Monday, July 30, 2007

Mister Miracle #3

Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Freddie Williams II; Colourist: Dave McCaig; Letterer: Phil Balsman

Radio Bedlam

pp 01-03 Mister Miracle started seeing a shrink, in part at least, because he was afraid of losing his fleeting fame. Now it looks like his fears may be realized in the form of Baron Bedlam. The Baron specialises in impossible stunts and we first see him doing a stunt that Shilo was planning to do himself. Bedlam's followers are called the Plastic People, and being plasticized, for want of a better word, is all the rage. We even see a woman who looks doll-like as Shilo leaves the office. Our hero is feeling the pressure but is worried about showing it. After all the events from the black hole, are we seeing a normal visit to the analyst?

That would be far too easy. Baron Bedlam is the name used by Doctor Bedlam, a member of Darkseid’s elite. He is a Kirby created rival of Mister Miracle. Lacking a physical body, he transfers his consciousness from one android to another, and is capable of controlling several of his fake selves at a time. Bedlam uses a “paranoid pill” to induce terror and temporary insanity. I didn’t notice any pills, but the idea of fear and madness being used as a tool against Shilo is interesting given the rest of this mini.

pp 04-08 We then meet Jonelle, the girlfriend. We never really get to know her. For the first third of the issue she always has her nose in a magazine, and for the rest... Well, I get to that soon enough. She's been away and isn't too happy with the PR fallout following the black hole stunt. Shilo has been talking to the press about what he saw and people are mocking him. Zz's not too happy either. As the manager, smoothing out the problems Shilo is creating is his job and a legitimate concern. Of course Zz has created other problems. He is the one who let Granny Goodness in. He has hooked up with one of her Furies, Lashina, and is addicted to something called Flat (even though it’s from an orb). Once Jonelle and Zz start in on him and the problems his comments are causing, Shilo deflects their criticisms by turning on Zz. He complains about flat and Lasina, telling him that she is a part of the dark side. He's right, of course, but he is coming off as something of a highly functional schizophrenic. Right on cue, Lashina arrives and Zz takes his glow ball and goes with her.

Later, once he has calmed down, Shilo is practicing while Jonelle continues to read. He assures her that Zz is still his best friend, but that things have changed, people have changed, since his experience. And not just in his inner circle. Look at the latest fashion trend, Plastic People. Why have your skin made to look like enamel? Shilo travels to his show, looking very much alone. Jonelle goes to make peace between the two guys, only to discover Zz in the hot tub, being plasticized by Lashina and Granny Goodness. Things are not looking good.

This sequence also references Hurricane Gloria, the first of many ties between this issue and the rest of the series. Finally.

pp 09-15 When Shilo gets to the show he meets the Baron in his dressing room. Bedlam is surrounded by his entourage of plastic people, and quickly joined by Zz and Jonelle. She is practically in the Baron's lap. Shilo snaps and smashes open his rival’s skull, only to discover... he's an entirely plastic person. Another Baron enters the room. Followed by another, and another. Followed by Dr. Dezard. Followed by Dark Side. Shilo mutters ‘This can’t be.’, and it certainly has a nightmare-like quality to it. Beyond the endless parade of Barons everything seems to have an unreal quality to it. Why would Shilo attack? Sure, he’s lost his girl, seemingly, but it’s the sort of impulsiveness that may exist in his subconscious, but not in his actual life. And the doctor arriving to explain all? Okay, Shilo invited him and he really is DeSaad, but he comes out, holding his pipe, providing the exposition as though he were playing a doctor in the commercial. He then removes the motherbox from Shilo’s left shoulder. But we have seen Mister Miracle’s shoulders clearly in this scene and there is no motherbox. Finally, Dark Side enters and… takes a back seat to the doctor. He mutters the anti-life equation, but it is far from the leadership role one would expect.

What the doctor tells him is that Bedlam has no physical form, but instead transfers himself into a series of “cheap synthetic forms.” He’s not just a copy of Shilo, but a copy of a copy of a… He’s a “plastic man who smoothes away all the rough edges for maximum appeal.” He then tells him that the New Gods have abandoned the world and calls in Dark Side for the Anti-life equation:

Loneliness + Alienation + Fear + Despair + Self-Worth ÷ Mockery ÷ Condemnation ÷ Misunderstanding x Guilt x Shame x Failure x Judgment; N = Y where Y = Hope and N = Folly; Love = Lies; Life = Death; Self = Dark Side.

They turn him out of the building and leave him to wander the streets in his despair. He holds his head dramatically for much of this scene, but at one point he stops in front of a couple, the deposed New Gods Lightray and Jezebelle. They are standing in front of a bank of TVs, all depicting a nuclear explosion. He seems to be saying something to them, but they only cover their faces. It would be interesting to know what was said. The sequence then overlaps two other, very familiar, sequences. A Pumpkin Cab flies past carrying Klarion and the kids to their museum heist. Jake and Carla argue in the rain. It’s a nice time cue for the three books. Eventually, Shilo meets a third New God, Metron. He assures him that there is a Life Equation and that one man can make a difference. He points to two couples. Its raining and the men are giving the women their coats. Shilo stands staring at a sign: Manhattan Superhero Museum presents The New York Philharmonics performance of Heroica. As readers we haven’t seen much to connect with Jonelle, but his feelings for his girlfriend are just what Mister Miracle needed to remember himself. Not the grandiose war of light versus darkness, but his real self. It’s interesting that it’s his humanity and not his powers that bring him around, because his humanity is going to take it very hard as this issue wraps up.

pp 16-24 Shilo goes back to the Dome to confront Dark Side and rescue Jonelle. The Baron is busy doing his show (‘his’ meaning Shilo’s). Dark Side is amazed that Shilo survived the the Anti-Life Equation, but assures him that no one survives the Omega Sanction. Fame, money, a fancy costume. None of them are enough. Shilo is beaten with a baseball bat and locked in a car trunk. He calls out for the motherbox, but DeSaad has that. He tries to buy off the goons. Robbed of his power source, he’s just a rich celebrity. They ignore his pleas, beat him again, take a power drill to him, douse him in alcohol and set him on fight. After letting him burn for a while, they extinguish the fire and use bolt cutters to castrate him. They finally dump his body outside the arena where the Baron is still performing.

We later see him in a grocery store. He’s buying some Depends, sorry, ‘D’pends’, adult diapers. (Honestly, it’s the sort of name change you’d expect in an Archie comic.) Dark Side and some goons show up. They pick up the diapers he can’t quite reach and then put them back on the shelf, taunting him to keep trying. The New Gods, Orion and Lightray, appear and tell him that the Life Trap has him, but there is one way out…

Like the scene that begins his confrontation with the Dark Side, the scene that ends it seems unreal. I know it’s only a comic, but a hospital would never release someone so soon. He’d have months, if not years of rehab ahead. He’s still in casts. He’s still wearing a hospital gown! Earlier he told Jonelle that things had been weird since the black hole. Others have been acting weird. How would his experience affect the behaviour of others? Well, I am going to leave that to the next issue’s commentary!

No comments: