Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mister Miracle #2

Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Billy Dallas Patton; Artist: Freddie Williams II; Inker: Michael Bair; Inker: Freddie Williams II; Colourist: Dave McCaig; Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

Drive By Derby

pp 01-07 “Life is a race. Death is the Black Racer. And no one escapes death.” Or so says the Black Racer, Kirby’s reconceptualization of both the Grim Reaper and, to a much lesser degree, the Silver Surfer. Kind of throws into question the whole point of running, but we do. Only the desperate seek death. We pick up where we left off in issue one, with the Drive-by Derby of death!

The Black Racer is playing chess with Metron. Both are in wheel chairs. We don’t know why Metron is in one, he isn’t in costume, but the Black Racer’s civilian identity, Willy Walker, is a paralysed war veteran. The idea of playing chess with death goes back at least as far as Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal, in which a knight plays against Death’s personification. Here the hero is the subject of the game and not a player. Interestingly, when one of the players does make a move he can then activate a power: “I move palm inducers… white supermagnetic force to black gravity.” Its chess meets Dungeons and Dragons. The two players debate Shilo’s role and their own situation. Metron believes that Shilo will save them all, but Death believes the New Gods must accept the impermanence of all things. Metron wants to prepare our hero for his confrontation with the dark side; the Black Racer intends to “test him to destruction.”

The scene reveals two important things about the motherbox. Shilo is surprised to learn that they know of it. He seems to know nothing about the New Gods or the origins of his “motherboxxx”. And we learn that his is the last one – all the more reason to fear the dark side getting it. While they debate and play their game, Shilo uses his motherbox to escape through a manhole.

pp 08-15 Once in the sewers he gets on the phone and calls Zz, his manager, and tells him to get the Hummer and pick him up. Putting aside any questions of what kind of cell phone would get reception in the tunnel-like sewers, what is more important is what he says to Zz: “I’m having an episode down here.” Clearly he isn’t sure what the state of his mental health is, exactly. Were the strippers from issue one evil – or cause we know they are – and was he almost killed by some homicidal cars sent after him by death on skis? Okay, I’d think I was having a psychotic episode too.

He doesn’t go far down there. He just waits for the explosions to die down before sticking his head out again. Once out he’s immediately spotted and recognized as the celebrity he is. He turns and sees Metron and suddenly the crowd is gone. Perhaps he has followed him down the street. That’s unlikely, though, as this third incarnation of Metron has what appears to be some form of palsy and couldn’t move that fast. Shilo goes after him only to discover he has a giant of a friend looking after him. The giant accuses Shilo of trying to steal the wheel chair and brushes him off. Shilo hears the giant call his charge Metron and insists on coming along. They won’t hear of it until Shilo mentions his motherbox. They go to a construction site called the Barracks and Shilo is introduced to the rest of the “troops”. An old man mocks him by shaking a box of junk in his direction and calling it a motherbox. Shilo takes his out and through it the New Gods are revealed.

Going from left to right we have…

The giant turns out to be Orion. Orion is actually the son of Darkseid. As a child he was part of a treaty between the two forces. He was given to New Genesis and Scott Free, Shilo’s predecessor, was given to Apokolips. While free rebelled against his upbringing and fought for the good, Orion stayed true to his upbringing on New Genesis and… also fought for the good. Next is Metron, whom we’ve met. Third along is Jezebelle, of the Fiery Eyes. Not a part of Kirby’s original series, this is her first appearance since her alleged death in the second New Gods series. Like Orion and Scott Free she is an Apokolips defector. Fourth is Lightray, one of the first New Gods ever featured, he didn’t survive this series for long. At the time I am writing this, he was just killed in the latest DC event, Countdown. Next are Big Bear and Beautiful Dreamer, members of the Forever People, the New Gods teen team. There is some question as to whether the seventh character is Fastbak or Forager, both New Gods B listers. Based solely on his human-like mouth area, I am going with Fastbak. The last, the old man, is anything but a B lister, he is the Highfather himself, ruler of New Genesis.

Suddenly a car revs its engines and everyone scatters. Shilo has no idea what is going on and neither do we. Did the use of the motherbox attract Darkseid? The Highfather tells him that they can’t fight Darkseid. Orion tells him “We aint your people!” Which, technically, is true, since Shilo isn’t a New God, but its an odd end to their encounter.

pp 16-22 We next see our hero on his shrink’s couch trying to explain what he found. He says it’s hard to put into words, but we’ve come across his ideas before in the Seven Soldiers. Everyone has a story and every story has mythological potential. His shrink, Dr. Dezard, isn’t impressed. He tells Shilo that he fears that this quasi-religious experience may mask real neurological damage which may have happened in the black hole. He also wonders about the motherbox. His patient places great store in it, but has been reluctant to let the doctor even see it. Shilo puts him off, calling it a toy and “kinda personal.” Dezard calls in his next patient. A young woman painter named Rimbaud. As she sits on his couch, the doctor takes a call. We see his notes from his session with Shilo. Its all doodles of Shilo being killed or tortured in a variety of ways, including on a Catherine Wheel. He is talking to the “Great One” about the mother box – the last one, remember – and assures him that he can get it, but he thinks the therapeutic route has gone as far as it can and he wants to make use of his master’s other resources. Of course, he’s talking to Darkseid. Like Granny Goodness, the doctor has a forked tongue. He is finally revealed as Desaad, the torturer of Apokolips. He hands his phone over to the young woman and tells her to listen as she is told the Anti-Life Equation. She will never dream or love again. Dezard removes his glasses to reveal hollow sockets in place of eyes. Eyes are believed to be the “windows of the soul,” so his eye-lessness implies that he is soul-less as well. This is a Morrison twist on the character. Ms. Rimbaud, however is a nobody, a red shirt brought into the story to show us what lies in wait for Shilo. That last image is of “Dark Side,” Darkseid’s Seven Soldiers persona. Behind him is something he’s cooked up to take on Mister Miracle.

Most of this issue was drawn by Patton and inked by Blair, though several pages were both drawn and inked by Williams. Perry is sorely missed. The first issue wasn’t up to his work on Strange, but his loss is felt here. Maybe its that the art’s shortcomings draws attention to the story’s. Ideally it could have distracted us from what is just more set up. And padded set up at that. One of the reasons we buy comics is because of our familiarity with the characters. Someone reading a Batman or Superman adventure for the first time won’t get as much out of it as someone who has been reading for years. New readers simply don’t have the background. I suspect that New Gods fans got a lot more out of this than the rest of us, and I respect that, but I think the story itself could have been developed into something the rest of us could have gotten more out of it had there been more substance to it. All the story hits in this issue center on revealing New God characters, Metron and Black Racer, Orion and the other exiles, Desaad and Darkseid. They may have been wow moments to their fans, but the issue seemed to lack much else storywise.

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