Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mister Miracle #4

Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Freddie Williams II; Colourist: Dave McCaig ;
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Forever Flavored Man

pp 01-06 We start off with a little boy, our hero Shilo, being strung up by his friends. A police officer, his older brother, is telling up that he’ll never get out of that. “I can get out of anything.” On the next page we see him, a beaten invalid. He’s ‘escaped’ through suicide. Or has he? We start seeing scenes from the life of Shilo Norman which don’t add up. He’s barbequing with his wife and kid and his brother is on his way, and suddenly it’s the same scene, but everyone is older and his brother has been dead fifteen years. Then he’s old and dying and wondering why things are going so fast. His rabbi is called in and it’s… Dezard! The bedridden Shilo realizes that this isn’t his life, and that he needs to escape. Then we’re back to his earliest escape. His brother promises him a chocolate sundae if he can get out; a promise that is never kept because his brother is murdered.

pp 07-10 In the next scene we see him as a warden at the Antarctic prison for metas called the Slab, and using his skills to see that none of the prisoners escape. We are now in DCU continuity. This is where Shilo actually is outside the Seven Soldiers saga. With him is Dina Bell, a US Federal Marshall, who specializes in transporting metas and who fought with Shilo in the Joker: Last Laugh story. It’s the anniversary of his brother’s death and Shilo is wondering what he’s doing with his life. He feels responsible for his brother’s death. He’s not, of course, but he’s wondering if he put his dreams on hold because his brother never got a chance to live his. Bell tells him to stop being so hard on himself. He’s not the first person to give up their dreams for a regular job. Besides, it’s not every day a god is executed.

The god in question is Oracle. Bell describes him as “A cosmic bum who killed a whole bunch of superheroes and civilians.” No, it’s not Barbara Gordon. This character dates back to the Justice League story in which the League and the JSA rescued the original Seven Soldiers (they were lost in time). There are no stories in which he killed anyone. At least, not in this reality. Once Shilo enters Oracles’ cell we get two immediate connections to the Seven Soldiers story. First, he’s in chains. Is he Croatoan? It’s an interesting possibility. Of course, he’s not the dice we know to be the actual Croatoan, but he have been the god enchained beneath New York City. Second, when he talks of himself in the third person – he is a cosmic god, after all – his name is spelt Aurakles. Phonetically, it’s the same, but we’ve come across this name before (and, of course, we’ll learn all about it in Seven Soldiers #1). The Sword of Aurakles was one of the treasures captured by the Sheeda Queen in Shining Knight #3. So here he is. He starts, seemingly incoherently, asking Shilo if the spear found its mark. Shilo doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Aurakles tells him that he sees a man dying to inspire another. This one Shilo gets. His brother was a police officer, living a life that was an example to his kid brother. But what has that kid brother done with that example? He tells Shilo that he had been tortured by the Sheeda – the god enchained? – and that he had been running and hadn’t meant to kill anyone.

As they talk, the “god exterminators” arrive. Its Darkseid and DeSaad. So, are we in continuity? The Seven Soldiers? Or the Mister Miracle mini, which, let’s face it, hasn’t really connected itself too much to the general story. At least, before now. Anyway, they’ve arrived – a nice touch, given their role in the mini – but Shilo and Aurakles are safely locked in the cell. If safe is the right word. Aurakles tells Shilo that he is running, too, but he can save him – he can save everyone – and all it will cost Shilo is his life.

pp 11-16 Elsewhere Dezard is on the phone to Dark Side. The Mother Box is a bust (note that its spelt with only one x this time). Whatever consciousness the machine had has escaped. It has merged with Shilo. As he relates this new development, Dark Side is describing the Omega Sanction. It’s a series of meaningless lives, “each more degraded than the last. More hopeless. More meaningless. Neverending.” Before he gets what the doctor is telling him he says that Shilo is there without his guardian angel; after he understands he says it doesn’t matter. It’s now trapped with him. We see a series of these lives. One shows the OMACs winning Alex Luthor’s battle in Infinite Crisis, with Orion, Green Arrow, Batman, and Robin dead on the ground, and Shilo opening a boom tube so he and the others can escape. A more important one shows him as the little boy we saw at the beginning and making good his escape.

Next we see Shilo, in costume, with the Mother Box pinging happily away. He is now talking directly to the Omega Sanction. It seems mortality is its own punishment and to be born is to suffer. But if that’s the case, Shilo reasons, doesn’t the Omega Sanction itself suffer constantly? Mister Miracle represents the rejection of life’s restraints. The ability to escape its burdens and its chains. You don’t have to live this life. You too can escape. And, apparently, that’s a good enough argument for the Omega Sanction and they both escape.

pp 17-20 Shilo as a boy, talking to a councillor. The councillor begins by talking about “poor Doctor Dezard”. Are we still in the Omega Sanction? Was the ‘escape’ just another futile end? He tells young Shilo that the reason for his suffering is obvious. He is still trapped in that terrible day when his brother died in his arms. He compares the weight of that day to the pull of a black hole (okay, he uses the word ‘star’, but it’s the same thing). He reminds the boy that he has mastered the Omega Sanction and now needs only to forgive himself. The boy stops crying and recognises the man as Metron.

Suddenly, we’re back in the event horizon of the black hole. Metron says, “This is the interior of the event horizon, where nothing is. Where even he cannot see or hear us.” Shilo feels a touch of déjà vu, and no wonder. He was at this same place, listening to Metron utter those same words, on page six of issue one. Metron goes on to tell him that he has been there for seven days, “You have survived this first initiation into the mysteries of the New Gods. Today your true life begins. Be free. Free the gods. Free all of us.”

Back at STAR Labs their artificial black hole is acting up. They wonder if it’s somehow connected to the storm – presumably Hurricane Gloriana – but it’s been acting up, really, ever since “that lunatic escape artist threw himself in there last week.” And right on cue, Mister Miracle appears. For some strange reason, he’s a tiny Mister Miracle, at least at first, but he seems to be growing back to his normal size.

It’s interesting that Metron refers to this as his initiation. I don’t know enough about the New Gods and Shilo’s relationship with them to understand just what this initiation would entail. But what does this issue entail? In a way it’s like Manhattan Guardian. We get three issues about the hero and then one that connects it all to the larger story. But that’s not quite what we get here. Some have argued that the introduction of Aurakles at this point is too late, that it feels tacked on, and there may be something to that. Certainly the existential nature of the story’s resolution feels tacked on. If Morrison wants to argue that life is, or can, be a trap, he really should have laid more groundwork first. Perhaps Shilo’s ability to communicate with the Omega Sanction is the work of Aurakles, but we don’t know.

I believe his arrival back in the event horizon can be explained – though, technically, yes, I know, you can’t be in a horizon, as they only exist perceptually. Physicists speculate a lot about other universes and have produced many theories which postulate their existence. Some believe black holes might provide entries into another cosmos (see here for why I insist on calling each individual universe a cosmos); others believe that many exist, each of them manifesting a possible reality. Imagine the universe as a giant ring and each cosmos a slice in that ring. They represent conditions that would exist if things had been too hot or too cold, if the Big Bang had been just a bit bigger or not quite big enough. But a very narrow band of slices would contain all the possibilities the universe could manifest, including each of the possible lives Shilo Norman lived through. So he went into the black hole and disappeared for a week. In one reality he came back almost immediately, only to see his life destroyed by forces whose existence he only came to realize while he was in the hole. He came through many other realities, but he came through them and that’s the point. He is back and he is ready to save the New Gods.

And what of the last page? Aaron keeps his promise and buys him the sundae. This doesn’t mean he is still in the Omega Sanction. It represents his success. He has won back, in as much as its possible, what he once lost. He is finally really free.

1 comment:

Westside Goth said...

re: my friend was over and i read him first chapter(several times reworked) and part of my second chapter and having read it aloud and had someone there amused by it actually gave me hope. i guess part of it was that the material was 180 from what i had been doing lately so i was second guessing it. plus prose style also was making me worried. i'm going to definitly push through some more.