Having just finished reading the Tom King and Mitch Gerads masterpiece comic series – Mister Miracle for the third time, I reasoned it was be about time for an impassioned plea as to why (if you haven’t already, of course) you should rush out to your local comic-book emporium right now and scream at your local comic shop employee until they hand over a copy of the collected version of this stunning story (please don’t actually scream at them, that was just hyperbole on my part, and screaming at someone is very, very bad and could end up with you – getting kicked out the shop, derided by your peers, or even locked in a padded cell, and you aren’t a super escape artist like Mr Miracle… so it’s probably best not to!)
You may be thinking to yourself that this post’s title is a tad controversial considering how many fantastic comic-book tales have been rendered over the decades since Alan Moore’s seminal opus ‘Watchmen’ released in 1986. Of course all views are subjective, and opinions are just that – opinions, but I am definitely not alone in my view that Moore’s daring and controversial take on the popular Superhero medium was (and still is) the greatest literary take on costumed vigilantism of all time, and despite all the stunning storylines and thrilling tales that have been wrought upon the spandex loving comic-book populace over the years, for me, Tom King’s recent 12 issue series for DC Comics ‘Mister Miracle’ is the greatest piece of comic-book fiction since Moore’s superlative scope.
Tom King and fellow master of the miraculous – artist Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle monthly maxi-series was unleashed unto the fans in August of 2017, in honour of the literal King of Comics – Jack Kirby’s 100th anniversary since birth. Jack Kirby was an American comic-book writer and artist, who is widely regarded as the most influential and innovative creator of the medium, ever!
Kirby has created some of the most famous heroes and villains in comic history, aside from our eponymous protagonist Mr Miracle, Kirby also created The New Gods for DC Comics (which is currently being turned into a movie by director Ava Du Vernay, with a script co-written by Tom King) but it’s his work for Marvel Comics that really brought his genius to the forefront for most fans. Kirby ushered into virtual life well loved characters such as Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Captain America and many, many others for DC’s rival comic book giant. Yet the bubble eventually burst for the Marvel stalwart, after creating, illustrating and writing a plethora of characters, with his books always in high demand, and critically praised by both fellow peers and fans, behind the scenes things were very different for Kirby during his long tenure at Marvel.
Kirby ultimately (and quite rightly) felt he was being unfairly treated by Marvel, his perception was that he was being treated as a mere writer/artist for hire by the company as opposed to what should of been his status as it’s foremost creator having given the company the majority of their most beloved and best selling creations, so, in response to Marvel’s apathy on the subject, he left the company in 1970 to join it’s rival, DC Comics.
Initially signing a three year contract with DC, Kirby went on to create some of his most memorable heroes and villains, from the aforementioned New Gods, plus Etrigan the Demon, The Forever People, Morgaine Le Fay, through DC’s biggest SuperVillain – Darkseid, and of course the titular star of this post, one Scott Free, better known by his costumed moniker Mister Miracle, a super escape artist, whose creation (as I have posited once before) could be seen as the perfect allegory for Kirby’s flight from Marvel to DC, breaking the shackles of his previous employment to forge new horizons.
Phew! after that exhausting (yet hopefully entertaining ) look into the initial creation of Scott Free by his cosmically compelling creator, let’s move on to the latest (and also prodigiously talented) creative team charged with bringing his fans, the next chapter in Miracle’s convoluted life as a super escape artist and costumed hero – Tom King and fellow comic conspirator, Mitch Gerads. King and Gerads’ awe inspiring take on Kirby’s esteemed creation has been an absolute delight from the premier issue onwards, returning us to the daedalian, poignant and ultimately tragic life of the fourth world paragon.
Miracle has always been an immensely popular second tier character for DC, with a myriad of mini-series and ongoing monthly titles. He was also a welcome addition to the ranks of the Justice League (alongside his wife – Big Barda) in the mid to late eighties version of the team by the excellent Keith Giffen and J.M DeMatteis. The much anticipated return of Scott Free has, thankfully, not only exceeded all expectation but has, quite frankly, blown said expectations out of the water, the torturous wait for Miracle’s heralded return is worthy of it’s Kirby heritage, of that there is no doubt.
Mister Miracle is a masterfully woven tale of anxiety, depression, ardour and ultimately family, it is an uplifting fable that eschews the atypical and familiar Superhero tropes to deliver an inspirational and enlightening chronicle about a man ill at ease with the world, searching for meaning beyond what is. King and Gerads’ Miracle is wholly different beast from what many people believe that godlike heroes are, it’s a story about subsistence. Throughout this tour de force of mental dissonance, Scott is represented as just a man, not a new god (as he is) or a Superhero, just a person attempting to make sense of existing, it’s a startling and ultra realistic take on mental health instability, written with a knowing authority yet, compassionate and impassioned to the cognitive disability. In fact the very first chapter begins with Scott (apparently) surviving an attempt to take his own life, the renowned super-escape artist, cheating death itself (possibly)
As Scott’s beleaguered chronicles continue, his depression becomes more pronounced, with it’s effects on his nearest and dearest, especially devoted wife Barda explored profoundly by the creative duo of King and Gerads. It’s not just the narrative of Miracle though that strays from the well worn path of Superhero fiction but also its astonishing artwork, Gerads experimental illustrations are phenomenal throughout, with my favourite being the distorted panels occasionally punctuated through the story representing Scott’s reality being called into question. In fact fourth wall breaking is brilliantly played in Miracle with at one point in the narrative, Scott literally touching the hand of his own creator as he encounters Jack Kirby’s Hollywood star on the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard.
Emotional, poignant, groundbreaking are well deserved superlatives to describe this narrative work of absolute genius, from the exemplary talents of Tom King and Mitch Gerads, an unreserved masterpiece and a must have in any ones literary collection… THE greatest piece of comic-book fiction since Watchmen!