Mister Miracle #12 (of 12)
Written By: Tom King
Art by: Mitch Gerads
Lettering by: Clayton Cowles
In just over a year, this twelve issue maxi-series comes to an end. This series touched on so many parts of Jack Kirby’s New Gods with each issue highlighting a different aspect. The New Gods are one of the most loved characters in comics, but also one of the most mishandled. Often creative teams throw in Jack Kirby’s creations without fully understanding the deeper meaning behind them. This issue does not commit that mistake, as it shows a deep appreciation and understanding of each character.
There have been two plots running through this series; Mister Miracle’s war with Apokolips, and the mystery if anything happening is “real.” The war is over now, so this issue deals with the latter thread. This series started off with Mister Miracle killing himself in the first pages, of the first issue, in this series. It seems that this entire series takes place as Mister Miracle, master escape artist, attempts to escape death. The twist being once he finds a way out he decides to stay. This issue ties each thematic plot point from previous issues and gives them reason and closure. Expect to see every character return, living or dead, and connect with the title hero.
Tom King won an Eisner, in large part due to his work on this series. He has become a master of his craft, and this issue just cements that fact. I have read plenty of New Gods material, and I can clearly say this series stands up to the high standards that Jack Kirby put forth with his creations. “He was dead the whole time” can be seen as a cop-out ending, but Tom King pulls it off. Mister Miracle stories tend to revolve around him escaping impossible situations. Here he faces the greatest challenge escaping death itself, and he chooses not to. The multifaceted reasoning for this is told through conversations with each person who has touched his life. King shows that everything he has written in the twelve issues has a purpose. Every friend and enemy shaped Mister Miracle in some way.
It goes further into the deeper philosophical question if you would want to escape death if you were given Mister Miracle’s circumstances. He is now trapped in a war with Apokolips that will seemingly last for eternity. However, in this life, he now has a child and his loving wife. I was lucky enough to meet Tom King and listen to him on a creator panel. He mentioned that a common throughline in his work is he likes his protagonists to be madly in love, just like he is with his own wife. King also would speak at length at being a father and the joy that brings him. It is obvious that Tom King himself would fight a war forever if it meant having his wife and children by his side.
Going beyond what seems to be evident on the page, is the idea of stories themselves. There is a common comic book trope of “imaginary tales.” The idea is that some stories “don’t count” and “aren’t real” and part of the larger continuity. In reality, all stories are in fact “imaginary,” unless I am mistaken and Spider-Man will swing overhead next time I am in NYC. This series is a story like any other, and the only continuity that matters is the one that matters to you, as the reader. This point is even hammered home by Oberon in this comic. Mister Miracle is simply choosing which universe to live in. As long as this collection is on your shelf, he will always be found there whenever you open the book.
Tom King has an article up on DC’s website talking about his run on Batman. One quote sticks out and really connects to what this series is, “Grant Morrison said it best. He said during your run you have to give Batman a death and you have to give him a birth. We gave him a birth, that was issue #1, and we’ll eventually give him a death.” Tom King simply reversed this idea for Mister Miracle. He started with a death and gave him a birth at the end.
Mitch Gerads art has been sublime this entire run. If it was reasonable I would want Tom King and Mitch Gerads to work together on every book. Gerads’ art is masterful and really connects to the thematic elements of King’s writing. Even the cover shows out title character struggling to protect his child from evil, perfectly encapsulating King’s idea. The ideas of what is “real” and what is “not real” is emphasized by Gerads distorting the image on the page. All the “dead” characters look slightly “off” and let the reader know that things are not exactly what they seem. These effects have been used in the entire series, but it is this issue that Gerads makes it clear what his intentions were the entire time. The nine-panel grids, that made up the entire series, really allows him to pack a lot of sequential storytelling into a page. However, it never seems too dense or overbearing. This comic is perfectly constructed, and the production values dwarf anything I have seen coming out of the mainstream. Art is storytelling and it is rare you get a book where a single panel, with no writing on it, can have such deep symbolic meaning. Mitch Gerads depiction of the New Gods, has now become the modern-day definitive rendition of them. I am going to miss seeing Mitch Gerads playing in this universe.