Mister Miracle #7 (March, 1972)

In November, 1971, the lead story in Mister Miracle #6 had concluded with the titular hero resolving to return to the planet Apokolips — from which he’d escaped just prior to the beginning of his series, only to be regularly menaced by its forces on Earth ever since — to win his freedom “their way!! — in trial by combat!!”  Two months later, Jack Kirby’s cover for Mister Miracle #7 indicated that he would indeed be making such a journey within its pages — and also that the “Super Escape Artist” would, not unexpectedly, encounter more than a bit of trouble before achieving his goal.  (Not that we readers of January, 1972 would have wanted it any other way, of course.)

Beyond the cover, writer-artist Kirby (now joined by inker Mike Royer) started things off as usual with a full-page splash panel — in this case, a strong, if not what you’d call pretty, image that let the reader know immediately where they were — and also made then glad that they were only there imaginatively, through the medium of a comic book:

For Kirby to begin a feature-length story on Apokolips was a first — not just for Mister Miracle, but for the whole Fourth World tetralogy.  Indeed, it’s interesting to reflect on just how little time we readers had actually spent on the darker of the two god-planets at the heart of Kirby’s mythos, a year and a half into his epic.  To an extent, that’s a logical consequence of the epic’s basic premise — i.e., that Darkseid has brought the war between Apokolips and New Genesis to Earth.  Considered in that context, it’s natural that most of the action of all four Fourth World series would take place on our own mundane globe.  On the other hand, we’d seen a good bit more of Apokolips’ bright twin, New Genesis (at least in relative terms), with almost every issue of New Gods featuring at least one scene either in or around Supertown, whether in the lead story or in one of the “Young Gods of Supertown” backup features (which had of course been running in Forever People as well).  Our direct experience of Apokolips, in the meantime, had been limited to one visit by Orion in the first issue of New Gods — at least, until the “Young Scott Free” backup strip had begun appearing in Mister Miracle, beginning with issue #5.  That feature, running 2 to 4 pages, had given us brief glimpses of Scott’s upbringing in Granny Goodness’ so-called “orphanage”; it had been supplemented more recently by “The Pact!” in New Gods #7, which took us even further into the past to give us the “origin stories” of both Scott Free and Orion, in a tale which alternated scenes between New Genesis and Apokolips (and mentioned planet Earth not at all).

Now, in Mister Miracle #7, Apokolips has at last taken — or rather, has become — center stage for the comic’s lead story…

Unsurprisingly, the new worms, er, orphans look like they could, with a minimum of costuming tweaks, pass for characters out of a Dickens novel.

Granny Goodness encourages the boy held in Hoogin’s grasp to pay attention to his Harasser, who’s teaching him “how to treat the lowest form of life”.  At this point, the boy himself has that dismal status, but if he learns his lessons well, he may find himself raised “a few notches”…

Hoogin, as it turns out, isn’t just any old Harasser — he used to be Scott Free’s commanding officer, and has paid the price of demotion for Scott’s escape.  What Hoogin likely doesn’t know, however — but readers of New Gods #7 (which came out just three weeks prior to Mister Miracle #7) would — is that Scott’s escape wan anticipated by both Darkseid and Granny, and perhaps even planned for.

What readers have learned about Scott Free since the end of Mister Miracle #6, thanks to “The Pact!”, goes well beyond the circumstances surrounding his escape from Apokolips — we know now that he’s the son of Highfather, the leader of the gods of New Genesis.  Which raises an interesting question — is Scott himself aware of his true heritage?  At this point, Kirby hasn’t given us enough information for us to say for certain one way or the other.  But it’s worth noting that Scott, unlike the protagonists of the other two core Fourth World titles, New Gods and Forever People, doesn’t appear to be motivated to crusade against the forces of Apokolips out of a desire to thwart Darkseid’s evil goals; rather, he just wants to be left alone to pursue the new life he’s begun to make for himself on Earth.  That attitude is easily understandable if Scott sees himself simply as an Apokoliptican fugitive; it may also be understandable if he knows he’s actually the royal heir of New Genesis, but it’s obviously a bit more complicated in the latter case.

After Oberon leaves the room, Scott attempts one last time to dissuade Big Barda from accompanying him (“I’m the dish that Granny hungers for!!”) — but she remains insistent.  And so, the two each take hold of Barda’s Mega-Rod…

Unwisely, the guards opt not to listen to Barda, and begin shooting instead; she responds by pulling their tower down around their ears.  Next, she commandeers a vehicle by the expedient of stopping a speeding Magna-Car with her foot, sending its occupants flying in the process…

“Anti-Life is real here!!”  These two panels offer a rare reference to the Anti-Life Equation in the pages of Mister Miracle, Darkseid’s search for that ultimate power having thus far been chronicled in the pages of New Gods and Forever People (particularly the latter) — though one could argue that Scott’s ongoing quest for freedom and self-determination represents Anti-Life’s thematic opposite.

The last two panels on page 12 introduce an intriguing, and potentially confusing concept — that only some residents of Apokolips, referred to here as “power beings“, actually qualify as New Gods; while others, including most of those we’ve met via the last six issues of Mister Miracle, are “lesser entities”, and not “gods”, as Kirby is here defining the term.  Which begs the question:  Who on Apokolips is a New God, other than Darkseid himself?  Because the Apokolipticans we’ve seen in the other Fourth World books — beings such as Desaad, Glorious Godfrey, and the Deep Six — don’t really come across as inferior beings to Granny Goodness and her elite subordinates, at least in my reading.

Kanto (whose name I would guess is derived from the word “canto” — a term for a form of division in poetry that is itself derived from the Italian word for “song” or “singing”) may be a “lesser entity” as far as the Apokoliptican pecking order is concerned; nevertheless, he’s one of the most fascinating of Kirby’s Fourth World villains, at least as far as your humble blogger is concerned.  Obviously inspired by such figures of the Italian Renaissance as the Borgias and Niccolò Machiavelli (as the Weapon-Master himself will acknowledge a few pages further on), Kanto seems rather less motivated by devotion to Darkseid than most of his peers, generally coming across as more of an amoral opportunist than a fully committed acolyte of capital-“E” evil.

The first volley of explosive arrows all miss Mister Miracle on purpose; they’re only meant to rattle him.  But the next shot Kanto has lined up — three missiles, to be fired at once in a cluster — means serious business:

The other end of the snare that’s caught Mister Miracle by the leg is attached to an Aero-Cycle, whose driver proceeds to drag our hero around the field:

At Mister Miracle’s direction, Hoogin calls Granny Goodness to let her know that Scott is claiming his freedom, “by right of combat!!

“A trap made by Granny — is a trap of the gods!!!”  If we’re to take Granny’s words here literally, she appears to be claiming godly status for her own person.  So is that a contradiction with Kirby’s having grouped her with the “lesser entities” back on page 12?  Or is the idea here supposed to be that Granny has achieved some form of apotheosis, having been elevated above her original, less-than-divine nature as a reward for her service to Darkseid?  Like we noted earlier, godhood on Apokolips is an intriguing, but ultimately somewhat confusing, business.

And so our tale ends on a cliffhanger, with Scott Free facing a trap of evidently Freudian proportions — which will somehow involve a creature who looks like he’s been molded out of pre-chewed bubble gum.  Well, I expect he’s more formidable than he looks at first glance… but in any event, we’ll be back in two months to discuss how it all turns out, in Mister Miracle #8.  For now, however, we’re still not quite done with issue #7 — or even with Scott Free, for that matter:

Most of the Para-Demons land a painful blow on their chosen Aero-Trooper at their first try — but Scott Free’s attacker finds his prey harder to hit, as Scott manages to dodge the Battle-Pole on its first swing…

Scott punches the Para-Demon right in his ugly puss; enraged, the creature tries again to grapple with his foe, and…

This was the third episode of “Young Scott Free” — and the last, as it turned out.  But the story would nevertheless continue, four months later, in Mister Miracle #9’s “Himon!” — a tale which, like “The Pact!” before it, would prove to be not only an indispensable look back at the critical events preceding the main action of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga, but one of that saga’s undisputed creative high points, as well.


Mister Miracle #7 wraps things up with a reprinted Joe Simon-Jack Kirby “Boy Commandos” story that’s a direct sequel to the one presented in MM #6, “Satan Wears a Swastika”.  As you may recall, that tale ended with the apparent demise of the mysterious Nazi operative known only as Agent Axis.

But, as it turns out, the reports of Agent Axis’ death — like those of the Boy Commandos themselves, in that same story — turn out to have been greatly exaggerated:

Yes, Agent Axis survived the conclusion of the earlier tale (which was originally published in Boy Commandos #1 [Winter, 1942-43]) — as the young heroes and their adult handler, Captain Rip Carter, soon discover in “The Return of Agent Axis” (originally published in Boy Commandos #3 [Summer, 1943])…

Their tip-off comes by way of an attractive young woman named Sigrid, who comes to Rip and the B.C.s for help when she receives a mash note from, you guessed it, Agent Axis.  Our heroes gallantly offer Sigird their protection — but there’s a big twist coming on page 9 of this 11-page yarn…

Agent Axis is a dame?!  Who’da thunk it?  Certainly not the gullible (and somewhat smitten) Rip Carter.

From here, the story races on to a climax in which Agent Axis once again appears to buy the farm, this time by falling from a great height to what should be certain death — but whether or not her body will ever be recovered is left a mystery at the end of the tale.  In fact, she would show up to bedevil Capt. Carter and his charges one more time, in Detective Comics #88 (Jun., 1944), in a story that ended with the villain actually being captured, rather than (seemingly) killed.  After that appearance, the published record doesn’t tell us whether “Sigrid” made it out of World War II alive — her only post-Golden Age outing I’m aware of occurs in a ’40s-set flashback sequence in Guardians of Metropolis #3 (Jan., 1995) — although, as previously discussed in our Mister Miracle #6 post back in November, an “Agent Axis” did turn up in 1966… in a Marvel comic book, of all things.

Panel from Invaders Annual #1 (1977). Text by Roy Thomas; art by Don Rico.

As we noted at that time, the artist and co-plotter of the “Captain America” story in Tales of Suspense #82 — one Jack Kirby, by name — may (or may not) have forgotten that he’d originally co-created the cloaked and hatted figure of Agent Axis for a DC comic, rather than a Marvel one — and there’s actually nothing in the character’s brief ToS appearance to indicate that they’re not a woman.  But about a decade later, when writer Roy Thomas opted to flesh out Marvel’s Agent Axis as a villain for his World War II super-team the Invaders, he gave Agent Axis a whole new identity and origin; this version, we were told, was the result of a bizarre accident that somehow merged three men  — one German, one Italian, and one Japanese — into a single being.  If nothing else, there was no way that Agent Axis was going to be confused with DC’s “Sigrid”, amirite?

11 comments

  1. Brian Morrison · 16 Days Ago

    Reading this again after 50 years I realise that there is so much more going on here than i originally realised. The opening pages do a great job of evoking the misery of dystopian world way before I had ever come across the term “dystopian”.
    The characterisation of Barda is also more complex. She comes across as very harsh to Oberon but you then realise as she hugs him that she has prepared herself for battle, as the leader of the Female Furies would, and has steeled herself for the coming conflict. It’s also noteworthy that once they arrive on Apokolips that it is Barda who is in the lead, not surprising as this is her territory. I don’t remember Barda ever getting a back story. How did she end up in Granny’s orphanage and how did she rise to the position of leader of the Furies? Do you know if any of this was ever explored?
    I liked Kanto, he seemed to have some honour and be above the sycophancy that was common amongst some od Darkseid’s other minions.
    The image of Granny in her pink dress and bonnet felt like a slap in the face, it was just so unexpected an incomprehensible set against the Granny that we had already become familiar with. With regards to Godhood on Apokolips, I guess that I always thought of Darkseid as the only god. He wants the kind of character who would countenance anyone else considering themselves on a par with him. I always saw the others as demigods, very much a few niches below him.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Alan Stewart · 16 Days Ago

      “I don’t remember Barda ever getting a back story. How did she end up in Granny’s orphanage and how did she rise to the position of leader of the Furies? Do you know if any of this was ever explored?”

      Kirby never gave us a flashback to Barda’s childhood, although we do see a younger version of her in “Himon” (MM #9). There may be some additional details about her pre-Granny life given in dialogue in that story (though I haven’t re-read it yet for the blog, and I’m not sure). Much, much later (1991), Barda met her birth mother (and readers got more backstory) courtesy of writer Doug Moench, via MM (1989 series) #28. https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Mister_Miracle_Vol_2_28

      Liked by 1 person

  2. frednotfaith2 · 16 Days Ago

    Kirby’s running of the “worms” brings to mind not just Dickens’ orphans but also military boot camps and Nazi death camps as well as Spanish running of the bulls. Of course, the Nazis were running Jews and other “undesirables” to their deaths while here their being run to barracks to be transformed into Apokoliptian warriors where first their old selves must be broken down so they can be built back up into unquestioning servants of the state. I went to Navy boot camp in Orlando in 1991, bussed in from Jacksonville. Fortunately, my group didn’t have to deal with harassers with batons beating on us to run, run, run to the barracks, although the transformation from civilian to military sailor wasn’t always pleasant, although I’m sure it was worse for soldiers and marines, particularly during World War II which Kirby went through.
    I wonder if Kirby had any overall plan for how this grand story would play out, in the sense of making it all like a novel or if it was all seat-of-the-pants episodic plotting. So far seems a touch of both. Previous comics creators had crafted epics lasting many issues, most famously in comics-lore, Captain Marvel vs. the Monster Society of Evil in the 1940s (something I’ve read about but never actually read) and more recently Ditko’s Dr. Strange vs. Dormammu & Mordo, and to some extent Kirby’s own Thor wherein a series of epic tales were linked together. But the Fourth World saga was bringing things to another level with interlocking titles with two solo heroes and their colleagues neither of whom, at this point, seem to be aware of one another and their shared history as pawns in the conflict of their worlds, as well as a super-team and DC’s most iconic superhero and his best pal tangled up in the conflict as well. Maybe Kirby intended it to be somewhat of an echo of the Cold War, which by 1972 had already been ongoing for about 25 years and wouldn’t conclude for another 17, although Cold War style tensions are picking up again. This wasn’t a quest type story, ala Lord of the Rings, but an exploration of worlds that had been in conflict for ages and would remain so for many more.
    As to Agent Axis, as a kid, seeing references to him in Captain America & the Falcon 162 and then in the reprint of that Tales of Suspense story, I found him somehow intriguing. Maybe it was just his heavy black cloaks and that hat — the Death Stalker in Daredevil had pretty much the same costume. It was amusing to discover later that the real Golden Age Cap never encountered Agent Axis at all and that G.A. Cap didn’t have much in the way of a rogues gallery, mainly just the Red Skull and various baddies who’d seem rather absurd in later decades. But then that’s just one example of how Golden Age superhero comics were very different from those of the Silver or Bronze ages. And Kirby comics of the 1970s were operating in their own separate realities, however loosely they were tied to either the Marvel or DC mainstream universes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brian Morrison · 16 Days Ago

    Hi Alan, this comment is not about Mister Miracle 7 but about another comic that was published this week back in 1972. As I mentioned in my comment on Forever People 7, it had a profound and lasting effect on me. The comic was one that I bought in a bunch of 20 or so and was Adventure Comics 416. As I’ve said before, I was a huge fan of the move to 48 and then 52 page comics that DC made in 1971. I was able to read all these stories that had originally been printed before I had started reading comics. I was particularly fond of the 100 page Super Spectaculars which were all reprints and no ads.
    Supergirl was the headliner of Adventure Comics at that time and this Super Spectacular featured “DC’s Fighting Females”. I remember being drawn to the wrap around cover which featured 20 characters. As I looked at it I realised that I didn’t know who a significant proportion of them were. Thankfully there was a key to who everyone was on the inside back cover so I went there first to see who all these women were. This was the first time I had come across Big Barda and Beautiful Dreamer. I would learn more about them soon afterwards in some of the other comics that I had bought that day. Amongst the others that were new to me were the Enchantress, Liberty Belle, Phantom Lady and Merry, the Gimmick Girl.
    The first story in the comic featured Supergirl, retold her origin story and introduced her parents who were trapped in the Survival Zone. Supergirl managed to free them from the zone and see them happily settled in Argo City by the end of the story. Next came a reprint of the first appearance of the Black Canary as a villainess in the Johnny Thunder strip in the golden age Flash Comics. BC would subsequently take over his strip for the remainder of that comic’s run.
    The third story was a 34 page golden age Wonder Woman tale called Villainy Inc and featured a team up of almost all of WW’s female villains; the Cheetah, Giganta, Dr Poison, Queen Clea, the Blue Snowman and others were all there.
    Next came a beautifully drawn Phantom Lady story – I think I fell in love with Sandra Knight that day and she has remained my favourite heroine ever since as I’ve followed her through all her solo and teen iterations with the Freedom Fighters. The penultimate story was the last ever golden appearance of Merry, the Gimmick Girl. It was ok but nothing to write home about and the comic was rounded out with another (fairly forgettable) Supergirl story.
    I finished reading the comic and my head was spinning. I had been introduced to new, intriguing and exciting characters. This was the moment that I decided that rather than being a casual comic reader I wanted to be a comic collector and that I would buy all of the Superhero titles that DC published (I soon also added the Avengers and Defenders as I was a sucker for team books). From then on I searched all the shops in the local towns that stocked comics looking for back issues that I didn’t have. I got to learn when the next month’s delivery of comics were likely to arrive so that I could get there as soon as possible after the delivery to try to prevent missing an issue.
    As a consequence of that comic and that decision on that day I have an unbroken run of all of DC’s major Superhero titles from 1971 up to 2013 when the “New 52” was introduced. Thereafter I felt the heart had gone out of the DC universe and although I still buy a few comics a month it’s only a select few.
    As you said on your post on New Gods 7, it wasn’t the best comic but it was your favourite and you loved it. I think the same is true for me with Adventure Comics 416.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. slangwordscott · 16 Days Ago

    As for Mister Miracle 7, while the introduction of Kanto was the highlight when I first read it, I am more struck now by the representation of Oberon. His despair at seeing his friends off to probable death rings very true to me. Something that as a seven year old I didn’t comprehend, but now seems all too real. I can imagine it resonated with those readers watching their older brothers or friends facing the draft at the time.

    Artistically, I love the issue. The two-page spread of the harassers manages to be both exciting and grim.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John Auber Armstrong · 14 Days Ago

    1st panel pg 14 – Kanto: this figure really shows Jack’s draftsmanship and ability to convey character were still in top form. As kid I thought his drawing was getting sloppy and ill-defined but he could still draw as well as ever, maybe better. There’s an artistic choice here I didn’t understand as a kid but can see now. He could still draw as realistically as he ever did but was aiming for something else, more expressionist, which seems a natural evolution now. When I was 12 I thought he was unaccountably going back to his Golden Age style, which I now knew well from all the reprinted material. But that wasn’t quite it, was it? He’d taken that cartoonish quality of exaggeration and was heading to a place where he could show something with only a few broad squiggles; I’m thinking of things like a Red Skull face a bit after the 4th World stuff. And Royer, unlike inkers who pulled his art back from this, was more accurately following his intent. I’ve read interviews where some inkers said they “fixed his anatomy” … I don’t think it needed fixing. The way it came out was what he was aiming for, the mistakes were intentional. Or am I reading too much into this …

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Stu Fischer · 10 Days Ago

    In re-reading this book, I am reminded of why Mr. Miracle was my favorite of the Fourth World books. I really found all of Kirby’s Kharacters here (misspelled word in homage to the alliterative names given to many of them) entertaining and interesting, even the ones that really were stereotypical (e.g. Virman Vunderbar). I remember looking forward with great excitement when a new Mister Miracle issue came out, and, quite honestly, I can’t remember feeling that way consistently about any other book (issues and storylines yes, but not every issue of a title).

    Kanto is another example of a great character. What a concept! A guy dressed as a renaissance era writer or actor (by the way, to me it looks like he’s wearing a giant click pen around his waist in the first panel of page 14) who is an aesthetic but brutal assassin. I confess that his sense of fair play along with his somewhat foppish look gave me some vibes of a serious version of Batroc from Captain America.

    In any event, the storytelling, the artwork, the humor, the pathos, the dystopian background of Apokolips makes this issue one of my favorites of the Fourth World series. I really enjoyed re-reading the original online in comjunction with your commentary in this blogpost. I was also impressed with the Young Scott Free segment in this issue as it was long enough to really show something as opposed to the two page snippets that really seemed largely superfluous to me. I’m looking forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. sportinggeek157875814 · 8 Days Ago

    Poor Boy Commandos. In 1943 they hadn’t heard of the ‘never trust the woman’ popular entertainment trope!

    Liked by 1 person

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