Tom King and Mitch Gerads bring their Eisner-winning “Mister Miracle” series to a close with a ruminative issue that explores the nature of heroism in the modern age. Driven by a sequence of connected vignettes, the final issue’s narrative meanders toward a thoughtful and reflexive conclusion that aims for the heart and not the head and doesn’t miss. If you are spoiler-averse, escape from this review now.
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Mitch Gerads
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
It’ll be a miracle if you can get through this mind-bending conclusion with your sanity intact! After his epic battle with Darkseid, Scott Free sees life a whole new way: he’s the new Highfather of New Genesis, and he’s madly in love with his wife and child. But what if it’s all a lie? Did Mister Miracle really escape death way back in issue #1? No one really knows but Tom King and Mitch Gerads!
I don’t think it’s an accident that Tom King’s “Heroes in Crisis” (a murder-mystery that addresses superhero PTSD) would begin not long before Mister Miracle takes his final bow. Much like King’s acclaimed “The Vision” at Marvel before it, “Mister Miracle,” has dealt with the drama and psychological toll of balancing domestic normalcy with super heroism. It’s fertile ground that King seems more than willing to explore in his books. Even King’s “Batman” series has had its share of mental fallout of a life lived fighting evil. While Batman still tends to settle matters with his fists, Scott Free’s mechanism for coping has always been about escape. When the series began, Scott took one avenue of escape: taking his own life. By this twelfth issue, he has come to realize that escape is not as much about what you are escaping from as it is what you are escaping to. In the end, “Mister Miracle” became not just a series about dealing with life’s trauma but also about the way people find (and how the very construct of comic book stories allow for) the ultimate escape.
Throughout the series, King and Gerads have paid homage to Kirby’s original run on the character, and issue 12 is no different. From an image of Kirby’s final issue of “Mister Miracle” now adorning Scott and Barda’s condominium wall to another appearance by Funky Flashman as Jacob’s babysitter, made all the more touching with the recent passing of Stan Lee, Funky’s real-life analog and Kirby’s creative partner during Marvel’s golden age, these metatextual elements have been part of the fabric of the series, but with this final issue it has become clear that these aspects of the story are no mere easter eggs. They have real thematic heft. They also speak to a time in comics when the proceedings weren’t so dire. When comics were fun. An escape. From Scott’s ubiquitous superhero symbol tee shirts to King’s recycling of narrative text from Kirby’s stories, the series has embraced many aspects of the the comic book medium itself, the birthplace of the New Gods, a concept that could only be born within its pages and out of the mind a single creator to be passed on to future generations as vessels for their own anxieties and fears… and hopes.
Following the seismic events of issue 11 where Metron reveals the mysteries of the multiversity, reboots, rebirths, and the de facto mechanism behind the curtain of comic book continuity, what else can our hero do but slip back into the comforts of domestic mundanity and tranquility. It is his greatest escape yet, and by ending the series this way King both embraces and sticks a gauntleted finger in the eye of that continuity by telling readers that if you can’t determine what’s real or what matters, then it’s best to take solace in the things that undeniably do. What’s at the core of the characters we love? For Scott, it’s not that he can pick a series of padlocks before being engulfed in flames. It’s that he has made it to the other side of a cosmic battle whose end result is ultimately meaningless in the face of the safety and security of his home and family. From the onset, King stated that the series would be about a response to the crazy world in which we live, one where we question the very nature of reality. King delivers on that promise in this issue with as much power as one of Kirby’s battle royales. By the final pages of the issue, King has left some up to interpretation (as writers of great fiction do), but he provides a thematic certainty: Sometimes there is no clarity. You do your best, and sometimes that’s enough. Even for a god, that can be enough.Continued below
Enough can’t be said about King’s series partner, Mitch Gerads. Staying within the confines of the nine-panel page format, Gerads and King have managed to revolutionize the way that comic pages and serialized stories can be constructed. The book has been a master class in pencilling, and Gerads inventiveness within his preferred digital format hits a crescendo with this issue both by being in perfect harmony with King’s script as well as augmenting it to create a symphony of ideas that will be discussed, dissected, and debated for years to come. Everywhere within the series, and in this issue, there is a playfulness and willingness to be experimental with the sequential storytelling form, and the results have yielded a cohesive vision that looks as refreshingly vital as when it was introduced in issue 1 and that feels avant grade simply by staying true to the classical principles of boundless creativity that the medium affords. As Gerads’s ghosts of the Fourth World appear to Scott as a hybrid of analog and digital video artifacts, I had to marvel at his ability to render such a common conceit in such a new and refreshing way. It’s not the first time in the series that I’ve done that, but it was sadly one of the last. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Speaking of ghosts, I also don’t think it’s an accident that Scott’s last commune with the dearly departed in this issue would be with Oberon. If there’s a relatable appeal to the Mister Miracle character it’s that he has, from his inception, embraced humanity, embraced “being human,” and even plied his trade entertaining as well as protecting other humans. It’s no wonder that the words that comfort Scott would come not from the lips of his Fourth World brethren but from the mouth of his cigar-chomping, human assistant. As the final panel of Scott and Barda wobbles out of focus, there is little doubt that King and Gerads have created an instant classic in the medium, one that celebrates all that make comics great, heartbreaking, and ridiculous at once. Like life itself.
Final Verdict: 10.0 – “Mister Miracle” #12 caps off an astonishing series that humanizes some of Jack Kirby’s most popular DC creations. If there is one quibble, it’s that this remarkable series is over.