Mister Miracle might not be one of DC Comics’ most important characters, but he has a rich history and has done enough to earn his place in the history of DC Comics. Now, the character has been around since the early 1970s, but he keeps attracting writers so much that in January 2022, DC Comics published a new graphic novel titled Mister Miracle: The Great Escape. We at Fiction Horizon have had the pleasure of reading the graphic novel and here is what we thought of it.
Let us start with the people behind the story. Mister Miracle: The Great Escape was written by Varian Johnson, also known as the author of several novels for children and young adults, including acclaimed The Parker Inheritance, which won both Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor awards; The Great Greene Heist, an ALA Notable Book for Children and Kirkus Reviews Best Book; and the graphic novel Twins, illustrated by Shannon Wright, which won a BCALA Children & Youth Literary Award for best graphic novel and was named an Eisner Award nominee.
The artist behind the graphic novel is Daniel Isles, a professional artist “committed to artistic practice, observation, themes, and expression to create entire worlds of his own. His unique illustration style has been used within many industries including fashion, music, authorship, and technology.” He has worked and collaborated with Apple, DC Comics, Sega, Mighty Jaxx, Kidrobot, Timberland, and Owsla.
Now, while Johnson and Isles might not be the best-known names in the industry, their dedicated work on The Great Escape showed that they are names that need to be watched. Johnson’s experience with the young adult genre has enabled him to craft a story that portrays the essence of Scot Free’s teenage Angst and how it reflects on his struggle for freedom in a world dominated by a tyrant whose presence is not seen, but is felt without a doubt. On the other hand, Isles’ style is very grounded and it fits the age-related realism that Johnson’s story portrays, which is why these two were an ideal pairing when this story was concerned.
As for the story, The Great Escape offers more or less a very atypical superhero story. Although Scott Free is a superhero and the mantle of Mister Miracle has a rich history in the world of DC Comics, this is a story that focuses on some other aspects. The story retains the lore – we see Apokolips, references to Darkseid, some other characters – but the story never feels like a traditional superhero flick, which is both refreshing and good, at least in the case of this graphic novel.
Johnson’s approach might not have worked as well with some other character or as part of some other setting, but this semi-origin story of the Scot Free iteration of Miracle Man worked great. Johnson picked a great narrative path and it is here that his experience with writing young adult fiction really came to the spotlight. The portrayal of Scott’s captivity on Apokolips does look somewhat like a superhero story and in that aspect, it doesn’t really divulge from the classic formula, but there is a twist.
There is no inherent superheroism here. No one’s actually fighting against evil and there is no push to defeat the bad guy. In fact, the actual bad guy – Darkseid – is only referenced. His presence is certainly felt, but we never actually see him in person, which speaks both to the originality of Johnson’s approach, and the influence Darkseid has on DC’s stories. In this aspect, Johnson opted for a coming-of-age story in a dystopian world where the protagonist has to fight for his freedom, while battling the intricacies of his own development.
Scott Free is a much more layered character here than in any story before this one, which is certainly a plus, and goes to show how well-crafted Johnson’s story is and how his talents can present themselves in different ways. This approach also had benefited from Isles’ art, as the grounded approach to a basically cosmic story allowed for Johnson’s realistic coming-of-age story to seem more relatable, although no reader will be able to completely sympathize with a boy given over to a tyrannical dictator on a neighboring planet as part of a diplomatic settlement.
Ultimately, The Great Escape has it all to be a great story, and it succeeds in every aspect. There is drama, there is struggle, and there is “fight against evil”, however different it might be from what we’re used to in that aspect, and while reading, you simply continue to cheer for Scott Free and want him to succeed in his struggle for freedom and self-determination. The characters are portrayed quite well, with Scott being the most layered one, but with other characters also having a more profound approach; still, the graphic novel doesn’t lack your stereotype villains present in young adult fiction, but they have been positioned very well.
Overall, the story works quite well and it’s entertaining enough for you to read it in one go. Johnson’s narrative style is good and combined with Isles’ art, The Great Escape amounts to a good, albeit atypical superhero graphic novel. Scott Free’s struggles are both real and very palpable for actual young adults, but at the same time, they exist within the imaginary world of superheroism Scott Free comes from.
In the end, the graphic novel might struggle to obtain a following as it is a one-off story, but if you like graphic novels, Mister Miracle: The Great Escape is certainly a title we wholeheartedly recommend. It is original in its approach, it’s narrative is very intriguing and persuasive, it has great characters, and a compelling struggle that will attract the attention of both younger and older readers.
Mister Miracle: The Great Escape is out on January 25, 2022 and is yet another piece of evidence how DC Comics invests in its stories, choosing younger and very talented authors for its new approaches to well-known characters, thereby creating a myriad of different stories and perspectives that certainly make things more interesting.