Mister Miracle, written by Tom King with art by Mitch Gerads and letters by Clayton Cowles, is easily my favorite comic series of 2018 and one of my favorite of all time. Mister Miracle follows New God Scott Free, son of Highfather of New Genesis, who was raised as the son of Darkseid on Apokolips. Throughout the series, Scott battles depression and anxiety, experiences love, becomes a father, and wages a war against the forces of evil incarnate. The Fourth World setting, originally conceived by the brilliant Jack Kirby, is utilized phenomenally by both King and Gerads to tell a tale of hardships, love, pain, triumph, defeat, and what you can do to escape a world that doesn’t make sense. Mister Miracle is the product of a creative team at the height of their craft working in total cohesion to tell a story only they could tell, and it’s one for the ages.
This book hooked me from the very first teaser image. Tom King’s story about Jack Kirby’s master escape artist trying to free himself of a world that doesn’t make sense paired with art by Mitch Gerads – how could you not want to pick this up? This particular creative team has made some serious waves with Sheriff of Babylon, and to see them teaming together on one of DC’s most underutilized properties, in a book that in many ways was touted as DC’s version of The Vision, was immensely exciting. The first teaser image is nothing short of striking. It’s like Mitch’s pen was injected with the Fourth World itself, and this was only the beginning. The team wanted to tell a story about struggling with the fears and anxieties of living in a world that doesn’t make sense, that’s crumbling around you, and that feels like there’s no escape. Sound a bit familiar?
Juxtapose this with the mythic world of the New Gods and their never-ending battle with evil, and how to possibly juggle that with the mundanity of every day life, and you’ve got Scott Free’s journey through the pages of Mister Miracle. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to write about this story, but what exactly I wanted to discuss I had a really hard time pinning down. There are several themes and artistic decisions to analyze and unpack in this book, but to save myself from writing a dissertation, I’m going to hone in on the creative team behind this book, rather than any one specific element of the title.
I’d argue Tom King is the best maxi-series (around 12 issues) writer in comics right now, and maybe ever. When he has a clear idea for what a story is going to be, watching him execute that idea over the course of 12 issues is nothing short of incredible. King masterfully writes organic dialogue between partners while in the same breath exploring the meaning of life and if the meaning really matters. Even the most fantastical of conversations, such as a peace accord meeting between the God’s of New Genesis and Apokolips, feel like conversations we’ve either experienced ourselves or seen other people have.
Exceptional dialogue aside, the overall plot/narrative for this series is gripping as well. We’re introduced to a broken Scott Free trying to escape the world around him. We see his struggles with anxiety and family, all while a ‘war to end all wars’ escalates around him. Scott isn’t even sure the world around him is real, and between King’s writing and Gerads’ art, the reader is led to question the nature of what’s really happening just as much as Mister Miracle himself. This sense of uncertainty is present throughout the series, but it’s far from the only theme. We also see the intimacies of Scott and Barda’s relationship, and their journey to becoming parents. The nature of their relationship, the impact of having a child, and how their lives change after the fact is one of the most moving aspects of this story.
These more intimate and relatable ideas are explored on the backdrop that is the war between New Genesis and Apokolips, and what a brutal backdrop it is. We see the toll the almost never-ending war takes on Scott and Barda, and the action is presented in some of the most unique ways I’ve ever seen in comics thanks to master artist, Mitch Gerads. This series is almost entirely presented in the form of 9-panel grids on each page, which serves a greater thematic purpose but also leads to some of the most intelligent page designs I have ever seen in comics.
Mitch is able to convey movement in every direction through an acute understanding of the 9-panel grid. A sense of supreme height can be difficult to convey on the 9-panel grid, but on multiple occasions I felt the pit in my stomach from being so high up while reading this book. By establishing the environment and then having Mister Miracle move through that environment over a greater period of time, we feel the distance he’s traveled as well as seeing it, and it’s brilliant. And that’s just height! There are countless examples of genius creative decisions and execution when structuring the series. Issue #6, in particular, is one stellar page layout after the other, and it is a testament to how versatile the 9-panel grid can be.
Page layouts aside, Mitch’s art is absolutely standout in every panel. It’s a mix of grit and bombast, Fourth World flair, and a unique texture with out of this world effects. From the TV tube-like after effect that’s present throughout the series heightening the sense of uncertainty about reality, and the ever ominous Darkseid Is, to the misdirection in the coloring of Barda’s eyes, the subtle changes in posture and facial expressions from panel to panel, and the brutal and kinetic action, this book is a visual buffet. And the fact that it’s almost entirely 9-panel grids, thinking of Mitch drawings THOUSANDS of panels for this series. is absolutely unreal.
I’ve talked about them separately but really the magic of this book is that it’s both Tom and Mitch working together. They’re a perfect creative team that fully understand each other; and when firing on all cylinders, they reach that next level, and there’s nothing else like it. Mister Miracle is a product of the love and passion they share for their craft, these characters, and the story they wanted to tell. It’s a perfect love letter to the legacy of Jack Kirby, and is a complete tour de force of creativity.