Monday, August 31, 2009

Mister Miracle #7

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. I make a very brief comment below.]

Apokolips Trap!!

After witnessing the transfer of the infant Scott Free from New Genesis to Apokolips in The Pact!, Kirby now begins the story of Free’s return to confront his tormentors. Under the guise of Mr. Miracle, Free becomes a symbol of rebellion who cuts a swatch through the forces of Apokolips with the help of his brash friend, Big Barda. Although Miracle is captured at the close of the issue, there has been a catharsis for the character; something much needed in order for him to move forward.

The issue opens on Apokolips, where the new crop of youth are being processed for Granny Goodness’ camps. The latest version os Apokolips’ jack-booted thugs are called the Harrasers. Dressed in blue, they bark orders at the children and beat them with a club if they fall out of line. They immediately recall the police brutality seen on college campuses during anti-war protests of the late 60’s and early 70’s. We’re also introduced to the Harasser who was held culpable for Scott Free’s first escape many years back. Although a common writing tool, this personal connection to Free’s torment will make his upcoming romp through Apokolips even more satisfying.

The scenery shifts to Earth where Free and Barda are saying goodbye to Oberon in their own ways. Oberon is heartbroken to have his new friends returning to a horror world he only knows through the villains who originate from it. After pretending not to care, Barda bends down to hug the little guy in a surprisingly touching moment. Barda tunes her Mega Rod to their destination and in a flash, they’re back on Apokolips. The thin plan they have to bluff on Barda’s past authority falls apart very quickly. Barda then becomes quite big, hurling insults at the troops left and right as she pulls down a stone tower and kicks in a vehicle for them to travel in.

The next page is an interlude from the action where Kirby continues to dance around the true nature of anti-life. The panels depicts the guards of Apokolips while the narration explains that although these mindless soldiers are devoid of life, it is unauthentic because it is manufactured. It isn’t the true anti-life which Darkseid hopes to ensnare. The anti-life that Sonny Sumo utilized was also deemed phony by Darkseid. I’m cannot tell if there’s a true version Kirby still wants to unviel, or if the equation is just a MacGuffin to move the story forward.

By the next page, we’re back to Barda and Miracle who have just been zapped out of the car they hijacked by the newest Apokolips character, Kanto. Kanto’s appearance gives you most of what you need to know about the character. His foppish hat, ruffled collar and purple robes are indicative of his aristocratic behavior, despite being the weapons master for Darkseid. He uses Barda’s own weapon to subdue her (something that will no doubt infuriate her) while his guards truss up Miracle. The death trap de jour is a firing squad, with Mr. Miracle on a moving metronome in front of a bullseye. Even the metronome, which keeps pace in music, keeps to Kanto’s cultured methods. After several misfires, they connect with a bomb cluster which leaves a large fibroid cocoon in it’s wake. This is a personal air bag for Mr. Miracle, and Kanto takes much delight in the gadgetry. Miracle is then trussed up by the legs and dragged by a chopper until he sends and electrical current through the chain that fries the bike. Kanto pushes Barda’s mega rod to Miracle’s temple and an odd game of wills ensues. Miracle proclaims Kanto will not kill him because he is merely an artist of weapons and that this type of work isn’t suited for a gentleman like Kanto. Kanto responds with the theory that Miracle is obsessed with death, and that death by him would be much quicker and painless than it will be at the hands of Granny Goodness. A mutual respect blossoms between the two and Kanto allows Barda and Miracle to head toward Granny’s location. Coming full circle, we agin see the Harrasers abusing the new recruits however this time they’re interrupted by Miracle and Barda. Miracle zeros in on Hoogin, the Harraser seen earlier and gives him what can only be described at a classic Kirby punch. Despite the mask, Hoogin knows it his his greatest failure that has come back to haunt him. Miracle forces Hoogin to contact Granny who orders Barda to be returned to the female barracks and Miracle to be sent section zero, where he will have to escape a trap made for the gods.

Final Musings

- After just seeing Inglorious Basterds, I got a Col. Hans Landa vibe from Kanto. Both are cultured gentleman who have a special talents and are willing to join an evil reich in order to practice their talents

-The getup Granny is wearing at the end is hilarious. She looks like the Wolf dressed up as granny waiting for little red riding hood

- The final page teases the “trap for the gods” and the image is something Batman readers should be familiar with. It’s the Lump, folks. The same Play-Doh looking creature that over took Bruce Wayne’s mind and gave him the mental adventure seen in Batman Last rites (Batman #682-683). This was the reason for Batman’s disappearance between Final crisis 2-6 as explained by a flow chart at DC panels and subsequent interviews with Morrison. Finding the Lump here again raised my ire at the whole R.I.P - Final Crisis debacle. First, is you’re explaining a story through flow charts, your boat is already sunk. Like the old proverb, if you have to explain the joke, it ain’t funny. Second, I’m pretty sure the Lump was last seen in these Mr. Miracle issues. This again leads me to suggest that Final Crisis was a mislabeled series. The least DC could have done is promoted these Kirby omnibus’ in anticipation of Morrison’s story. Sorry, rant over.

-The backup stories about young Scott Free continue. In this one he shows of his prowess with aero discs. They’re harmless, but don’t have too much substance.

[I was also very confused by the anti-life thing. Does someone want to make the point that there is a good reason for this? Or is it just messy writing and we are fine with that because Jack Kirby is Jack Kirby? And Batman: RIP was some nonsense, but it seems like nonsense connected to this: I feel like Morrison thought I was all innocent fun hype in the Kirby vein -- The DEATH of BATMAN! Is the Bad Guy SATAN or BRUCE WAYNE or BOTH? WHO KNOWS! ITS ALL IN GOOD FUN. But I still felt let down by the non-resolution to a story that was hyped as a resolution of at least SOME sort (knowing that these things never really get resolved, you can still resolve a RUN).]


Kahanek! said...

Kirby fans have debated about the Anti-Life Equation for decades. Bruce Timm has discussed how his animated series had to handwave the equation in order to get to whatever Darkseid story they were telling.

Despite that, I never really had a problem understanding it, though I don't remember Darkseid claiming Sonny Sumo's equation was false. I don't have the omnibuses in front of me so can't check, where did that reading come from? The difference between the equation on Apokolips and that used by Sonny is that on Apokolips and with Godfrey's Justifiers the Equation was manufactured. It required the active acceptance and participation of those who followed it. The dregs of Apokolips completely believe they exist to support Darkseid's regime, and that their proper place is under his heel. But that only works on those that will give themselves over to Darkseid, he wants control over the people he can't convince to serve him. Pure Anti-Life, as demonstrated by Sonny is the complete external control over you no matter what your will is. Darkseid doesn't need Anti-Life for Apokolips, he needs it for everyone else.

Mikey said...

Yeah - I'd never fully defined it for myself when reading (sometimes when you think these things through they may indeed start to fall down). I'd always had it in my head that on Apokalips Darkseid had manufactured a version/replica of anti-life, or what he considers anti-life to be - which, incidentally, is why he will never possess it. Because he's a wannabe.

Although this reminds me of Morrison reminding me of Kirby again: Darkseid (and we) have only ever encountered the idea of the anti-life equation before. Never the thing itself (which may be what is deployed in Final Crisis, although for me ultimately it lacked the dramatic punch that such a cataclysm would merit).

Andy said...

Darkseid does not, however in Forever People #6 Desaad says (referring to Sonny's) "When great Darkseid discovers the TRUE Anti-Life equation" implying that it is false.

I've tried keep quiet on the animated series, but Bruce Timm and company do finally represent the anti-life equation on the last episode of Justice League unlimited;recap

Kahanek! said...

Yeah, I saw the Desaad quote after I made my post, but I really don't think Desaad should be considered an authority on the Equation, especially since (being vague for future issues) we see Anti-Life used again by Kirby. A case could easily be made that in that scene Desaad is playing the sycophant, trying to save himself punishment for losing the Forever People and the entire camp by telling Darkseid that the only true Anti-Life Equation is the one that Darkseid will possess.

I remember the JLU finale, but I always felt the Equation's use in that was as a simple Macguffin to finish the show (being vague for anyone who hasn't seen it yet). I still love it though.

One other interpretation of the Anti-Life Equation I found that is of interest to me is from Tom Spurgeon, who tossed it off as an aside during his review of Final Crisis, which is that rather than a tool for Darkseid to use, the Anti-Life Equation is something BIGGER than Darkseid, that the pursuit of the Equation is in itself Anti-Life. It's an undercurrent of the entire Fourth World series that the heroes, except for Orion, want to avoid war and fighting as much as possible, but Darkseid's actions force them to take actions they find repellent. Darkseid gives them no choice but to oppose him, taking away their freedom by forcing them into opposition roles. It's more subtext throughout the work than explicit text, but it's still there, especially since Kirby was contrasting his experiences fighting the Nazis with those of the peace generation he saw around him. This is the thematic thrust of The Pact, when Highfather realizes that you can't defeat war by fighting. By adopting Darkseid's methods you become like Darkseid, which I have always thought was the basis of Morrison's vision of Darkseid as corrupter. This is also an area where the unfinished aspect of the Fourth World lends itself to wider interpretation than Kirby perhaps intended, as he never resolved the issues himself and now everyone has put their conclusions on his unfinished work.

Joe Gualtieri said...

"First, is you’re explaining a story through flow charts, your boat is already sunk."

Sorry, but really, it's shocking that such things were necessary. The relationship between FC, Superman Beyond, and Last Rites is pretty obvious is you actually read them.

That said, DC screwed up. FC is actually should have been released in a format similar to Seven Soldiers. 2 issues of FC, the a 2 issue mini for Superman, Batman, and the DCU, and then two issues of FC again.

"his again leads me to suggest that Final Crisis was a mislabeled series. The least DC could have done is promoted these Kirby omnibus’ in anticipation of Morrison’s story."

They were promoted that way. It's why DC finally released the Fourth World in a decent format at all.

Matthew J. Brady said...

I saw the "false anti-life" in this issue as not some mind control manufactured by Darkseid, but rather simple oppression, enslaving and beating people down until they have no will of their own left. It's mentioned when we see a scene of some emaciated workers slaving away at some machinery, which I found very reminiscent of Holocaust victims. That's what I thought Kirby was going for there, but I could be wrong.

Andy said...
In Legacy, the Superman: The Animated Series finale, Superman beats Darkseid. Badly. Superman is furious over the perversion of his body and image at the hands of the leader of Apokolips. He raises Darkseid's body over his head and throws it down so the people of Apokolips can see he is truly defeated.
Superman: "Darkseid is finished, do with him what you will, you're free"

The people do not destroy they're master. To Superman's shock, they pick up their broken leader to help him tend to his wounds
"I am many things, Kal-El. But here, I AM A GOD"

There's no indication that they are coerced here, it seems more that they know no other way of life than Darkseid's

oh and at 0:05? That looks like a Kirby-ish face to me