Writer: Tom King
Artist, Ink, Colors: Mitch Gerads
Published: November 8, 2017
In issue #1 of Mister Miracle (MM) the Highfather (not Orion) told Scott that Darkseid had acquired the anti-life equation. In issue #2 Scott is warned by Granny Goodness about the prophecy and how Darkseid fears him. In issue #3 Scott begins to fear that he’s infected with the anti-life equation, which may be the source of his current dissatisfaction and doubt. He also displays an inability to submit to Orion’s authority as the new Highfather which is where the troubles begin in this issue. He and Barda are lying in bed when Lightray appears in their home to tell them that MM is being put on trial by Orion who suspects that he is an agent of Darkseid. While Scott (in a Green Lantern shirt) seems nonplussed by Lightray’s announcement and worried that the trial will interfere with his next performance, Barda is furious and takes it out on Lightray’s face. Barda has at times seemed a little apathetic towards Scott’s metal health problems, but that seems to switch in this issue, with her more offended by the accusations than Scott. In the context of the war that they were participating in her distraction is understandable, but even through that (and this is something I love about this book) Barda and Scott have always been very affectionate with each other (the final scene is very touching). After the incident with Lightray, they are watching TV and Scott has his head cradled in Barda’s lap as they drift off to sleep. As/before Scott falls asleep the late night host morphs into Orion followed by Granny and the familiar memory of her telling Scott that no-one knows what god looks like replays. This is the third time this memory has appeared and it’s meaning is still as obtuse as it was in issue #1.
The next day Scott performs what may be his last escape act before Orion, Lightray (sporting a nasty black eye from Barda), and another new god show up to the house for his trial. Orion declares that he will act as accuser, defender, and judge in this trial as there is not room for the wisdom of the Highfather to be questioned. He explains that if MM is infected by the anti-life equation then he will believe true statements to be false and false statements to be true, and as such the trial will rest not on what Scott knows but what he believes. Knowledge is contingent on facts, objective states of being that are external to a person. While belief requires no contingencies, is subjective, and can be used (according to Orion) to determine the essential nature of a being. The divide between ‘knowledge that’ and ‘belief that’ is a huge epistemological question (I struggle to totally understand it). What Orion does in this trial is try and use the idea that belief is independent of and not related to knowledge (even though knowledge in areas like science is strongly related to belief) to try and say something definitive about MM’s nature/state. As Orion begins his interrogation Scott, only in some panels, begins to go out of focus when he answers. This happens intermittently which might indicate that answers to these questions are flies in the proverbial ointment. Maybe they are where the anti-life equation is overriding Scott and these specific statements are not his beliefs, or maybe they are moments where Scott is rejecting the influence of the equation and the where he is incrementally getting back to his firmly held beliefs. Either way, as Orion continues, Scott begins to break down. He mentions how Granny gave him the name Scott Free, and how he took over the mantle of MM from someone else, and that the Highfather never actually told him his name. Scott (since there isn’t something better to call him) has been dealing with doubt and belief for much of his life, trying to figure out who/what he is. So as Orion attempts to define him through a series of true/false statements, he cannot abide and punches Orion in the face. Doubt appears briefly on Orion’s face before he sentences Scott to be executed in three days time and then leaves. The issue ends with Barda holding a trembling Scott in her arms responding to his “I can’t,” with “I know.”
Since the opening pages of issue #1 it has been apparent that Scott is not entirely well, but his thoughts/feeling and what is/isn’t real have been rather obscured from the reader. We see his struggle playing out, but we don’t really know what’s going on with him. And it’s not even that it’s a mystery to be solved, its just the tangled mix of thoughts, memories, and belief that lead to… something that maybe cannot be explained. And this is the thing, depression (I think it’s fair to say that Scott is suffering from some form of depression) is a logical ailment. There isn’t a specific cause and it’s not a consistent feeling or set of symptoms, but for those who have and or going through it that struggle to move against the weight that has settled over them is the realest thing ever. As Barda holds Scott she can’t fix anything for him, and she does the most compassionate thing she can which is to know that he is struggling.
As the story gets muddier, the art on MM continues to stand out. There’s a whole subplot in this issue about Scott not wanting the trial to interfere with some equipment he’s getting delivered and the package arriving during his trial. Another through line concerns a veggie tray Barda buys for the trial, which characters chose to enjoy at some choice moments. These spots of levity and tenderness keep this book from feeling too heavy and possibly unapproachable. Gerads’ doing as much work here as King using distortion, fuzziness (I heard it described as similar to how VHS tapes momentarily blur which is really a perfect way to describe it) and running colors to enhance the tension between known and unknown, doubt and belief.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 9
Cover art by Nick Derington