Simplicity is sometimes the best thing in life. Whether it’s trying to figure out what to do on the one-yard line in the Super Bowl (I’m looking at you, Seahawks) or deciding what to eat for dinner (can’t go wrong with pizza.) Sometimes, in comics, creators tend to get complex just for the sake of complexity. Some accuse great comic writers such as Jonathan Hickman of this, but he’s just a popular example. It’s a critique that gets thrown around quite a lot when talking about comics. Coates’ new Black Panther series received the same critique at first, along with many other critiques as well. I’m not arguing for more simplicity or even trying to say there’s much truth to these critiques, I’m just stating that it’s a thing that comes up whenever anyone decides to do something unconventional. This current Mister Miracle series by Tom King and Mitch Gerads has been accused of it as well. Not much, but the biggest complaints I see from people regarding this story, are not being able to follow along, or understand what’s going on. To that, I say that’s a weak critique, mainly because this comic isn’t overly complex. Also, from the moment this story opens up, it seems to have simple points to make. Not about God, the universe, or some platonic form (although, if you interpret it that way, then do your thing.) This comic is simply trying to humanize a character who is seen as a God to the citizens of Earth. If you haven’t been able to pick up on that so far, don’t worry, this issue is for you. Mister Miracle #4 is simple, to the point, and clearly shows us the themes and problems it’s trying to address, when it comes to this character. This issue outshines the rest, in my opinion, as it has the most heart, emotion, and the bluntness of the dialogue really helps those emotions come to life. I found myself in tears after this issue. Maybe that’s because I’m a big baby, but I think it’s because, by the end of this issue, I realized that we all have a little Scott Free in us.
THE TRIAL OF SCOTT FREE
The first three issue reviews are posted above, so check those out, if you haven’t. This issue doesn’t mess around with the plot. At the end of issue 3, Orion was beating Scott to a bloody pulp. We start with Scott in bed, recovering from his beatdown. This was Barda’s best issue yet, perhaps that’s why she’s on the cover. Lightray appears in their home and tells Scott that he’ll have a trial to plead his innocence. Orion believes Scott is infected with the Anti-Life Equation and is an agent of Darkseid. Barda sets the tone of this issue by threatening to shove her cosmic rod up Lightray’s ass if he doesn’t leave their home. He doesn’t and calls her a bitch, so she continues to pound him, daring him to, “Say it again!” It was a great moment. I’ve said before that the relationship between Scott and Barda is a good one. She may not be able to help Scott deal with all of his problems, but she won’t stand for anyone trying to do it themselves.
There’s a quick interlude before the trial. Scott and Barda are watching television. They decide to get a veggie tray for the trial tomorrow. Then, Scott attempts a stunt. He tells the crowd that this will be his last escape for a while. A train rams him while he’s in a barrel, but we don’t see anything after that.
The trail comes up next. Orion enters with Lightray and another individual I didn’t know. They sit on the couch. Lightray complains that the couch is inadequate. Barda responds promptly by telling Lightray to “Shut the fuck up.” The comedy was hitting early on in this issue, and I think it’s because of the emotion that follows. Orion is a dry character. Not in a bad way, he’s just your typical power-hungry leader who isn’t really a leader. He draws on about his role as the new Highfather and how he has the power in this trial. Scott is uninterested by this “power move” and goes to get a carrot from the veggie tray. Orion continues to explain the charges and the format of the trial. Darkseid has gotten the Anti-Life Equation and this trial is to see if Scott is infected with it. The format is true or false answers. No feelings, no explanations, just true and false. It’s all very Socratic, if you ask me, and as I said before, simple. To the point.
So, it begins, and Orion’s motives are clear from the start. He’s out to prove that Scott attempted to suggest that he himself was infected with Anti-Life. Scott doesn’t know what to say when asked if that’s what he thinks, but then concedes true. Orion condenses the question and asks Scott clearly if he thinks Orion is an agent of Darkseid. Scott says true. Orion than does some classic reverse psychology by saying that one wouldn’t know he’s an agent of Darkseid if it were the case. Scott says true. Then, Orion says that Scott could be an agent of Darkseid, which he responds true. Orion follows this up with some basic questions about some deaths that have happened in the series up until this point. Then, he asks if Forager, who died in issue 3, deserved to die. Scott doesn’t know. Orion, once again, is trying to appeal to this idea that anyone who doesn’t solely believe in his methods of war is an agent of Darkseid. Sounds a bit extreme, and similar to how we judge people here in America. The tension is busted when Barda answers the door for a package delivery.
This is where the issue picks up and becomes the best in the series so far. Scott is done with the crap. He asks Orion, if all of this, everything going on in the war and his mind, is a trap. Orion is still only concerned with being called Highfather. Scott steps up defiantly, and says, “I escape. From traps.” Barda then, continues to prove she’s the best girlfriend a guy can have. She tells Scott that all he has to say is the word, and she’s ready to bust some heads. Lightray has the nerve to flare up his hands. As if he’s inviting another beatdown from Barda. I don’t know if why that part made me laugh so much, but it did. Orion tells Scott that of course it’s a trap. He says that we’re all bound by something. Orion calls Scott by name, but Scott doesn’t respond. He reflects on the fact that Scott Free isn’t his real name, but just a nickname that Granny Goodness gave him because he escaped all the time. Mister Miracle isn’t his name either, he’s the second person on Earth to have the name. Orion then brings the heavy hitters out. He begins to ask true/false questions about Scott’s life now. You hate our father. You hate me. You hate your childhood. You hate Apokolips. You hate your career. You hate New Genesis. You hate your life. You hate yourself. You hate God. All you feel is hate. Hate made you doubt my reign as Highfather. Hate made you accuse me of treason. Hate made you doubt everything. Hate drove you to escape everything. Hade made you kill yourself. You are hate. The Anti-Life Equation is hate. You are the Anti-Life Equation. In two short pages, Orion, and more specifically, Tom King, destroy Scott’s confidence he had literally a page ago. It’s gone, never to be heard from again. Scott responds true to everything except the last one. He’s overcome with rage and begins beating Orion. It’s the most emotion he’s shown throughout the entire series. The issue ends with Orion taking a carrot stick from the tray. Bloody, he declares Scott guilty and sets his execution three days from now. The narration tells us that it’s Barda who’s next in line for a trap. The last couple of panels are Barda holding Scott in her arms, his face hidden.
Now, if you read this issue or read my thoughts above and thought, “Why did this idiot cry during this?” I’m not mad at you. We all interpret things differently. I said that the way Orion went about questioning Scott was very Socratic. Socrates, as a philosopher, was famous for always claiming he never knew anything. By knowing nothing, he was able to expand the limits of his own knowledge past people who truly believe they know something. Miracle, in a very simplistic way, has resembled Socrates throughout this story. He isn’t seen as some arrogant intellectual, hell, he hardly speaks up in general. But, Scott is always processing, always thinking. When Orion confirmed Scott’s worries that this all is a “trap” Scott thought he realized what needed to be done in order to escape. Orion, then turned into Socrates and engaged Scott in some of the most brutal elenchus I’ve ever seen. By the end of his trial, I believe Scott was forced to come to reality with some hard truths about himself. Particularly why he decided to kill himself in the first issue, his own hate of himself, his life, and everything around him. To me, that’s heartbreaking because it’s something we all go through every day. I’m a huge believer in trying to live your best life every day. You first have to figure out what you think the best life is, and more specifically, what constitutes a bad life. Once you do that, and we usually have a good grip on it when we reach adulthood, you have to constantly be checking yourself. Constantly reminding yourself of your flaws, your strengths, all of it. I’m not sure that Scott had a good sense of what he thought his best life was, but he definitely didn’t feel he was living a “bad” life. Orion made him question whether he could escape this trap. Scott’s believed all this time, that he could escape it, even though he’s voiced his doubts to Barda. I truly believe that. It was rough to see him realize their might not be a way out of this. It reminds me of the painful growth I’ve gone through in my own life and I know others have experienced it as well.
Overall, this issue was perfect. I have zero complaints. Gerads art was top notch as usual, the distortion during certain scenes of the trial were great, and I love putting everyone in their superhero costumes during the trial. It was somewhat funny to see at the same time, since they were in a normal living room. King’s pacing was key in this issue. If it was off, the entire issue wouldn’t have had the emotional impact it did, at least on me. The comedy in this issue, mainly from Barda, was timed perfectly. The next issue seems like it’s going to focus on Barda a bit more and I’m happy about that. She’s been a solid character throughout this story, and this issue, she showed her love for Scott. She protected him from Lightray and the trial, even though her efforts were futile. She assured Scott she was all in for kicking some New God ass if need be, and when he snapped at the end, she consoled him the best way she knew how. It was a beautiful image. This comic is about love just as it’s about anything else, and I really enjoy that. Read this comic if you haven’t yet, because I feel like we’re going to get more into “superhero” mode with this story. Enjoy this philosophic storytelling while it’s here.
I hope you really enjoyed this review. I love comics and I read a lot of them, but this issue seriously is one of my favorites of all time, and that’s not a hyperbole. READ THIS SERIES. PLEASE! Follow me on Twitter @peacelovecomics for more updates on future reviews. This is my second upload today (I know, I know. I’m not sticking to my mold of posting once every month) and expect two more comic reviews coming from me in the next couple of days. Until next time!!