[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods.]
“Doctor Vundabar and His Murder Machine!”
By issue five, it’s apparent that Mister Miracle follows a rigid plot structure: (1 )Mr. Miracle and Oberon setting up a new stunt for his ‘upcoming’ escape act. Here Oberon will get a morsel of Scott’s backstory (2) Interruption by an interloper from Apokolips (3) Mr. Miracle pursues and takes on the latest death trap prepared for him. (4) Miracle escapes with the help his Mother box/aero discs and returns home.
Unless a wrinkle in this plotting appears, characterization becomes the only variable in the book. Although Barda does offer some different dynamics, Vundabar (the villain of the month) is a retread of many a super-villain making this just an average issue.
Mr. Miracle and Oberon setting up a new stunt for his ‘upcoming’ escape act. Here Oberon will get a morsel of new background on Mr. Miracle
However now Barda is in the mix. She’s doing some early morning calisthenics much to the delight of the moving crew. The moving crew is there to drop off a civil war era cannon for.... Mr Miracle’s upcoming act! The Amazonian attitude of Barda is enjoyable and it’s fun to watch the movers react to her amazing strength. Barda is the type of strong women Joss Whedon would go on to write. The cannon is to fire upon a chained up Mr. Miracle. During preparations, Oberon learns that Granny was in charge of several institutions where the young of Apokolips are raised and trained to harness their inherited powers. Scott and Barda were in one of these institutions together and subsequently escaped in unison.
Interrupt the practice of the stunt with an interloper from Apokolips
Again, Barda twists the plotting ever so slightly by being the subject of the attack. Barda is enjoying the peacefulness off the woods and compares Earth to the war torn Apokolips. This euphoria might be something Kirby felt returning from the war . The calm is interrupted by an infantry from Apokolips which Barda handles well until an energy dispenser saps her of her strength. She’s loaded into a magna-lift which Scott sees in the sky and....
Mr. Miracle pursues and takes on the latest death trap from the denizen of Apokolips.
This time it’s Virman Vunderbar, a villain Miracle coincidentally predicts might show up in the beginning of the issue. Vunderbar’s appearance makes the Fourth World allusions to Hitler’s 3rd reich quite blatant. Dressed in a regal military outfit, Vunderbar has a short stature, slick oiled black hair, a monocle, and flunkies that belong on Hogan’s Heroes. He has been perfecting a deathtrap for Miracle to best which involves a mobile metal coffin in which the inhabitant is pummeled, shocked and then smelted by hot fires. Miracle agrees to this challenge and is seemingly destroyed within the coffin to the delight of Vunderbar and company.
Miracle escapes with the help of Mother box or his aero discs and returns home.
The comic timing of Miracle’s unexpected return behind Vunderbar and his flunkies was well appreciated. Vunderbar (like myself) assumes mother box allowed Miracle to escape the trap. Instead, Miracle’s aero discs allowed him to super heat the floor and escape the coffin. Out of Miracle’s escapes so far, this one was rather innovative. Scott uses the same trick to cause the floor to collapse on Vunderbar and his troops. Scott collects an embarrassed Barda and the two return home.
There was a reference to Oliver Twist by Mister Miracle in the middle of the issue and another in the new and ongoing backup story, The Early Life of Young Scott Free! We learn of the torment Scott endured under Granny Goodness which Kirby compares to the trials of the young Oliver Twist. At adolescence, the offspring of Apokolips are put into training camps where they’re taught interrogation techniques at the hands of their master, Granny Goodness. They even have transmitters attached to their lapels which transmit these lessons. Scott has refused to learn the ways of torture and is subjugated to a beating by his fellow inmates. Bloodies and defeated Scott is tossed into his jail cell. Suddenly Metron appears from behind him to comfort the youth he’s been studying from afar. To be continued.....
-Oberon looked just adorable in his little civil war outfit.
- Young Scott Free can be seen goose-stepping in one panel. The Nazi references are becoming much more overt as the series continues