So far, the current Mister Miracle series is half way through it’s run and Tom King is creating something that is deeply hard to ignore. In a series that could be written off as nothing but a cash in for the 100th birthday of Jack ‘King’ Kirby. Tom King’s Mister Miracle is an amazing and compelling exploration of PTSD and depression through the eyes of Scott Free, the world’s greatest escape artist.
The tone is set immediately with a full splash page of Scott Free alone in his bathroom still partly in costume and blood dripping from his wrists. A razor blade on the floor and a disheartened look on his face. This is not going to be a happy-go-lucky story. We watch him slowly recover in the hospital, Barda crying in the waiting room and the same look on Scott’s face. Mitch Gerads’ use of a 3×3 panel layout perfectly setting the beat. The voices around Scott are encouraging or praising but even then, he continues with the same disheartened and defeated look. The words ‘Darkseid is.’ Following him through panels. Even the use of colour adds to the tone, colour all around, but still with this drab overtone. As though people are trying to brighten Scott’s world and mood, but his reality and pain still holds through.
At home with Barda, Orion appears without explanation. Even with this sudden appearance, Scott’s expression does not change. Even with the events that take place. It’s Barda that takes action. King writes Scott through the issue as a man apathetic to life. The world’s greatest escape artist who couldn’t escape living. Someone who had already given up but can not end it. His moments with Barda, even with his apathy are sweet for how hard she is trying, and how much she cares.
In public, especially in interviews, Scott is able to laugh it all off. Play it as a stunt that went wrong. He continues to charm the crowd but the words ‘Darkseid is’ still follows. As time goes by, Scott’s grip on the world loosens, ‘Darkseid is’ begins to beat through the pages like a heartbeat until it can’t be ignored any longer.
Dressed for battle, Scott and Barda know what they need to do. Standing. Darkseid awaits.
“Death Lashes out for Mister Miracle. Super Escape Artist! But it is not the end, friend! What lies ahead is to be dreaded even more. A trap sprung by a mind not of this Earth. The terrible. Inescapable. X-pit! Also – to know her is to hate her – Granny Goodness!”
In the heat of battle, we find Scott fighting for New Genesis. Through the battles, we see Scott finally letting out some of the aggression and frustration he built up since his incident. Screaming “For Genesis!” as he’s covered in the blood of his enemies. Back with Barda, still soaking from the green blood of battle, we find a sweet moment for them both. Just casual talk. A tone that while still apathetic in majority, shows at least a moment of calm for them. Debating how these off-world showers work, even momentarily joking. Barda complains of her own perceived imperfections as they undress, and Scott simply replies, “You’re perfect”.
At the throne of the Highfather, Scott discovers that his brother Orion is now the leader of New Genesis. Barda and Scott are ordered to kneel, and the tension simply leaps off the page. Scott needing to be dragged down low. It’s reported that Darkseid’s forces have defeated their men in the East, losing 250,000 troops and seven of the gods. In retaliation, Scott is ordered to go after the woman who tortured him through childhood and win the battle. He must return to Granny Goodness.
As they leave, Scott and Barda discuss their lives under Granny Goodness. How much pain and despair they suffered, how they found each other there, and yet while comparing experiences it’s clear that Scott got the better life. Even in hell. Their meeting with Granny, even with the pleasantries, carries this dreadful tone tensions rising with every panel. At the end of it all, it’s Barda that deals the killing blow. The paranoid pill follows them home.
Safe at home, Scott has nightmares about his past. The battle they both just survived, and the image of his insane brother holding the head of Granny Goodness, remembering a terrifying story she used to tell him at Christmas. His night continues as he restlessly paces around the apartment, seeking comfort from a pill. Forager, a soldier under Orion, appears by Scott’s side. Telling him the horrors that are still going on back on New Genesis. The amount of people dying under Orion’s rule. That their Queen’s head now hangs alongside Granny Goodness’s. Forager pledges his men to Scott, claiming Orion is dead, only to be executed on Scott’s couch by one of Orion’s men. With the same dull and lifeless expression on Scott’s face, he returns to bed and Barda, holding her close.
In his colourful costume, the bright sky behind him, Scott returns to life as an entertainer. The world’s greatest escape artist. Performing for his fans. During a post-show lunch with Barda, he’s even approached by a fan and takes a photo with them. Scott continues to bottle his pain, hide it from the world. He knows what he is to many, and that he can’t just lash out. In full costume, he finds himself confronted by his brother. Arguing about the war at hand. Darkseid, and the Anti-Life equation. In anger, Orion beats Scott to the ground and unmasks himself. Sneering with nothing but contempt and superiority on his face. The page distorts as Orion repeats, “This is the face of God”.