Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mister Miracle #8

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods -- though he will be missing a few issues, as he explains. I make a brief comment below.]

“The Battle of the Id!!”

NOTE: This is usually the point where I would review the Jimmy Olsen title. However after reading issue #148, I found little to write about. The comic has become independent of the Fourth World saga, and the stories have become generic. I will continue to read the issues and will make a note in a subsequent column if I find anything interesting. But for now, I am just going to focus on New Gods, Forever People and today’s installment, Mister Miracle.

This issue is the conclusion of Mister Miracle’s, aka Scott Free’s assault on Apokolips to resolve his lingering issues from his tormented childhood. In the last issue, Miracle willingly surrendered to Granny Goodness in order to get closer to her whereabouts. Instead he was shipped off to section zero, which is rumored to be the worst Apokolips has to offer. His companion, Big Barda, is determined to save Scott but realizes she will need an army to do so. She returns to the home of the Female Furies, an all female team of women warriors which she used to command. The opening splash age depicts the Furies is a wild state of agitation. They’re fighting over who will command the team with Barda gone and the debate as devolved into battle. The Furies’ costumes have that Kirby signature look which makes one wonder what a Wonder Woman book would have looked like under Kirby’s pen. Another distinct detail is that many of the furies (and another woman seen later in the book) have wide eyes and tiny pupils, a look that says “madness”. Kirby seems to subscribe to the theory that war is a man’s game and any woman who stays long enough on Apokolips will be driven over the edge by it. At the sight of this bickering, Barda separates two combatants and proclaims herself leader once more. Simple, but effective.

On the title page, the scene changes to section zero where Mister Miracle is being led down a bridge above a greenish molten mess. He’s brought into a lab room where two hooded technicians are preparing his torment. There are two tables setup, one containing the Lump (see Mister Miracle 7 for more info) and one for Mister Miracle. On the other side of a two way mirror sits, Granny Goodness, Virman Vundabar, and Kanto; all villains from previous issues who are there to revel in Miracle’s demise. Another viewer is lead in by guards and referred to as the “mystery prisoner” by Vunderbar. She’s soon revealed to be the mother of Orion, only glimpsed once at the end of New Gods #7. This is an interesting development, as we were unaware if this woman was still alive in the current story. Her clunky dialog reveals she has been sentenced to a life of solitary confinement and the only thing that keeps her alive is the thought of seeing her donated son (Orion) once again. That is a reunion worth visiting.

The technicians pull the trigger which sends The Lump and Mister Miracle’s consciousness’ towards one another. This “psychological battle” between the two was a major disappointment. It is psychological only because it takes place in their minds. This is merely an excuse to have The Lump attack miracle with an ever changing array of attacks and dangerous scenery. I was expecting The Lump to torment Miracle with his past by morphing into Granny Goodness or turning Miracle into back into a helpless Scott Free. This is where the genius of the Mister Miracle character lies. He’s an escape artist who can never escape his past. Instead, we see yet another battle where Miracle’s tricks and gadgets allow him to avoid harm.

During this struggle, Barda and her Furies invade section zero and extract the location of Mister Miracle from a guard. They burst in the room and the subsequent commotion allows Orion’s mother to get the drop on a guard and seemingly escape her captures. Kanto is cornered by Bernadeth, sister of Desaad (an interesting reveal), while Barda corners Granny and Vunderbar cowers in the corner. Granny tests Barda’s temper by branding her a traitor which causes Barda to pick her off the ground and threaten her life until Mister Miracle intervenes. No explanation is given why Miracle would not want to see this ugly, abusive woman killed for her torment of children. An explanation is given as to how Miracle escaped his tormentor, but it’s shaky at best. Miracle reportedly picked up a piece of reflective material so The Lump could see his reflection. The Lump was so horrified, it retreated back into the recesses of his own mind. There was no precedent for The Lump being so vein so the solution ends up feeling tacked on.

This was a disappointing resolution to Mister Miracle’s cumulative adventure. The battle between Mister Miracle and The Lump was not the war of wills I was expecting. The ending felt rushed and I don’t understand why Miracle wouldn’t at least capture or arrest Granny Goodness if he wouldn’t allow Barda to destroy her. I’m also not sure what the Female Furies represent on Apokolips. Barda was their leader, and I assume they heeded Darkseid’s will as all do on Apokolips. Barda goes rogue and escapes with Mister Miracle, only to return and demand to lead the Furies once again. Wouldn’t some of them label her a traitor as Granny did? Now that they’ve assaulted a respected branch of Darkseid’s forces, I’d assume their fugitives as well? So many questions...

Final Musing

The idea of the Id was thrown around a lot in this issue. A very basic reading of the Id, Ego and Super Ego is

The Id comprises the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives.
The Ego seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bringing grief.
The Super-ego works in contradiction to the id. The Super-ego strives to act in a socially appropriate manner, whereas the id just wants instant self-gratification.

The title of the comic is “The battle of the Id”. That could refer to the battle between the Id and the Ego which I suppose Mister Miracle struggles with. He desires to be completely free of his past on Apokolips and the Id drove him to Earth while the Ego forced him to return to Apokolips to confront his demons and truly be free. The Lump is referred to being in the realm of the Id, however the character seems to refer more to the idea of how one visualizes themselves in their mind.

[I can see someone explaining how the battle with the Lump is like something out of Greek Mythology and so on, but I am going to just leave it as Jack Kirby had a lot of plates in the air all the time and had more ideas than he knew what to do with. This, in theory, was one of the best ones: battles between heroes are often metaphors for ideological struggles, and in effect mental battles: why not make this explicit. Can more be done with the idea -- absolutely. Morrison used the Lump and a Lump like character to great effect in Batman and Shining Knight 2, and even expanded the idea out into much larger projects like Flex Mentallo and the Invisibles and Animal Man and his own Mr Miracle title where we see big stories that are really about one man's mental battle on at least one level. Kirby was not the guy who had the one thought and saw it all the way out to the end like many of our modern auters (Sorkin? Whedon? Charlie Kaufman?): Kirby was the guy with 10,000 ideas, for others to work with.]

1 comment:

Andy said...

Good point Geoff, I was going to mention The Lump in the hands of Morrison, but just didn't get to it.

Maybe the Fourth World is so appealing to many creators who grew up reading the material (Joe Casey, Matt Fraction, Bruce Timm, Grant Morrison) because of that unfinished quality. Morrison saw something more in the concept of the Lump. Bruce Timm and co. saw a methodical and deliberate Earth invasion by Darkseid as the ultimate threat for Superman. Casey loved the insanity of the Kirby style and amped it up to 11 in G0dland. And you know how much Kirby had an influence on Fraction