After the polarizing reception to Tom King’s current “Batman” run, it will take nothing short of a miracle for him to escape back to the heights of universal acclaim where he once had a foothold. A setup with Kirby-verse characters is a good way to kick things off. And bringing his “Sheriff of Babylon” partner along to ride shotgun means he’s already racing back to the top.
Mister Miracle #1
Written by Tom King
Illustrated & Colored by Mitch Gerads
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
From the team behind THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON and the Hugo Award-nominated writer of Vision comes a unique new take on one of Jack Kirby’s most beloved New Gods.
Scott Free is the greatest escape artist that ever lived. So great that he escaped Granny Goodness’ gruesome orphanage and the dangers of Apokolips to travel across galaxies and set up a new life on Earth with his wife, the former female fury known as Big Barda. Using the stage alter ego of Mister Miracle, he has made a career for himself showing off his acrobatic escape techniques. He even caught the attention of the Justice League, which counted him among its ranks.
You might say Scott Free has everything…so why isn’t it enough? Mister Miracle has mastered every illusion, achieved every stunt, pulled off every trick—except one. He has never escaped death. Is it even possible? Our hero is going to have to kill himself if he wants to find out.
Written by Tom King (BATMAN) and illustrated by Mitch Gerads (The Punisher), this is a MISTER MIRACLE unlike any you’ve read before.
“Is he a master of spectacular trickery or is he something more?” Tom King posits in the opening line of “Mister Miracle” #1. It’s a question that frames the issue as a whole – possibly the entire series; we’ll wait and see – and in that light, it’s quite fitting that Clayton Cowles captures it in a text box nestled high to the top left corner of that opening page. The tight cropped, full-bleed close-up of Scott Free’s grim, pallid facade may carry more weight, but the rigid right angles of that text box sitting overtop his head make sure there’s no mistaking where the issue really begins.
It’s as if that one small question looms large in Mister Miracle’s mind. And given Mitch Gerads’ expansive double-page spread that follows immediately – our hero, slumped lifelessly against a shower wall as a pool of deep crimson seeps out from his wrists and past a discarded razor to envelope a red and yellow mask that was thrown on the floor next to the toilet – it’s easy to imagine this very same question running through Scott’s head before the blood ran out. Because if he’s only just a master of trickery, that means he’s something lesser than. And by extension, if he’s lesser than, then he can never become something more.
If this makes it sound like the “Mister Miracle” #1 is needlessly grim, believe me, it’s not. But it’s not exactly a fun issue. It’s somber. It asks tough questions to which there are no real answers. The book almost admits as much in the mid-issue sequence where a late-night talk show host prods the escape artist about what really happened – Was he ending it all? Was it just another trick? But before giving Scott time to answer whether or not he really had escaped death, the host cuts to commercial. Gerads’ work through this sequence is masterful. The panels themselves are framed as though we’re viewing them through an old, tube TV with blurry reception and wavy lines that seem to further obfuscate any resolution we might get on the matter.
And right now, that’s a perfect way to tell the story. It feels introspective, without ever really getting into Scott’s head. We know for a fact that he’s stuck in there, and that’s enough for now. Early on, there are several instances where he’s shown with a vacant stare on his face while snippets of the ambient conversations in his vicinity blot the rest of the panel. It’s a subtle technique; since this text floats above his face, and it isn’t tethered to him in anyway, it seems to distance him from the rest of the scene. He doesn’t feel like a part of his surroundings; rather, he’s buried somewhere deep in his own mind.Continued below
Gerads’ sketchy lines bring the exact rawness that this type of story requires. “Mister Miracle” #1 shapes up as a partial character study. And what’s most impressive in Gerads’ work are the smaller details he’s able to capture with seeming ease. Walking down a beach with his father, Scott’s hands are slumped into his pockets and his feet kick at the froth from waves rushing back to sea. There’s an impertinence to this action, especially given the weight of the actual conversation Highfather wants to have with him, that says so much about Scott’s head space.
This being a New Gods story, King and Gerads do get a chance to stretch their legs into the realm of the Kirby cosmic – Orion blasts through a boom tube into Scott and Barda’s apartment; whispers of Darkseid’s acquisition of the Anti-Life equation turn to shouts. But for the most part, these occurrences are played to highlight their absurdity. When we see Barda in her full, costumed regalia, she’s crowded into a cramped ER waiting room; when Scott hears Orion’s pings on the motherbox, he shuffles to his fridge first and chugs milk straight from the carton. That absurdity serves two purposes. On a more surface level, it seems like it holds up a carnival mirror to just how little the world can make sense when traumatic, horrific events occur. At the same time, it helps to prop up the all-is-not-what-it-seems narrative that King seems to be seeding here.
Overall, “Mister Miracle” #1 is a majestic debut for this series. King’s script carries weight, severity, and solemnity without ever feeling overbearing or overly grim. Gerads’ art is a wonderfully raw and evocative match. The sketchy, almost experimental, vibe runs a gamut of different styles, all the while capturing and combining essences of Greg Smallwood and Michel Fiffe without ever feeling overt in doing so. It’s not the prettiest book this year, but it might just be the most engaging one to look at.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – Back on top. Tom King is.