Mister Miracle #12 // Review
The best series of 2018 ends in Mister Miracle #12, by writer Tom King, artist Mitch Gerads, and letterer Clayton Cowles. King and Gerads have been turning in best-of-career work on this book, making it easily stand head-and-shoulders above everything else being published by the Big Two. Each issue has built on the last, getting better and better. Can the ending stand up to the awesome pedigree this series has developed?
The war is over, and life is back to normal for Scott and Barda. The old complications are there, and Scott’s life as the new Highfather adds some new ones, but things are generally happy for the Free family. However, the ghosts of Scott’s recent past are also there, questioning his decisions and throwing doubt into his life. Did Scott escape the trap or is he still in it?
That is the big question of the issue and there’s really no answer to it. Scott died in the first issue and “escaped” death, but did he really escape? The book is extremely vague on this. Is he in Hell, still fighting the monsters of Apokolips as Highfather or is he in Heaven, living with a family that loves him, doing the best he can? This is the conflict of the last issue. Readers expecting a big exposition dump from Metron will be disappointed. Nothing is really resolved in this book, or at least it isn’t if the reader isn’t willing to really think about the questions that the book brings up. Is Scott’s life Heaven or is it Hell? He’s trapped in a never-ending battle in a universe filled with gods and monster that can wipe away existence and replace it with something else. Is that Hell? He has the love of his life by his side and a family to take care, revelling in their love and affection. Is that Heaven? In the end, that’s up to the reader, because King is playing his cards close to the vest with this one.
This issue is the first issue that really shows Scott as something besides a broken person. He’s come to terms with whatever Metron revealed to him and his destiny therein. He’s shaved his beard, the sign of his depression growing on him as time went by, and his life has reached a level of strange equilibrium. He’s found something on his journey, and that’s the triumph of this book. A lot of readers are going to read this book and hate that it doesn’t give them all the answers they wanted. However, looking at the whole series from the perspective of this last issue, the important part of it was Scott’s journey from a broken shambles of a man to who he has become in the last issue. This book isn’t some puzzle box, but the story of a man finding things in his life that he didn’t see before and being the better for it. A lot of readers will be mad that this isn’t the puzzle box they were expecting, but it’s all the stronger for not being that. It has been subverting expectation since the first issue, and this finale is no different. King writes a lot about mental issues, and most of the time, there is very little resolution. Here, though, he shows the complete journey. Scott’s life isn’t perfect. He isn’t cured, but he’s found things in his life and himself that make all that okay. It’s a powerful message for a book that has shown a realistic light on the effects of depression on a person--one of hope.
Mitch Gerads’ art is flawless. There’s really very else that can be said about it. There’s no big action set pieces, just a lot of slice-of-life vignettes from a family of superheroic gods. As the book has progressed, his linework has become more solid, and this book has that in spades. While a lot of the earlier issues had an almost abstract look to them at times, this one is solid. That could mean this is the real world, but what it definitely means is some great art. The panels with Scott speaking to the ghosts of all the people he knew killed in the war are a wonderful mix of craft; Gerads colors the ghosts like pixelated afterimages from a TV on the fritz, and they look great, fitting into the realistic, detailed environs around them.
Fans are going to be split by Mister Miracle #12. It’s definitely not what one would expect after the last issue, but it’s better for all of that. In reality, the answers readers would have gotten would have been ones they had before or had already guessed. By going down the path King and Gerads went with this book, it makes a much more powerful statement about mental illness and dealing with the traumas and joys of life. It casts the rest of the book in a new light. The puzzle box had nothing to do with the nature of what was going on, but it was about one man and his search in himself and the world around him for something better, something that made it all worthwhile. It leaves a lot up to the reader: Do they think the life Scott has right now is better or worse? Is any of this real? Does it matter if one man has found contentment in his life? These questions are the true foundation of the book, and life in general, and their ambiguity makes the book all the more powerful. By not going down the path that seemed obvious, King and Gerads have produced a modern day masterpiece.