Mister Miracle 2 (2017)
Mister Miracle 2 (2017)
- Powerful storytelling from writer and artist
- This should be delivered as a completed graphic novel
I need to throw out a handful of disclaimers before diving into this post.
First disclaimer: I hate Tom King. I mean, I love Tom King, but I hate him. I hate his talent, I hate his ability to tell compelling stories about characters I’ve never before read. I am jealous of Tom King, is what I mean, and if there was one writer working in comics today whose powers I could steal it would be Tom King’s. Hell, the guy can also tell compelling and entirely new stories about totally established characters (see: Batman) and make them interesting and unlike anything else that’s ever been done with the characters before.
Like I said, I hate him. I love him. He’s probably my favorite writer in comics today.
Second disclaimer: This review will focus on issues one and two of the newly launched Mister Miracle, by Mr. King and his brilliant co-conspiritor, Mitch Gerards.
Third disclaimer: Before picking up last month’s issue one, I’d never read any Mister Miracle stories before. Immediately after reading (and then dropping, in awe) issue one, I started diving into Kirby’s initial run with the characters he created. I’ve only read a couple (due entirely to restricted time on my part), and they are a wonderful mash of chaos and brilliance and color and FUN. So, yeah–Kirby in a nutshell.
Fourth disclaimer: This review will likely be all over the damn place.
So let’s dig in, okay?
We’ll start with the creative team. In interviews before the series launched, King talked about what he wanted to do with the characters and their stories. And he talked about having the audacity to aim for creating something like benchmark titles Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. He states that it’s an impossibility to reach those heights, but why not shoot for them. I think–and I think Alan Moore might even agree–that the problem with mainstream comics is that no one’s aimed for Dark Knight and Watchmen heights since the mid-80s.
King and Gerards aren’t telling a story that will be viewed years down the road as revolutionary–like a Dark Knight–but they are telling a story that’s (so far, at least) on par with stories like Dark Knight and Watchmen. Smart, well-crafted, at times heady and certainly worthy of at least one re-reading to catch it all. Both of DC’s two most famous titles were what they were because of the time in which they were told–a time when comics weren’t everything they could be. And it was, in large part due to those two titles, that comics grew the heck up.
So, sure, in a way this new Mister Miracle series (and, frankly, so many other books) owe its existence to Mr. Moore and Mr. Miller, but it’s not fair to hold up anything written now against the importance of Watchmen and Dark Knight. Not against the stories themselves, mind you, but against all that they’ve done for comics storytelling in the past 30 years and well into the future.
But we absolutely can–and should–hold our comics up to the quality standard of Moore and Miller at their best. Because that’s what every other media does, right? They (hopefully) improve upon what has come before, even when what came before was The Beatles.
In Mister Miracle, King and Gerards are telling a Watchmen-level story in terms of concept and quality. This is Comics as an art form and not as the disposable pamphlet medium it’s always been. And maybe this book is (yet another) argument against the monthly floppy issues and an argument for collected stories released as completed graphic novels.
But that’s another something, entirely.
Let’s move along to the characters. King and Gerards have thrown us directly into the middle of the insane lives of both Scott Free (Mister Miracle) and his loving wife, Big Barda. Like he did with the Vision, King has taken a character that’s been around forever and molded him and his world into something entirely new and relevant and freaking compelling.
And he does so in a way that’s somehow both straightforward and mind-bending. With King, I don’t get to that Grant Morrison Place where I stop understanding what the hell’s going on. With King–and especially in this book–each panel leaves me wanting more. I can’t move my eyes across the balloons fast enough to get to the next panel, actually, but then I stop, transfixed by Gerards’ mesmerizing art. It’s a heady blend of mostly 12-panel pages (sound familiar?), but the story never feels claustrophobic–which sometimes works against how the main character is feeling.
Struggling with the very real possibility that he is either going insane or that he’s being manipulated by everyone around him, Mister Miracle is at his very lowest here. He’s tired, he’s been through everything too many times. And it shows on his face in the art, and it shows through his words.
His only real anchor to anything is Barda, and she (literally) pulls him through the panels. As readers, we don’t need to be familiar with the characters to enjoy and grasp the story. Thanks to the neat little trick of an unreliable main character, we get to be in the dark just as much as Mister Miracle is. And that’s been very effective as King and Gerards drive the story forward. They’re following in Kirby’s footsteps, introducing elements from The King’s run (even, it seems, in an order similar to the one Kirby laid down in those issues).
It’s that mix of old and new that makes this book work so well. Kirby was throwing out mind-melting plot points from the moment he was born, it seems, so the content is there. The intrigue is there. The stories are there. The bones are there. But King and Gerards are excavating, they’re reshaping; they’re finding new things for old characters to do.
In his cover blurb, author Brad Meltzer likened the story to a magic trick, crafted by two master magicians. This series has that element of magic. It’s got that hint of Something Else. If you’re not reading it, you should be. Something’s stirring over at old DC. New Gods are awakening. You should heed the call.