda of their ‘side’. How much is it just performative?
Despite the stakes of the war, and sworn promises to destroy Scott Free, Scott checks in with them in the waiting room.
Scott: You guys doing okay?
Fury #3: We’re fine. How’s your wife?
Scott: She’s– I think everything’s fine.
It’s honestly so loving, and normal. Darkseid’s fiercest minions are tender and compassionate when it comes to family. And sometimes family take different sides. I think especially the different emotive poses Gerads positions them in, with the grey-blue lights of the hospital around them does so much to humanise these characters. He’s drawing gods with one leg up on the stuck-together row of chairs, bored as anything. Or he’s got them leaning forwards, head in hands, nerve-wracked about their sister who’s in labour.
It’s slice-of-life comics, as strong and realistic as anything D&Q or Fantagraphics has out right now. Gerads and King are just pouring lived humanity into this book, and it’s really something else.
Baby Jacob seems another tribute to Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg), but the terrifying ‘grey’ moment with the umbilical cord gives the birth a sinister few seconds before Barda and Jacob get the all-clear. As Barda remarks, ‘the first child born of Apokolips and New Genesis’. Given that that the swapping of newborns is a key element in the mythos of the Fourth World, maybe Jacob’s origin is the beginning of the end of the eternal war. The bridging of the gap. Especially in the wake of Orion’s possible death, and with Scott’s ongoing reluctance to lead.
Thomas: Oh. That’s not something I had actually considered. As far as I can remember, Jacob is the first New God born of both worlds since before the death of the Old Gods. Are King and Gerads embracing the religious aspect of the Fourth World?
I’m paraphrasing and far too lazy to look up the exact quotation, but John the Baptist said, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit”. The water is the cleansing of the old and the spirit is the proliferation of the new. Or, Barda is the natural purity of being, she is who she is no matter what – while Scott is the spirit of hope, the vision of a better tomorrow, always moving forwards. Jacob is renewal and the end of the war. Possibly.
I’m probably reading too much into it all, but Jacob may be the reason for the war to end. We see how the Furies of Apokolips see the child: the boy is one of THEM, and I imagine the same could be said with that p**ck Lightray et al. on the New Genesis side.
A threat to the child would be a threat to both sides, and could unite them against a common enemy. Maybe.