Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Mister Miracle: The Great Escape

Writing the Fourth World interrelated comic books for DC was a career triumph for Jack Kirby, because he maintained artistic control. However, the characters never caught on like his classic Marvel creations. Yet, that has allowed DC a great deal of latitude in their subsequent reboots and reincarnations. A 2017 twelve-issue limited-sequel-series earned acclaim for playing up the guilt and trauma still carried by the escape-artist superhero, Mister Miracle. Writer Varian Johnson now doubles-down on the abuse and angst of the character’s formative years in Mister Miracle: The Great Escape, a reimaging of his origin-story as a tory as a YA graphic novel, which releases today from DC.

Others can address the canonical issues of
Great Escape, but for casual readers, it stays relatively faithful to Kirby’s world-building. “Scott Free” isn’t even Mister Miracle’s real name. It was given to him by “Granny Goodness,” the sadistic headmistress of the brutal military academy, where he has been effectively imprisoned (evidently, she is a fan of Ridley Scott and his production company). When he “graduates,” he will become cannon fodder for Apokolips’ military (who apparently have a shorter life expectancy then the mechanized infantry in Starship Troopers), if he’s lucky. She could always just consign him to savage freakshow wastelands beneath the school.

Free (who admits it is still a little early for his preferred superhero name) intends to escape before that can happen. Fortunately, his forged an alliance with Himon, a disgraced scientist and galactic explorer, who now works as a common laborer in Granny’s academy. Himon’s granddaughter needs the kind of medical treatment she cannot get on Apokolips, so he is counting on Free to save her. Mister Miracle is down with the plan, even though it means turning his back on his friends, until he starts to develop some extremely unlikely chemistry with Big Barda. He really should not trust her, since she is the new leader of the Furies, Granny’s jackbooted student warders, but he is a horny teen.

Johnson gives the Kirby’s
Fourth World mythos a few clever twists, while staying relatively true to the characters and their geopolitics. Unfortunately, he adds a handful of a tired class warfare salvos, but they are pretty easy to let slide by. Of course, the driving impulse to seek freedom is much more important.

Great Escape also taps into a lot of beloved science fiction and fantasy motifs reflected in the likes of Harry Potter, written by you-know-who. After all, Free is the “chosen student” in his fantastical academy, who gets his friends to do a lot of his work for him.

The art by Daniel Isles has an appealingly retro 1970s illustrative vibe. Of course, he is not Kirby, but who is? Still, some of the early action sequences are a bit hard to follow. Regardless, Johnson’s reboot-reinterpretation-re-whatever is an intriguing way to present an old deep-backlist character in a new context, for a new audience. Recommended for fans of the franchise and YA science fiction,
Mister Miracle: The Great Escape goes on-sale today (1/25).