Mister Miracle de Tom King et Mitch Gerads

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#BDThis is the craziest and most successful comic book in recent years. This rewriting of the character invented by Jack Kirby in 1971 at the same time as the Neo-Gods (The New Gods), a group of divine superheroes composing the universe called the Fourth World and who were a little forgotten except for Darkseid, who became indispensable in other universes like Superman. On their enemy planets Neo-Genesis & Apokolips where the High Father and Darkseid exchanged sons at birth to seal a peace treaty. Heir to the High Father, Scott Free lived through hell, became a warrior and strategist before escaping and living on Earth under the name of Mr. Miracle, a renowned escapist. The escape artist mates with Big Barda, one of Apokolips’ warriors, and the two survivors try to forget this terrible past that catches up with them. Darkseid returns, Darkseid is, and with him, the worst weapon: the Anti-life equation. The authors return to the characters’ sources by recalling the characters’ origins, starting from their original costumes and relationships, but with a new approach. It is no longer so much a question of cosmic warfare, creation & the end of the world, gods and demons as it is an intimate account of a man in the grip of depression.

Neo-God Scott Free/Mister Miracle made a suicide attempt and this hero, celebrated on earth and on his home world, will experience an episode of depression that he will have to face in the company of his loved ones, but also his enemies. The scriptwriter explores the major themes related to this disease such as relationships, support and impact on family life, friends, work but which come into contact with the superheroic universe and all that this implies. The constant parallel between this King of Escape versus his suicide, the last escape of an artist who plays with death; between his war against his adopted father versus his new parenthood; between this family of imposed heroes versus his chosen family… The authors play with double meanings, images and the layout to the point of blurring, overprinting, repeating boxes or dialogues. The visual alteration betrays the state of mind of the hero in the grip of sadness, doubt and fear. This superhero story can be seen as a disguised autobiography from a screenwriter who is trying to escape all this, who uses fiction like Mr. Miracle from his other world to survive. Tom King, a former CIA counter-terrorism agent, has been converted into a scriptwriter who had already frontally staged field experiments in Iraq in the disturbing Sheriff of Babylon, with the same Mitch Gerads at work.

Okay, okay, the subject doesn’t look happy, but it doesn’t mean it’s treated with gravity, the writer’s art is to distill these themes into a solid story from the point of view of the stakes and the narrative. From Darkseid’s threat to annihilate all life to Mr. Miracle’s ultimate battle, not to mention the pitfalls of his past. Or the writing of the couple, the tenderness or the disputes between the two heroes is quite masterful in its credibility (we talk about emotions behind the heroic folklore) it is quite fair and touching all along, and once again quite rare in a genre comic strip. A lot of humour also in these pages, which go through all the registers from the grotesque to the good word, from the comic of the situation to the dry humour. The rather rare subject of fatherhood and couple life in a cosmic war story brings its share of trivial conversations about how to organize the house in the midst of a massacre, how to educate a child when saving the universe or how to use a crudity tray to welcome enemies and not be seen as a rude host. Heroes are often on the verge of breaking the 4th wall, you know that convention that Deadpool or Miss Hulk love to know for a character that he is a character and play it.

It will be on the graphic side that this ambiguity is most obvious. In this series, the characters often face the boxes as if they were addressing the readers without ever going that far. Scott only wears geek t-shirts with the logos of DC heroes (Batman, Superman, Flash, Sheriff of Babylon…) as if to underline his knowledge of this other world of fiction. Mitch Gerads does an incredible job on the cutting and graphic work that accompanies the drawing and with Tom King, they test the possibilities of the medium through boards that could not work in another medium. Very well mastered, these boards offer a total immersion through atypical devices that reinforce the atmosphere and emotions of the character without parasitizing the story. The designer uses the digital resources of the graphic palette to adapt his drawing to chapters that explore specific themes or moments in the hero’s life. He uses visual tricks to represent the scenery or objects in the background, we can follow the flashbacks and the temporality of Scott’s beard which grows as the childhood hero grows, the cartoon side of the mask facing the passages where the characters really discover themselves… The cutting into regular waffle irons of nine squares emphasizes routine and depression with certain moments when the image becomes blurry, breaks. Where black squares invade the field, repetitive squares are embedded like haunting thoughts, like a terrible chorus recalling his state of mind and his possible delirium. His work on this series earned him the Eisner award for the best draftsman/inker and we can only agree with the jury, which awarded him two awards for this work.

You will have understood it over the course of this crush, this comic book looks like few others. He could be part of the Vision family of the same Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Hawkeye by Matt Fraction & David Aja or Flèche Noire: The Imprisoned King of Ahmed Saladin & Christian Ward, counter-current superhero stories where the authors redefine the character from within and make it exciting by exploiting the flaws & strengths of “ l’ homme ” more than the super-human. No need to have read Kirby’s Fourth World or anything else, this story is presented as a one-shot apart, even if reading Kirby’s other works (and you are encouraged to do so) you will see many winks. Even if it meant repeating myself, if I were you, I wouldn’t go to côté !

Thomas Mourier

Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, Urban Comics Publishing

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