Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Colors: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derington
Published: November 14, 2018
Endings are odd things. They happen all the time, school, jobs, relationships, moving, TV shows. We should be used to them by now, but yet they remain tricky things to pull off and someone is always unsatisfied. The expectations for an ending varying among genre and from property to property, but there is often a desire or expectation that something conclusive happens. That the story or character are set upon a path whose future can be inferred and which sort of validates the time we spent watching, reading, listening to the thing. But what if those expectations, that we need to “know what happens” undercuts what we’ve seen or read and betrays the fact that the audience camera or viewing portal is temporary and the story stretches on. The UK version of The Office balances this tension really well in its final episode (Christmas Special Part 2) with Tim’s final confessional, where he tells the camera (and by proxy the viewers) that they don’t have the whole story because his life and those of everyone in the office will continue after the cameras leave. This is very much the vibe at the end of Mister Miracle #12. Scott and Barda are in a place (a good one), but things are not fixed. They just continue.
At the end of the previous issue Scott killed Darkseid, but that moment was undercut by the arrival of a man in a dimension traveling chair who showed them another world where all the main DC heroes live. The tension at the center of this issue is an ongoing discussion about whether Scott should have traveled to this other world, whether he should have escaped. The conversations happed around Scott from ‘visions’ of heroes and villains passed on who flicker (the way scenes have flickered throughout this entire series) in Scott’s conception. The first one we see is Granny Goodness who Scott hears in his head before we see her. She is commenting on his unceremonious placement of her Mirror of Goodness in the bathroom. Remember the last time we saw Scott’s reflection in the mirror he and Barda where little more than disintegrating corpses, while it now reflects him as we normally see him. We understand that Scott has become whole in a way he wasn’t previously, even as Granny chastises him for choosing this pretend world over the real one he was shown. This pattern will repeat throughout the issue with Bug the Forager, Orion, Darkseid (as per his usual he doesn’t actually say anything), and The Highfather all expressing disappointment in his decision to stay with Barda, who is pregnant again, and Jake. They are disappointed that Scott hasn’t taken more drastic measures to change things (going to the other world) without recognizing the change he has undergone that is reflected (literally) by the Mirror of Goodness. But what they all miss is the consideration that maybe you have to change yourself before you can change the world.
The structure of this issue is a series of short moments that are all things we have seen Scott and Barda do previously. They travel to Apokolips for a single combat challenge as Kalibak has taken over for Darkseid and declared a new season of war, they go to the doctor for a pregnancy checkup, they get stuck in L.A. traffic, they sit on the couch, and Scott goes to the convenience store. We’ve seen all this before, but that’s the point. All of these visions tell Scott he should have left because it’s all repeating, the war, the tedium, the joy. There is only one voice that tells Scott that he has nothing to feel ashamed of, and that is his former assistant Oberon (he died before this series started). With this vision Scott’s attention is directed towards all the good things in his life. Towards, Barda, Jake, his unborn daughter and all the people he has brought joy to with his act. Those are all the things that can break his heart, and Oberon ask him why aren’t they real enough? Oberon, while a flickering vision like the others, is the culmination of Scott’s journey and (I think) the synthesis of Tom King’s message. Previously any distortion of a panel or scene precipitated the question of what’s real and what’s imagined? But even if much of what we saw over the last eleven issues is in Scott’s head, does that make it less real or the emotion less impactful? The pattern of Scott’s life has remained much the same, he is still haunted (not in a negative connotation) by figures from his past, but maybe he no longer sees all of this as something he must escape from. Maybe this life is okay. This is not a trivial shift in perspective if you consider what happens when you shift from wanting things to change to being okay with where they are at. Scott’s problems are not erased, what he’s done is not forgotten, the war continues, but maybe his shame and nihilism can be replaced by purposeful action and the cycle of torment can be broken. His son and daughter don’t have to raised under pain and fear, and neither their sons and daughters, or their sons and daughters, on through the generations. There’s magic in that realization or, as Scott tells Barda in the the final pages, god. That by understanding yourself as part of the continuum and breadth of life, capable of creation and destruction, you can see god. Barda onboard and everything, but is paying more attention to her phone before turning her attention to Scott for a final kiss, a final moment of connection from the relationship that was always the best part of this series.
While maybe not the most interesting issue that Mitch Gerads has drawn, it was a delight to see some of his greatest hits revisited. Scott and Barda in action on Apokolips, the worry on their faces in the hospital room, them driving beneath the L.A. sun, and the joy in their faces when holding baby Jake. Gerads art has added necessary tenderness to a book that contains images of self-harm, and discussions of depression and death. The moments of Scott and Barda enjoying each others company on the couch, being intimate in the bedroom, and worrying about each other in hospital rooms, grounded the plot in something relatable and sweet when it drifted too deep into existentialism or felt unnecessarily violent. He consistently found room in the nine panel per page layout to represent both action and domestic moments in untraditional or eye catching ways. There are some great panels in this issue that show Barda laying out an Apokolips general in profile followed by three adjacent panels that show the fight from behind the crowd. The commitment to the panel layout never felt like a hinderance as in every issue there was some flourish that excited you for what Gerads could do with this imposed limitation and his art was never anything short of amazing.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 8
* I had intended this review to be a little more cumulative and discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and if Tom King’s reputation as this heady comic book writer holds up. If you made it this far I obviously didn’t work that discussion into the review as the humanity in this issue really caught me off guard, and I wanted to focus there. I may follow up with some thoughts in a separate post or use this as an opportunity to read Tom King’s Vision run and have the heady comic book writer discussion then. Anyways, thank you for reading.