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The Humanity of Superhumans in Tom King’s Mister Miracle

Mister Miracle explores deep character connections and the heavy responsibilities they are asked to shoulder. Similar to his work on Marvel’s Vision series, writer Tom King breaks free from the often fifty thousand foot view and puts the reader directly in front of the character. I have often said that Marvel comics are all about men trying to become gods, and DC comics has been about gods trying to become men. In Mister Miracle we see just that.

In the 1970’s Jack Kirby, who gave life to many of comic book history’s greatest characters, created DC Comics Fourth World, a universe beyond ours governed by the New Gods. His pantheon of characters, led by the Highfather of New Genesis, and the evil, sadistic Darkseid of Apokolips, are locked in an age old battle of good versus evil. The only way to prevent total annihilation? The exchange of their sons, Orion and Scott Free (Mister Miracle). Darkseid’s son Orion would grow up on the idyllic, Eden like world of New Genesis. The son of the Highfather, Scott Free, would grow up in the tortuous, fiery pits of Apokolips, an industrial mechanized world of pain and suffering. Scott becomes a master of escape, outsmarting, outmaneuvering, and escaping the pits of Apokolips time and time again (a plan Darkseid put into motion to break the peace between New Genesis and Apokolips) and later takes on the moniker Mister Miracle. Escaping with one of Darkseid’s top female soldiers, Big Barda, Scott and Barda make their home here on our earth. And that is where we pick up the series in King’s run of Mister Miracle.

We will never be Batman, a tech billionaire who pummels criminals in alley ways, or Superman flying invincibly through the sky, but we are all Scott Free.

That all seems fairly standard for your typical comic book hero. And yet Mister Miracle  starts on a bloody bathroom floor where Scott Free has just tried to kill himself. It gets even more complicated from there. What unfolds in the coming issues is a candid look at the life of a man who seemingly has it all, yet has to face some serious demons of his past. After Scott leaves the hospital we start to see the picture come together, but as Tom King is known to do, only gives you a handful of puzzle pieces at a time, and often not even for the same puzzle. Scott is frequently visited by people from his past: his best friend Oberon who had recently passed away and Granny Goodness, the barbarous overseer of the torturous orphanage in which Scott grew up. He is even visited by his father, a man who gave him up to be tortured for the peace of his own planet.

The beautiful artwork by the incredibly talented Mitch Gerads adds to the mystery, as many of the characters show up in greyscale, often plagued by static and distortions. Are these mere hallucinations Scott is suffering in his post suicidal mind, the haunting images of his past? Or are these visits happening in the present, carrying real weight from the afterlife? Anchored only by his wife, Big Barda, Scott is free of the pits of Apokolips, yet faces another kind of pain and confusion: life. The loss of his dear friend, constantly being hounded by fans, a condo that is too small, a wife that feels his depression is her fault, traffic that never seems to end, and an ongoing war between New Genesis and Apokolips. Add to that a baby on the way and we can begin to understand the sense of drowning Scott is feeling. He is terrified that the happiness he has found in his wife and child is only a mirage that will soon be lifted, giving way to a pain he has had to endure time and time again. Perhaps the only thing Scott can’t escape is his past.

We all must face our past in order to forge our future. Scott Free is no different. His life has been shaped not only by his own decisions, but by those made for him. He did not choose to grow up on Apokolips, it was forced upon him. He did not choose to be tortured and molded by the traps of Granny Goodness and Darkseid’s armies. And yet, in spite of all the hardships and pain, Scott has desperately tried to lead a normal life.

Towards the end of the series Scott is bestowed with the title of Highfather and given responsibility of coordinating a truce with Darkseid. It is actually one of the more comical scenes in this series, as Scott and his brother Kalibak sit in the fiery, tortuous pits of Apokolips pouring over boring documents and paperwork about troop relocation, prisoner swaps, and dividing resources. He is approached by Darkseid with terms for a new truce, one that is lasting; Scott can give up his only son, or the war will continue to rage for eternity. Scott must make a decision; condemn his son, Jake, whom he loves, to endless pain and torture much like he endured his entire life, or continue to war against Apokolips and sacrifice the lives of his people and countless others. It is an incredibly tormenting moment for Scott. He has finally come to terms with being a husband, a father, and a friend, and now it may all slip away.

Mister Miracle is at its best when we not only see the struggle Scott is facing, but we truly feel it. Deep down, as our eyes fly from panel to panel, we have to pause and consider the weight of Scott’s choices. Whether it’s sacrificing his only son, or finding a bigger condo for he and Barda, King forces us to ask ourselves, “what would I do?”. We will never be Batman, a tech billionaire who pummels criminals in alley ways, or Superman flying invincibly through the sky, but we are all Scott Free. We have been in his shoes. We have been molded by our pasts, often times confronting it with painful results. We will never save the planet from annihilation, but we may have to save our families and ourselves by the choices we make. In an industry flooded with stories about heroes saving the universe from cosmic chaos and calamity, Scott fights for those closest to him, to right the wrongs of his past.

There are all kinds of theories about this story, and King leaves it completely up to interpretation. Was all of this in Scott’s mind while he bled out on the floor in the first issue? Was he able to escape everything except death, and this was his afterlife? Was he in heaven? Hell? Maybe he couldn’t escape life and had to face it head on. Whatever meaning you attribute to the series, Mister Miracle has taken on new life, and introduced readers to a whole new kind of hero the world desperately needs.

Drew is a native of Cincinnati Ohio, avid comic book reader and gifted in sarcasm. You can find him on the Gotham Central podcast, and on twitter at @gotham_central and @DrewsAskew

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