Sunday, April 20, 2008
This is Kirby’s last issue of Mister Miracle (no.18) and effectively the end of his Fourth World saga. Jack would, of course, complete the tale of Orion and Darkseid in a Baxter paper deluxe mini series for DC in 1984 that reprinted the original run of the New Gods series, but this was the end as it happened, amid struggling sales and a changing audience. It’s a funny issue in many ways but it’s also a gem of formal invention, and a classic example of Kirby’s almost Beat-like stream of consciousness symbolic storytelling. I thought it would be a fun example of very simple grid layouts and how the grid provides a counterpoint to the symbolism and dynamism of the drawings.
(Above)It begins with Mister Miracle, Scott Free (Kirby), in a tank of water, in a grave. When the page is turned the grave becomes a trench in war (Below). Scott Free’s allies are silenced by, what I read as, THE HANDS OF FATE. It’s as though Kirby had no script and simply filled in each panel with what frightens him most.
Mortar Fire. Approaching Armies in the distance (Below) and the appearance of an archetypal German soldier. For anyone versed in Kirby’s personal history in World War II, it is apparent that these are powerful symbols for Jack. And it’s not lost on me that he is employing these images in the last issue of this series with full knowledge that the title was being canceled.
Crisis. Romance. The killer framing of Barda slows the pace down, a violence of it’s own that’s played sweetly against the action which will surely erupt again.
Capture. Notice how Kirby holds the framing of his main character (Below)and doesn’t really alter the angle all that much. But by doing so he’s able to show the weight of the figure sinking in a very “realistic” fashion. Also by using the grid to “hold” the framing sequence in place, he allows the reader to piece the stages of the action together very quickly.
Submission. Here, after Scott Free is captured, Kirby created a chapter break and shows himself submitting to the powers that be. A rare sight in a Kirby comic. The hero limp and submitting to “CANT” –okay, well, a character named “Kanto” who Mister Miracle calls the “master assassin” but you get the idea. When in 40 years was Jack ever bound by “cant”? There’s also a Dante reference here but I’ll pass on turning that rock over in favor of encouraging you, dear reader, to go over to your local comic shop or some corner of the inter-web and track down a 5 dollar copy of this comic. The conclusion is great and I don’t wanna ruin it for you.
It’s a fun comic, a wonderful example of “the blueprint” of Jack’s mind that manifests a lot in his work, especially in the 70s. I think that the grid format that he sticks with “opens up” nicely in certain spots (to a double panel or a full page). It’s also a formal structure that allows Kirby to improvise much like the Kerouac does in his spontaneous prose works. Kirby can make quick decisions and change the direction of the narrative in one panel and not upset the rhythm or flow that he has set in motion from page one. Also like many of the Beats, Kirby’s personal mythology provides the reader with clues to possible hidden or double meanings within genre stories. It’s the scrappy, personal pastiche of those genres that feels whole and unique to him and NOT just because he more or less invented these genres within comics. For a comic to utilize war, romance, adventure and occult imagery so effortlessly and simultaneously is just too much. I guess they had to cancel it.