Mister Miracle 7: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Drew Baumgartner 

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Michael: A “realistic approach” to comic book superheroes is sometimes successful (often with Batman comics). But most of the time, when you bind the mythic origins of superheroes to real world science and logic, you lose something from the original incarnation. However there’s a difference between a realistic approach and a serious approach to superheroes, like Tom King’s exploration of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World in Mister Miracle 7. This isn’t to say that King’s script is grim and humorless, but that he takes all aspects of Scott Free’s otherworldly life at face value, no matter how “silly” or “outrageous” they might sound in the context of the real world.

With that in mind, King places the miraculous life of Scott Free and Big Barda in a real-world scenario we’ve all been involved in at least once: childbirth. Compared to past issues the plot of Mister Miracle 14 is straightforward, focusing solely on Barda’s labor and delivery.

The process of arriving at the hospital and delivering the baby is mythologized as with the juxtaposition of the dramatic captions of an omniscient narrator. Mitch Gerads has committed to his 9-panel-layouts and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t stick with it. It’s used to comedic effect as we empathize with Scott’s agony while he deals with an unforgiving valet.

When they finally get in the hospital Scott checks them in “first name, Big. Last name, Barda.” This is the serious approach I mentioned earlier — King takes the wild and weird imaginings of Kirby and simultaneously respects and pokes fun at them. Likewise: the inclusion of Barda’s “sisters,” the Female Furies. New Genesis and Apokolips are at war, but the Furies can put that aside for the moment so they can celebrate the birth of their sister’s child.

No matter how far away they travel from Apokolips, Mister Miracle and Big Barda can’t ever really escape the lingering shadow of their tortured childhood. The Female Furies are the ultimate iteration of the nightmare in-laws: they are Barda’s protective sisters and they literally want to kill Scott.

Actually it’s because of that bloodthirsty hatred for Scott that the newborn baby survives. When the baby is choking on Barda’s impenetrable umbilical cord, Scott uses Bernadeth’s god-piercing blade to burn it off. King places Barda and Scott in the very human realm of a hospital delivery room but he still uses comic book pseudo science to ultimately bring this child from another world into life. Because of the lack of oxygen the baby was a grey/blue color when he crowns. At first I thought that he was going to be a baby Darkseid of some sort, but what he actually is might be just as bad, if not worse — more on that later.

Tom King has a knack for making his work funny without turning into farce, because the humor is true to the characters’ experience. In addition to the awkward arrival of the Female Furies, Scott and Barda’s back and forth throughout the issue is equally true and amusing. Scott is doing the best he can to be there for Barda while simultaneously not freaking out himself.

Mitch Gerads breaks up the “action” of the page with a panel devoid of dialogue. Whenever these brief silences occur, Scott suggests another potential name for the baby, and they are all pretty great. Another flair of Gerads’ to add flourish to the very ordinary action of the scene is a simple white line indicating movement of some kind. He’s probably used this before, but it is definitely more noticeable in the subdued patience that this issue details.

Mister Miracle 7 might be my favorite issue yet solely for how it zeroes in on the less bombastic, more everyday nature of the story. As it has been with every issue preceding it, Mister Miracle 7 is a great read on its surface level alone. However, if you’ve read any of my previous write-ups on this series, I can’t help but wonder and imagine what’s behind the curtain.

The issue almost went by without any of the “TV static effect” that has been present up to this point. The blurring returns as soon as Barda begins to push, when the baby crowns and when the baby cries. Barda says that the baby — Jacob — is a miracle while Scott says he looks like a lump, which is a red flag for Fourth World history. I’ve been guessing that this whole series has been a dream or fiction that Scott is trapped in and this about confirms it. “The Lump” is another Kirby creation made for the very purpose of trapping Mister Miracle. The trap is set and our hero might be none the wiser!

Drew how do you feel about Mister Miracle 7? Did you think it was nice to have a little breather from the New Genesis/Apokolips war? What about the birth itself? I don’t ever remember seeing a birth so graphic in a mainstream DC book do you? How do you think Scott handles the whole situation? The “Darkseid is” panel returns, just as the baby is pulled out — any significance there?

Drew: Oh, let’s start with that last question. I think the key there lies in what Barda has to say about the origin of the knife earlier in the issue, specifically that it was “forged […] from Darkseid’s own flesh.” In that way, “Darkseid is” isn’t a dark omen (or at least not just a dark omen), but a stroke of literally divine inspiration.

Darkseid is...a grandfather!

There’s a problem, Darkseid is, and the problem is solved. And my takeaway really is that simplistic: because Darkseid exists, and because of Scott and Barda’s connection to him, their son survives this difficult birth.

And I think that gets at one of the key themes of this series: that we can’t escape our pasts, even those of us who can escape from anything. Heck, even the name of their son — perhaps the defining figure in this new chapter in Scott and Barda’s life — comes from their past on Apokolips. More precisely, Jacob’s Ladder represented their way out of the X-Pit (and to heaven, as Barda puts it). In that way, it’s kind of both about leaving Apokolips behind and carrying it with them forever; that hope of escape doesn’t mean much if they’re not also remembering the despair of the pit. It’s such a brilliant distillation of this series’ themes, all wrapped up in the Kirby mythology, that I can’t help but be in awe of it.

Which makes your Lump theory absolutely heartbreaking, Michael. Now, more than ever, I want Scott and Barda to share their future together, and if not escape their past, at least reconcile with it. But the implication that this is all some kind of illusion created by the lump is hard to ignore. It’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” all over again, only we’ve spent so much time with Scott’s day-to-day life, I’m attached to it in a way that I never was for Superman’s obviously wrong life on Krypton. And I get choked up when Kal tells his son he doesn’t think he’s real. This turning out to be a dream will absolutely destroy me.

So I’m hoping it’s a red herring — that that narration on the last page (ripped, I suspect, word-for-word from the original Mister Miracle 7, released way back in 1972) is meant to be read as tongue in cheek. That is, it’s just a cute nickname Scott came up with for his kid — or heck, even a reference to the actual Lump (who doesn’t look too far off from a newborn baby:

The Lump

It seems plausible enough that I’m going to stick with that reading until this series breaks my heart.

Like you, Michael, I’m most amused by this issue’s banality. Scott may assert that this birth is objectively a big deal because it’s happening to him and his wife (who are, you know, New Gods), but it comes across with the same authority as any new parent certain that their birth is objectively important. But everyone at the hospital seems to exist to put them in their place. That valet exchange is frustratingly relatable, but I chuckled pretty much every time Barda’s OB came to casually check on her progress, only to leave just as casually. It’s all very routine, even when it seems like the baby’s heart has stopped for a minute.

Just a little positioning problem

This is an incredibly harrowing ordeal for both Barda and Scott (both Scott’s standing by helplessly and Barda wiping that tear away absolutely killed me), but the doctor insists “it’s all normal.”

Which, actually, might be the secret theme of this series: that it’s all normal. Having kids, dealing with uncomfortable in-laws, arguing with an unhelpful parking attendant — these are the messy little details that make life what it is, and they’re just about universal. Lest we find that message boring (I did call it “mundane” earlier), I don’t think this series can escape it’s own title — these little moments are universal, sure, but they’re still miracles. Okay, I can tell I’m getting too mushy, but I really liked this issue, you guys. It’s beautiful and sad and funny and sweet — it’s life, beautifully and thoughtfully rendered by a incredible creative team at the top of their collective games. What could be better?

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

5 comments on “Mister Miracle 7: Discussion

  1. As a comic reader with a big time preggo fetish this discussion didn’t really capture the more important aspects of the story. Namely Big Barda’s Big and Beautiful Belly. Also, couldn’t they have held off on delivery until #8(or #9, it’d be more medically accurate) so we could spend more just a little time basking in Barda’s awesome natal glow? Finally, Do you take guest submission??? I feel I could explore a lot of themes and relate them to other great moments in comic book mPREG history.

  2. I wonder how much stronger Mister Miracle would be with a ‘worse’ artist. A more generic look. It wouldn’t fix anything. The gross misuse of the Nine Panel Grid is certainly from King, as does the inability to write a single scene that doesn’t place ‘pretending to arty’ first and actual functional storytelling somewhere between last and ‘not even a consideration’.

    But there are sequences that could have been possibly salvaged with ‘less good’, more functional art. Gerards is a fantastic artist, who has made mistake after mistake after mistake in this book. He is using an approach that is just too limited for a book that pretends to be as expansive as it is.

    Ultimately, the problem is the same as King. Gerards’ art isn’t designed to be functional, it is designed to present the book as adult and sophisticated and real. It just reminds me of the brillinat essay I read that argued Lady Bird’s cinematography was greater than the master Roger Deakin’s Blade RUnner 2047, because of how it composed all of its shots so perfectly without damaging the overall product in an attempt to stand out and show off. And it is so clear that Mister Miracle is not Lady Bird.

    This book does not take Mister Miracle seriously, because to do that, it would have to care about Mister Miracle. It doesn’t. It only cares about itself. It only cares about showing off how ‘artistic’ it is. And in doing so, leaves a book that provides nothing but abnegation. It isn’t funny, it isn’t impactful, it is just a stillborn story that contains nothing but two creators desperately trying to prove how artistic thye are. Which is so tragic. It is tragic that two people who worked together to create a masterpiece in SHeriff of Babylon are now responsible for one of the worst books in the stand.

    Ultimately, the word to describe this book is pretentious. And I hate using that word, because it is so overused. But it isn’t pretentious to try something experimental, interesting or innovative because you think it will be better for the story, even if the idea fails. That’s brave. It is pretentious to care more about being arty than it is to care one bit about being successful at what you are trying to do. And that’s Mister Miracle in a nutshell.

    The ruination of a perfectly good idea by two artists desperate to prove how arty they are, despite the fact that they shouldn’t need to.

    When’s Scott Free going to escape this book? Because it is the only escape worth reading about

    • “Lady Bird’s cinematography was greater than the master Roger Deakin’s Blade RUnner 2047, because of how it composed all of its shots so perfectly without damaging the overall product in an attempt to stand out and show off.”

      What did you think about Lady Bird? I only found it ok, while my wife really didn’t like it, but she was viewing it through a different lense (as Patrick might say) as she doesn’t care for daughter / mother stories usually. I had a hard time getting past not believing the lead was in high school, and I also usually don’t like high school stories as I live high school stories 5+ days a week through work. Hence, I didn’t focus much on the cinematography as it was overshadowed by characters I had a hard time investing in (although I found the adult characters compelling).

      Blade Runner 2047, on the other hand, would have been an interesting movie to watch without words as I felt the camera work was a huge focus. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, maybe it was doing too much (I don’t know, I’d have to watch it again), but I thought it was a strong part of the film.

      (I have nothing to say about Mister Miracle, I really didn’t care for the first two issues and haven’t read the rest)

      • I didn’t focus on cinematography a lot either, trying to break down the clever cinematography of a naturalistic movie on your first screening of a movie is far too advanced for me.

        But I truly loved Lady Bird. Which is especially impressive as the sort of structure could easily have gone wrong for me (like it did with Call Me By Your Name, a movie I respect but could not like). If you hate mother/daughter movies, or you deal with high school as your job, I would not be surprised by those reactions. But I found it a fantastic movie. I love how it felt like both a movie about the early 2000s and a movie about today, how the bridge between this periods is so, so important. I love Metclaf’s performance as the mother, and wanted her to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. I love the humour. I love just how perfectly it weaves Lady Bird’s arc. I love Saorise Ronan. I love that I can never think of Saorise Ronan without thinking about the greatest internet comment name ever, Saorise Ronan the Accuser (but that isn’t about Lady Bird). I love the characters. I love the ending. I love the empathy. I love the willingness to tell a Coming of Age story about a character who is problematic. I love that it acknowledges that, and still cares. I love Lady Bird.
        One of my favourite movies from Oscar season (though I missed Phantom Thread)

        Blade Runner 2047 was really great. Filled with magical moments. The movie is breathtaking to behold because of Deakins amazing eye, and I don’t want to insult the cinematography as it is a movie that nothing else looks like. Just saying that I understand the argument being made by that essay (It probably is fair to say the movie could have used a bit more subtlety in its cinematography, but that is a long waybfrom saying it is bad, especially considering how great Deakins is in making the shots beautiful and functional. You are right, the movie could work with just the visual and the score). A top movie of last year

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