Monday, June 01, 2009

Andy Bentley on The New Gods 11: Mister Miracle 2

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at the New Gods. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels on the bottom.]

“X-Pit”

In this second issue, we find Scott Free has settled into his escape artist role with the help of his assistant, Oberon. These initial pages are structured intricately with Kirby gadgetry filling the gutters between panels and even intruding into them. Scott himself is constantly wired beneath his clothes with his protector, mother box, resting on his right shoulder. These opening panels also have text from a disembodied threat scrolling through the page. The voice is revealed to be Overlord, a monstrosity out to destroy Mr. Miracle. Luckily, Overlord destroys a “follower”, a robot duplicate of Mr. Miracle that mimics the owner’s movements. Scott’s mother box is damaged in the blast and Scott “pours out his love” to make it respond again. The spiritual bent to mother box continues to increase and serves as a parallel towards our fascination with technology as a culture.

The story shifts to reveal that Overlord was sent by a lieutenant of Darkseid, Granny Goodness. I’m familiar with the character from her appearances in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League and I have to confess I’m not a fan. She seems to be a take off on our witches and evil stepmothers from Disney films. I find the “granny” type dialog between her and her “boys” creepy. Although not physically intimidating, we’ll soon see her hold on Mr. Miracle is more mental than physical. Granny sends her troops to capture Scott Free who is setting up another escape act. Oberon has become increasingly curious about Scott’s origin and gadgets. Scott remains cryptic, but does reveal his (and the 4th World’s) central concept: to escape tyranny and oppression to become an individual. Granny’s raiders arrive soon after and capture Oberon and by mistake, Scott’s follower robot. Scott gives chase with the aid of aero-discs, flat circles that adorn his feet that allow him to fly. These discs are a trademark to the Mr. Miracle outfit and give an already wild costume more flair.

Granny is berating her Raider’s for the mix up when Miracle makes his grand entrance. He zips through the raiders, snatches Oberon, and is about to escape when Granny throws the switch opening her X-Pit. Miracle’s discs become neutralized and he and Oberon fall into a elaborate deathtrap (which we all saw coming). The X-Pit is a clear cube which has several cycles which emits fire and electricity to torture Miracle and Oberon. The last cycle fills the cube with mud which seems to doom its inhabitants.

Next we see Granny feigning sadness for Mr. Miracle who she assumes is dead. A Raider brings her a gift from Darkseid to comfort her: a magic box which grants wishes (akin to the box Ben describes to Locke in season 3 of LOST). A blinding flash occurs and there stand Mr. Miracle with Granny’s guards down for the count. Mr. Miracle drops more hints of his past by referring to Granny’s “institution” that he escaped. We then get the obligatory escape explanation: Mr. Miracle used mother box to send an energy wave through the torture circuits in the X-Pit to destroy Overlord who was operating the pit. Miracle shows Granny Overlord’s charred remains inside her magic box which only infuriates her more. Granny promises vengeance as Miracle and Oberon escape into the night.

There wasn’t much substance to this issue other than gaining a bit more knowledge of Miracle’s past. The “big wig on Apokolips sends a flunkie to destroy a New God” plot is starting to wear thin. The deathtrap was fairly bland and the Overlord character was bizarre but unfulfilling. I couldn’t tell if it was alive or a robot, why it died and then shrunk, or why it was in this box of Granny’s that gave her her hearts desire. It felt David Lynch-ish to a degree.

Showing and telling moment: Granny screaming “a blinding light!” when clearly a blinding light is seen in the panel.

Half baked prediction: There’s something more to Oberon. Maybe even something sinister

Next issue: “The Paranoid Pill” sounds like a good one

[I like Mister Miracle's theme and design and idea -- cosmic escape artist on earth -- so much I feel bad about not being into the execution: it is the most formulaic of the New Gods books, which is ironic given that it is about the incarnation of freedom, and the reveals are always extremely unsatisfying -- there is always some hidden circuit that gets him out of the scrape in some absurd "mother box can magically do whatever is necessary" thing. There are some good issues upcoming -- especially the Lump -- but this is one of the things about the comic that feels stale and old fashioned, or maybe geared toward a younger audience.]

2 comments:

Mikey said...

I agree on the formulaic nature of the series, and the irony that holds in a book about the human(?) embodiment of freedom.

Something here tying to Morrison - the Omega Effect in 7 Soldiers has Mr Miracle reliving a series of deadening fake lives designed to keep his will imprisoned. Somehow this is the fate of any protagonist of a monthly comics series - to relive adventure after adventure, to have everyhting resolved only to begin again in the following month in pretty much the same formula. (Returns to in Seaguy, and also didn't it crop up in Animal Man and Doom Patrol and JLA - The Key keeps the superheroes imprisoned by effectively forcing them to live out tired comic book formulas). Tempting it is to posit: monthly comic book = anti-life equation.

The more I think about it, the drabness of the Evil Factory, and the mundane urban backdrop (unnamed), the spiteful, vindictive and bullying characters of Kirby's villains (Granny Goodness, Godfrey the Good), the more it's clear Morrison was just accessing this time and again and returning to what was quite a rich vein in Kirby's work.

Also - Kirby wrote and drew an adaptation of The Prisoner, right? Which was also a huge influence on Morrison, particularly in The Invisibles.

Andy said...

Wow, all good stuff there