Is escape truly the answer?
It’s hard not to approach the twelfth and final chapter of Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle without a fair amount of trepidation and sadness. Not just because this issue marks the end of what has quite possible been DC’s most consistently great comic over the past year-ish, but also because we’re finally faced with the ultimate mystery of the series.
Is this story real? Has this massive war between light and dark gods actually been happening? Is Scott Free hallucinating some sort of alternate life as he bleeds out after failing to escape death? Is this all some fractured reality generated by the Anti-Life Equation? At some point it’s difficult to picture a truly satisfying answer to these questions. And so it’s only fitting that King and Gerads’ answer boils down to “It doesn’t really matter.”
More a low-key epilogue to this New God saga than a climax, issue #12 explores the aftermath of Scott’s final confrontation with his “father” and Metron’s reveal that another universe of rebirths and crises lies just beyond the veil of Scott’s reality. What does a Highfather do from there? Can Scott remain where he is, never truly knowing if the world around him is legitimate? Can he risk pushing past, escaping his surroundings and risk losing the family he and Barda have built for themselves? There are no easy answers, and it’s to King and Gerads’ credit that they don’t try to force a neat, tidy resolution. There a heavy (and very necessary) dose of ambiguity to this final chapter.
Even if the lack of concrete answers proves frustrating to some, there’s no denying the heartfelt, emotionally charged nature of King’s writing. This has always read like his most personal DC work to date, one that places just as much emphasis on the day-to-day struggles of parenthood as it does the cosmic spectacle of the New Gods. That balance shifts ever more in favor of the former here. Even those scenes that do focus on Scott’s relationship with his fellow gods and other Fourth World favorites occur mostly in the form of somber reunions with ghosts of his past. King gives this story a sad, wistful quality, yet still manages to leave readers with an ultimately hopeful outlook on Scott and Barda’s future.
Gerads stunning art helps bring the series home on a strong note. Gerads deftly captures the rude clash between New God zaniness and the ordinary simplicity of Scott and Barda’s civilian lives. Hulking gods loom in the same panels where a father and son share quiet moments together and it all feels of a piece. Particularly when it comes to Barda, the figure work displays a wide emotional range and serve to make even the most outlandish of characters seem human and complex.
More than ever, it’s Gerads’ coloring that steals the show in this book. The main reason the series is able to so deftly bounce between Los Angeles and Apokolips is that Gerads gives each environment its own, distinctive color palette and tone. Gerads’ distortion effects are also put to great use in this issue, proving that the tenuous nature of Scott’s reality persists even after the final evil has supposedly been vanquished.