With death very much on my mind this week, in determining which book to feature in the Spotlight, I decided that I should focus on a story that puts life – or perhaps Anti-Life – at its center, and so there are spoilers ahead for…
Mister Miracle #7
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derington
“I don’t know…He looks more like a…Just like a lump.”
Last week I mentioned that I often dream that my long-dead father is still alive, or is, somehow, alive again.
As is the inevitable nature of life, my mother now has the opportunity to join him in those dreams.
But just as life ends, life begins, and this issue focuses on the latter.
When last we saw Scott and Barda, Barda revealed that they were about to become parents. During the hiatus between issues – a hiatus that occurred to allow artist Mitch Gerads and his wife to experience at least some of what Scott and Barda experience in this issue – that “about” moved up a lot closer, and we open with the Barda in labor as Scott argues with the valet at the hospital.
Along the way we learn that after the events of last issue, Scott has ascended to the role of Highfather, and that the war between New Genesis and Apokolips rages on.
Despite this, the two decided that they wanted their child of two worlds to be born on a third, hence the arguing with the valet at the hospital.
Most of the action takes place in a hospital room as the expectant parents await their son’s arrival, passing the time with Scott suggesting names and Barda shooting them down, or sitting in awkward silence as they consider the manner in which their already chaotic lives are about to change, talking about the various birthing tips and techniques they read about in “the book,” Scott dealing with calls from work – “An Apokolips army of three million has just boomed into the Desert of Angels. Please advise.” – and, of course, coping with the inevitable arrival of family.
While they are enemies on the battlefield, the Female Furies had, once upon a time, been part of the Mister Miracle act, faithfully following their leader – their big sister – Barda, before ultimately returning to Apokolips and the service of Darkseid.
Still, Barda is family, and this child about to be born is family, too.
Following the recent announcement of a New Gods movie being helmed by director Ava DuVernay, there has been a lot of discussion about potential casting, and in one such conversation I had with my friend Scott (not Free) I talked a bit about Bernadeth, the sister of Darkseid’s cruel and cringing lackey DeSaad.
Scott (not Free) felt that the pun contained in Bernadeth’s name is too subtle for Kirby, particularly given that her weapon of choice is the Fahren-Knife, which can cause its victim to burn from the inside.
It was an interesting coincidence, given that said weapon figures prominently into this story, as Bernadeth explains to Scott (Free, not my friend) that mortal instruments will not be strong enough to cut Barda, should the need arise.
“This the Fahren-Kife. It kills gods. I will one day use it to kill you, Highfather. But for now, you may have it. It will cut her as she needs to be cut.”
Barda doesn’t trust Bernadeth’s motives, of course, explaining that the knife was forged from Darkseid’s own flesh, and that it doesn’t cut.
This leads to a bit of what I assume is meta-commentary on fan reaction to an earlier issue.
Still, it proves to be Chekhov’s Fahren-Knife, as, when the time comes, the baby is born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his throat, and the cord proves too tough to be cut by anything immediately available to the medical staff.
And thus, little
Ironbreaker Starrazer Axeblow Thunderdeath Jacob takes his first breath.
There was not a lot of action in this issue, but, as with every issue, there was still a lot happening, with Scott’s continued listless agreeableness – saying “Okay” to pretty much everything – and the implication of his glance at the weapon forged from Darkseid’s flesh, which makes the cry from Jacob that ends the issue something of a sinister note upon which to end, even though it’s in the nature of babies to cry.
It seems particularly sinister, given that before Scott reached for the knife, we received our periodic reminder that
Something of a running theme throughout this series has been the way in which it makes you question everything you’re seeing. Was the resemblance of the lines on the heart monitor to the Omega Effect just a neat little visual Easter Egg, or something more? Was the grayish cast to Jacob’s skin an attempt at capturing the skin tone of a newborn, or something darker?
Then there’s Mad Harriet’s reaction to learning the child’s name.
“Oh sweet little Jacob! It’s finally time to wake up! Reality is about to break up!”
Even something that seems sweet – and is, really, no matter what else it might mean – can feel ominous, as Barda, in an effort to remain calm as the birth comes closer, thinks of something soothing, going to her happy place, the memory of falling in love with Scott (which also provides the name for their child). She describes the way Scott would climb Jacob’s Ladder – the only way out of the Pit in which they were raised – and would look so handsome as he waved at her and the Furies who were chasing him and said, “I can always escape.”
“And then we’d…I…Got you.”
There are those who think of marriage as a trap, and of having a child being the lock on that trap, and while that is a rather cynical take, I would remind you that “Darkseid is.” and that Scott is an escape artist, the greatest of many worlds, and yet this issue finds him confined to a hospital, free only to move from room to hallway and back again, and we find ourselves wondering, again, if he really did manage to escape from death all the way back at the beginning, or did he escape from life?
The overall composition of this issue feels intensely personal, as both King and Gerads have lived through the experience of becoming a father, of experiencing the waiting, the uncertainty, the excitement, and the boredom, and the story is filled with those little details. The ice chips. The hospital chair that turns into a bed. The “They say” and the “I read” of first-time parents. The moments of panic – “Why did it stop beeping?” The moments of relief – “It was just a positioning problem.”
And, of course, for me, as I try to move on from thoughts of death to thoughts of life, I find some comfort in the notion of the continuity of life, of the new taking the place of the old, even if that new life – that new New God – is fictional and may turn out to be something other than what it seems.
My youngest nephew is named Jacob, and as I think about the old giving way to the new, I remember his birth nearly eighteen years ago, as I was nearing the lowest point in my life. My depression never made me quite suicidal, but it made me somewhat less averse to the notion of dying, and I thought often about that idea, and there was a certain appeal. I had no plans to take any direct, immediate action to end my own life, but, I thought, with this new life in the world, it would certainly be okay for me to step aside and make room.
I didn’t, obviously, and I found that there was room in this world for both of us and eventually climbed up Jacob’s Ladder at least a couple levels from my lowest low in the Pit.
Of course, the idea isn’t really to get out of the way and make room anyway; it’s simply that life, as long as some of us are still here, at any rate, goes on, continuing its cycle.
My mom is gone, but life continues, and though as a man I’m reluctant to make any analogies involving going through labor – my mom was in labor for days with me – there is pain, awful, searing agony, and fear, but there is also joy, and promise, and hope.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Darkseid is.
But he’s not the only one.
On the topic of joy, I’ll close this one out with something that happened on Twitter recently that is so utterly perfect that seeing it made me feel – for a moment, at least – as if I had climbed all the way up Jacob’s Ladder and escaped to the Heaven that those in the Pit believed waited for them at the top.
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