Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle

Issue #1 is in house, and I'm almost through the reread, only two issues to go. I just finished reading Mister Miracle #4 and I wanted to discuss that series a bit. On the first read, I was very confused by it, and disappointed by the lack of connection to the rest of the series. It still feels a bit removed from the rest of the project, and might have been better received as a standalone piece. However, on this read I was able to understand what was going on a lot better, and I think I now get what Grant was doing with the series.

The work that Mister Miracle reminds me of most is David Lynch's Inland Empire. I won't go into too many specific spoilers for the film, but what both works do is basically take its hero on a harrowing journey through a variety of nightmare realities, bringing them to utter emotional collapse, before the reclamation of agency and a return to the world they left. It's difficult to follow Mister Miracle in pieces, partially because the nature of this project leads us to believe that the events must be 'real.' However, my reading of the series is that everything that occurs is a trial for Shilo, designed to help him overcome the loss of his brother and ascend to the role of hero. Metron sums this up when he says "The choice is simple. Free the bright ones or be slaves to the dark."

However, one cannot simply become a hero. In The Invisibles, Grant claimed that time is soil for us to grow in, and that we have to confront darkness because that's the only way that we can beocme stronger. If there is no dark, we would never evolve. Here, we see Shilo put through a series of increasingly awful realities, totally breaking him down so that he can finally overcome his guilt about his brother's death and become the hero the New Gods need him to be.

One thing that really helped me on this read was having the read the trade of Jack Kirby's New Gods run. So, I was familiar with all the basic concepts, this eternal struggle between light and dark. In the DCU, the New Gods serve as the spiritual ancestors of today's superheroes, and specially in Grant's JLA, they were role models, giving humanity a glimpse of what they could be. In reality, Shilo would likely be familiar with them, however in this alternate reality he's plunged into, he lacks knowledge of this heroic legacy. This is designed to show Shilo's complacency and uncertain position in the ongoing war between good and evil. He's a man who uses his power to acquire wealth and fame, he'd risk his life for money, but not to save people. He is not a hero.

All of the Seven Soldiers miniseries are about people who aren't heroes going through an emotional trial and are forced to choose between safety and heroism. In this respect, Mister Miracle fits in perfectly with the others, pushing the elements to the absolute extreme. Shilo is crippled, ages, and dies a number of times. This is a lot more than Zatanna's extistential angst or Guardian's separation from his girlfriend. That's because Shilo's story takes place in a purely mental existence. When he enters the black hole, he finds himself in an approximation of the life he's leading on the outside, then gradually slips into increasingly divergent realities.

All the events we see function as a trial, designed to break Shilo down to his essence, to overcome the restraints that are his life. The luxuries his fame afforded him no longer appeal, and he gradually loses all his real personal connections. His own belief in the New Gods, heroism, is tested when the homeless man won't respond as Metron. In issue three, he experiences all his greatest fears about his life, that someone will be a better escape artist than him, and this man will take his girlfriend and manager. This leaves Miracle alone and poor, facing the ultimate shame of buying some Depends.

Issue four presents more trials, all designed to wear Shilo down to his essence, to remove the guilt and pain he's carrying around with him. Omega is much like the guilt monster in Shining Knight, a physical manifestation of negative feeling. Omega's purpose is to hold Shilo back, to expose the hollowness of his life. However, Shilo turns this back on him and reveals the hollowness of Omega's own role. He owns his pain, and after that, he's ready to be a hero. Dezzard, Shilo's manifestation of his own negative feelings, is destroyed, and Metron effectively sums up the series' theme, "Forgive yourself and remove those chains you wear. Become what you were born to be." It's a message for all of us, that we can leave behind the negative emotions that hold us down, and once we relinquish those, we can ascend and be whatever we want to be.

As Shilo flies out of the black hole, Metron tells him to "Free the Gods. Free all of us." In this series, the New Gods are analagous with the capacity for heroism within all of humanity, they are the mythical incarnations of our best traits. So, Shilo is sent with the mission to hlep everyone escape their emotional shackles and evolve to the next level. It ties in nicely with Metron's message to the JLA at the end of World War III. And like other Morrison heroes, such as Dane, Shilo is given the mission of helping humanity evolve to the next level.

So, Mister Miracle has little narrative connection to the other miniseries, but it articulates the themes of the others perfectly. Those final words that Metron says apply to all the other soldiers, who are empowered with a mission to save humanity. And it's a classic Morrison theme, the idea that if we only move beyond human pettiness, we can evolve and become greater, more united beings.

The one issue that this interpretation raises is how to match the alternate reality nature of Mister Miracle with the series' crossover with Klarion's taxi. It's notable that in Klarison, we never actually see Shilo. Now, it's possible this was an art error, or Morrison just decided to put the Klarion taxi into Mister Miracle at some later point. However, I think that's evidence of the alternate reality. It was modeled on our own, right down to the random passersby, however, in the 'real' world, Klarion never saw Mister Miracle. And that would mean that yes, someone did pick up Jake's ring, and perhaps we'll find out who in issue #1.

I'm really excited to read that issue and I'll be on it later tonight. Look for a review then as well.

No comments: