One way or another I would have ended up writing about this, so I decided to just lean into it, which means there are spoilers ahead for…
Mister Miracle #10
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derrington
Variant Cover: Mitch Gerads
“Plus, I’m sill kind of thinking of trying to convince Barda to sacrifice him to win a cosmic war. So if I do that…and get the dog. What’ll we do with the dog? I don’t want a dog.”
I must admit that as much as I was looking forward to a new issue of Mister Miracle I was also kind of dreading this issue. The last one kind of gutted me, and I’ve found myself having difficulty moving past it, and with that Gerads variant cover, this one…
My fears were…well, not unfounded, but the reality of this issue was, in many ways, a lot less harsh than what I had anticipated.
That’s not to say this wasn’t a consequential issue – it was – or that it didn’t leave me gutted, just like every issue does, in its own way, it just wasn’t as traumatizing as I’d anticipated.
As has been the case throughout, not a lot happens in this issue, but there is a lot happening.
To bring us up to speed, in the last issue, as part of peace discussions between New Genesis and Apokolips, Darkseid offered to cease his aggression and bring the war to an end…if Scott and Barda surrender custody of their son Jacob to Darkseid.
This issue opens with Scott and Barda wordlessly returning to Earth after receiving that offer.
This is followed up by Scott having a night on the town with his friends and former teammates, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle.
In a moment of seriousness amid the drunken revelry we get the first discussion of the situation and learn that Scott is not at all certain what he should do.
Upon returning home to Barda he’s told that he needs to order a birthday cake for Jacob in the morning, preferably one with Batman, because Jacob likes Batman.
Across the nine panels of the next page, we see Scott slowly break down in the shower, while off-page Barda talks about the details of the upcoming birthday party, such as the guest list, and how it’s not really for Jacob, but for them, and that “they” say you need to have the celebration even if the child has no idea what’s going on.
“It’s like… It’s been a whole year. And he’s alive and we’re alive. We made it.”
At the store ordering the cake, Scott is still considering Darkseid’s offer as he dithers about when he wants the cake to be ready; Jacob’s birthday is on Sunday, but, if he agrees to Darkseid’s terms, they would be sending him to Apokolips on Saturday.
That evening at home, after Barda finally puts Jacob down for the night, Scott decides the time has come to stop avoiding it and broach the subject with Barda.
It…doesn’t go so well.
Scott consults his oracles and learns that if he keeps fighting against Darkseid, he will lose, and everyone everywhere will suffer.
At the party store, he poses a question to the cashier, explaining his dilemma. The cashier talks about the answer ultimately being found in math, stating that life is a matter of maximizing happiness, and to determine the best way to do that – Will sacrificing one life maximize the happiness of all other lives? – you must include all the variables you can identify in your, ahem, life equation.
While enjoying a day at the park with Barda and Jacob, Scott argues that he and Barda both grew up on Apokolips, and they survived, and they’re doing okay, and they’re happy.
This discussion of one elephant in the room leads to the discussion of the other elephant that’s been in the room the whole time: Scott’s suicide attempt.
Later, while decorating for the party, Funky tells Scott a story that contains within it – or so he claims – the meaning of life. It’s a story he asserts that he and Jacob came up with, despite the fact that Jacob, per Scott, “can say, like, six words.” Funky insists that they don’t need words when they have the vastness of Jacob’s imagination. And so, Funky relates the story of “Stareater and the Golden Retriever and Jake Jones.”
While Scott can’t quite see how this story provides the meaning of life, he does come to a decision, and, after putting Jacob down for the night, he informs Barda of his plan. He’ll bring Jacob to Darkseid.
Then, when they’re alone, he’ll kill Darkseid, or, more likely, die trying.
Then they’ll have the party.
“Sounds good. I’ll come too.”
One of the strengths of this book is that it contains so many quiet, intimate moments that seem disconnected and distinct from the larger events that are taking place, largely off-page, but which are entirely informed by those larger, cosmic events, just as those larger, cosmic events are born out of these quiet, intimate moments.
(The confines of the rigid nine-panel grid, in addition to making the book feel claustrophobic also add to the sense of intimacy. We are right there, up close and personal with Scott and Barda, just as caught up in the events of their lives as they are, and it helps that Gerads is so adept at capturing those small moments.)
The allure of stories – and of super-hero stories in particular – is that they can take the small, quiet, intimate moments of our lives and make them larger and louder, until they’re big enough to fill the universe, the multiverse, and what I find most appealing about the particular storytelling alchemy of King and Gerads is that they can go through that process, and then distill it back down into something even smaller, something that can fit into nine small panels per page without losing any of their heft or potency.
The central theme of this issue is one that is easily-understood: the fear that we* have as parents about passing on our damage to our children, and the difficult choices we have to make about their futures. Granted, most of us don’t have to balance the lives of untold trillions against the lives of our children or contemplate handing our child over to an evil god.
But in the broad strokes…
Of course, to any parent, it may seem as monstrous as it does to Barda to even consider the idea – Barda, understandably, is perfectly willing to lose something as trivial as a cosmic war for the continued existence of life in the universe if it means keeping her son – but it’s worth considering that, in his role as Highfather, Scott is God, and has much more to think about than his own happiness or the welfare of a single child, even if that child is his own.
Beyond that, Scott has the example of his own life to refer to, even if Barda doesn’t agree that it provides the comfort that he thinks it does. As a child, his own father gave him away to bring an end to war. How can he do any less?
Of course, unlike his father, Scott is the World’s Greatest Escape Artist…
As I’ve said before, while I like having the opportunity to talk about this book, the main thing I find myself saying is that me telling you about it can’t convey even an approximation of experiencing it for yourself. So…do that. If not now, then when the trade paperback collection of this masterwork by an Eisner Award-winning team is released.
That does it for this week’s Spotlight. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to come back on Saturday for the Showcase to see what new books I bought, one of which I might write about in the next Spotlight.
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*The ”we” here being humanity in general. I don’t worry about passing anything down to my non-existent kids.