The Seven Soldiers of Victory were all mired in DC history, but perhaps none so much as Zatanna, Klarion, and our subject today, Mister Miracle. Though it doesn’t explain what became of the original Mister Miracle, Scott Free, issue one kicks off with a bang as we see Shilo Norman The New Mister Miracle! using his prowess as an escape artist to free himself from being sucked into a black hole. This is both super exciting and also a pretty standard Grant Morrison introduction to a character.
Introduced in 1971, the New Gods weren’t an initial success and indeed they only lasted a few years. Characters like Mister Miracle and Big Barda might not have been appreciated in their day, but they’ve gone on to be hugely influential on modern writers and have been revamped many times over now. The twin planets of New Genesis and Apokolips and the denizens thereof have had a massive effect on storylines of today, and the classic designs and the traditional Kirbyisms within the pages of these books caused a stylistic ripple effect through comics that we might never see the end of. This is to say, the universe of the New Gods is great and vast, and while it is true that Grant Morrison has offered us some of the more interesting variations on its themes in recent years, this take on Mister Miracle feels less captivating than it should.
We aren’t given much immediate context for Shilo, a daredevil and an entertainer who regularly puts his life on the line for a living. It’s hard to tell exactly what was going on with continuity during this series because it’s so driven by questioning the boundaries of continuity and the fourth wall. Though Shilo didn’t appear until fairly late in the series, this is actually a cast member from the Jack Kirby Mister Miracle run. He was abandoned by his parents and dangerously teetering on a life of crime when he joined up with the kindly Barda and Scott Free, the original Mister Miracle. We don’t learn many details of his past in this story, which is entirely about what his future might hold. Much of this series will read back as a means to an end by the finale of Seven Soldiers.
Still, I really like Shilo as Mister Miracle and this issue would be better if it focused more on his own inner world rather than the typical Neo-in-the-Matrix style introduction. It’s a shame that not having Shilo as Mister Miracle has caused him to fall more or less by the wayside. Reading back on this, there’s some highs and lows in how his previously established background are handled. While Kirby and Morrison are no doubt well-intentioned, there’s a lot of tropes in Shilo’s story: for instance underexplored themes of parental abandonment, a barely-avoided life of crime, and being rescued by two beneficial white people that “train” him and thus give him the ability to support himself going forward but who themselves barely play a role in his emotional life.
Unfortunately, as we now know, Shilo’s time as Mister Miracle was never built upon and was instead ridiculously brief, so taking this story seriously in retrospect is almost impossible because we know that nothing being established here will outlast this storyline.
Scott and Barda didn’t only free Shilo from a life of crime, they also trapped him in the same ongoing struggle that has enveloped their own lives, and doomed him to live in their shadows. In the end, we don’t know much about Shilo as a character, but he’s fun to read about, and the bonkers sci-fi plotline combined with various Kirbyisms still makes for a pretty good series at times with a ton of call-backs to the original stories.
Mister Miracle stumbles and begins to fall into the black hole, but he is greeted by Metron, the most consistently annoying of the New Gods. Metron says a few cryptic things about fate and destiny as is his wont, then Shilo is left to go home and sleep off his near death experience. In his dreams, he is introduced to the Female Furies by his friend, which he details at length to a surprisingly unhelpful and almost certainly evil therapist, disclosing that he pays $5000 each week for sessions. $20,000 a month for a therapist? What is happening in this comic?
Dave McCaig really goes all out on the coloring for this series, and the whole endeavor is better off for having him on board. The psychedelic, spacey color blends are really fun to look at, and Pasqual Ferry’s pencils are fantastic as always. There’s no question this issue was visually engaging, though the dialogue and the plot are a little flat. Looking back, we can see that this was all a part of a build-up to Final Crisis, but at the time this must have seemed like a bit of an aimless retread through Scott Free’s origin story with Shilo standing in his place.
In short, this is more of a bizarre Kirby-fueled tangent than a stand-alone issue, though I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. Grant Morrison had kind of a lot on their plate with this endeavor, and having read it in its entirety on its release, I can say it’s pretty well worth it overall. Still, Mister Miracle is one of the stranger chapters of the series. The assumption that the audience will of course be familiar with the mythos is prevalent through this title in specific.
Another downside is that we’ve been watching Morrison use Metron as the endless Deux Ex Machina for much of their output through DC, so there isn’t really anything that stands out about Shilo’s interactions with him. Also, there isn’t really anything that stands out about Shilo. Attempts at AAVE don’t suit the book particularly well – and there’s certainly a few things here, such as “The Drive-By Derby,” that hopefully would not stand today.
Because it is such a promising concept entrenched in Kirbian mythos and he is such a potentially interesting character, it comes as a bit of a let-down to see him serve as nothing more than a repetition of long-standing tropes and themes.
Seven Soldiers of Victory: Mister Miracle #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Colourist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Sara Century is an artist, writer, and filmmaker, among other things. She’s the co-founder of the Queer Spec publishing company and its anthology Decoded Pride as well as being a cohost of the podcast Bitches On Comics. Check her website for more or follow her on Twitter here!