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.
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?