Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Andy Bentley on Jack Kirby's New Gods: Mister Miracle #4

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

“The Closing Jaws of Death”

In the post crisis appearances of Mr. Miracle that I have read, he’s almost always accompanied by Big Barda, an Amazonian type woman with a personality similar to Orion. A quick google search yields the inspiration for the character. Her visage is based off of actress Lainie Kazan and the dynamic between her and Miracle is said to be inspired by Jack’s relationship with his wife Roz. Barda offers up a interesting dynamic for future Mr. Miracle issues and saves us from another inconsequential Miracle escape act.

The issue opens on Oberon, who is fretting about Scott’s safety with Big Barda looming behind him. Both characters are staring out directly towards the reader, a perspective rarely used in modern comics. Barda makes a booming entrance and demands to know the whereabouts of Scott Free, aka Mr. Miracle. The testy relationship between Oberon and Barda is formed early and familiar to many a sitcom. We quickly learn that Barda was an orphan under Granny Godness’ care as Scott was however she remained on Apokolips and now leads Dardeid’s female task force. This prohibits Kirby from outfitting Barda with a mother box, so he created a mega rod for her to escape any predicament. The rod also allows her to teleport which she does as soon as she learns Dr. Bedlam is involved.

Mr. Miracle is currently trapped inside a trunk falling down several stories to his doom when Barda teleports in. Barda demonstrates a wealth of superhuman strength as she cushions the trunks fall only to find no one inside. Miracle reveals himself stories above, still bound by ropes, and explains to Barda the people that surround her are not to be trusted. The people confirm his warning by again grabbing Miracle, this time with the intent of stabbing him through the heart, vampire style. Again Miracle seemingly disappears from their grasp and begins to make his way to Barda. However he did not anticipate the Galaxy Broadcasting studio on the bottom floor which was shooting a medieval movie when Bedlam’s paranoia pill hit. The actors now believe they are in fact medieval tortures and the director is imperative to shoot Mr. Miracle as his head. The only problem is the lead is to be crushed within an iron maiden. Barda again fights to save Miracle but when she opens the maiden, there’s no trace of her friend. To her relief, Miracle appears behind her and the two of them make their way towards the exit. However Bedlam once again appears, now devoid of form and tries one more attack. He releases a flurry of nightmares to force a stampede of all the buildings inhabitants towards Miracle and Barda.

Kirby then jump cuts to Oberon who is still worrying about Miracle when suddenly both Miracle and Barda teleport behind him. The trio express their relief in their own unique ways and again the rivalry between Oberon and Barda surfaces. While prepping dinner, Oberon asks to learn Scott’s secrets of survival. Again, Miracle’s adventure unravels by having a phlebotinum do all the work of his escape, rather than using Miracle’s dexterity or cunning. This time it’s a multi-cube rather than a mother box or a cosmic rod. It cheapens the idea of Miracle as an expert escape artists and infers just about anyone could be Mr. Miracle with these magic gadgets. The issue ends with Barda entering for dinner, now clad in a skimpy bikini rather than her Apokoliptian garb which grabs the attention of both men.

Final Musings

Barda is a welcome addition to the series. Her allegiance to Apokolips is still to be determined as is the exact nature of her and Scott’s relationship. Her costume, like Miracle’s, is both complex and simply effective all at once. Both share yellow circles on their appendages and a smattering of yellow on their torso’s. They look excellent in tandem

There’s definitely a sexual connotation to a Mega Rod, I’m just not ready to tackle it yet.

My hopes that Mr. Miracle would be a thinking escape artist akin to the 70’s detective Batman are starting to wane

Why did Bedlam need to inhabit those blank bodies if he could just manifest without a body?

2 issues in a row with a reference to vampires

Phlebotinum is more an Urban dictionary word rather than Webster’s. It’s origin

Mr. Miracle sums up my frustration with Kirby's choices in dialog in this issue: "The dialog is terrible! But they mean every word of it!"


James said...

Michael Chabon wrote a great essay about Big Barda.

Matthew J. Brady said...

From what I've read of the series, you're probably not going to be satisfied with Mr. Miracle's escape style. Me, I view it as a sci-fi version of the magicians' tools of the trade; he comes from a world of advanced technology, so he's using that tech in a way that seems like magic to normal humans.

Geoff Klock said...

James -- thanks for the link to the KICK ASS essay by Chabon. I adore the secular is sacred conclusion at the end, and notice that if he sees his wife as Barda he is the Escape Artist -- the Escapist, if you will. G

scott91777 said...

Until just now, I totally thought you were twittering about WARLORD not WARLOCK....

Andy said...

yes I read that essay some time ago. I agree with Chabon's assertion that Wonder Woman just doesn't add up to the female comic book icon, yet she's too entrenched in our culture's collective consciousness.

I will take his theory of Kirby's increasing disillusionment under consideration as I continue to read