By Sara Century
After the beating last issue that left Shiloh incapacitated, we open the final chapter of his solo series deep in a memory. As a child, he is suspended upside down in a harness outside of what we assume is his school. His older brother, a police officer, tells him there’s no way he’ll escape. Shiloh insists that he shall. His brother, who will die later that day, says that if Shiloh does escape, he promises to buy him an ice cream sundae.
Naturally, the last page of this issue is Shiloh as a child, eating a sundae.
For much of the issue, Shiloh is trapped in a loop of dreams and misremembrance, struggling to redefine himself while stuck in a barely explained Omega Sanction, also called “The Life Trap” – from which apparently Darkseid draws the energy of his eye beams. Darkseid also kept the Sanction trapped, which Shiloh finally realizes after living out many of his best and worst possible lives. Understanding that a team-up with the Sanction is required if he’s going to escape Darkseid, Shiloh proposes they escape together, and they do. In mastering his grief after the tragedy of losing his brother, Shiloh has become whole.
Presented here as being neither an intrinsically good or bad trait, Grant Morrison has a tendency to wedge seemingly self-aware references into his works, but due to their detachment from the story overall, their presence tends to disjoint in a way that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Because these are far-reaching stories, there usually isn’t a recognition of the smaller themes at play. Morrison is excellent at weaving epic stories that introduce new ideas and show us how he views the world beyond the status quo, but there’s a lot of stuff that exists outside the play-by-play of his stories that just flat out doesn’t make a ton of sense to put in a story. In Mister Miracle, we were given a series that went for full-out madcap Kirby stylism, but the heart behind the most successful Kirby adaptations were mostly absent here.
Likewise, while attempting to redefine the New Gods for a new audience without “the baggage” of old continuity, the references to prior works are overwhelming even for those readers well-versed in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World adventures. It takes several pages of flipping around to recognize the police officer at the beginning as Shiloh’s brother, who has not been mentioned in this arc until now. There’s no explaining Aurakles’ presence, and the Omega Sanction is baffling. Recap pages might have helped a little, but in the end, the problem is Morrison wildly packing concepts into far too few pages in a comic that desperately needed a more complex underlying humanity if it was going to fully succeed. In a meticulously planned crossover, Mister Miracle is where the seams show.
To whit, what is a drawback in this series is a strength in other parts of the story. As a whole, Seven Soldiers is a heck of a lot of fun to dive into, and reading it in its entirety, Mister Miracle’s shortcomings aren’t so obvious as when you read it as an individual piece. In the end, it does what it needs to do in connecting the pieces together and giving us some interesting new ideas to play around with. Besides all that, it was good to see Shiloh pop up again after more or less vanishing from DC comics for entire decades. I would love to see a series with Shiloh as Mister Miracle which had the time to flesh out the character rather than rushing through plot points to the detriment of his development.
Of all seven mini-series, Mister Miracle was the one which would have benefited the most from the creative team laying out more groundwork than it did. Avoiding wasting page space with over-explaining redundant details is a thing Morrison does to a much greater effect in other books. When we think of those first two pages of All-Star Superman as the complete origin of Superman, we don’t lose that much and the tale is allowed to progress without rehashing the last 80 years of continuity. Still, Superman is Superman – most people that pick up a Superman comic would be more than familiar with his origin story, while Mister Miracle is incredibly esoteric to your average reader.
Bringing in Shiloh as Mister Miracle without context means the story fails to tie us to the character and his history while inundating us with complex Fourth World philosophies. Claiming this to be an all-new, all-different take while remaining immersed in mysterious continuity prevents the series from living up to its potential. This is not to say it couldn’t have worked… just that it mostly doesn’t.
Shiloh desperately needed a deeper persona than the “man learns that success is not all it’s cracked up to be” stereotypes he plays out here. Even when the story attempts to pivot to include him in his own narrative, it references things we as readers don’t know about the character and fails to give us any emotional consequences. Typically, Morrison focusing on the convoluted history of the New Gods is cohesive and interesting while here it is just a mishmash of out of context themes that ultimately fails the character at its center.
Seven Soldiers of Victory: Mister Miracle #4
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Freddie Williams II
Colourist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Sara Century has written for several websites, but is most prominently one of the writers over at SYFYWire. You can find her website here which has more links to her work, and follow her on Twitter here!