Thursday, 3 July 2014


Well, for some reason last week's Fourth World Thursday featuring the premiere issue of New Gods proved rather popular. I'm not sure how it happened, but I got more page hits last Thursday than I usually do in a fortnight! And strangely enough it happened again on Friday! So, thank you one and all!
Mister Miracle #1 cover by Jack Kirby
This week it's time to move on to the fourth Fourth World title, featuring the escape artist Mister Miracle. Now, I'll admit up front that of the four Fourth World books, Mr. Miracle was my least favourite, but it was obviously more popular with the comic buying audience than the other titles as it outlasted both Forever People and New Gods (Kirby had already left Jimmy Olsen behind as he had other, non Fourth World, projects on the horizon such as Kamandi, OMAC and The Demon).
Anyhow, we open with our eponymous hero practicing his escapology in a field aided by his assistant Oberon. Noticing a young man watching over the fence, MM tells his vertically challenged aide "Secure the locks, Oberon! Make sure that the metal grips with unyielding firmness!", adding as Oberon secures him into a complex metal harness, "We must give a flawless performance for that young onlooker!"
Now, Oberon doesn't seem to be particularly happy about all this, as he believes MM is past his best, and that shackling him up, locking him up in a wooden cabinet, and aiming a flame-thrower at it, might, just might, be hazardous to his health. MM, of course, laughs at death and ignores Oberon's protestations. So, into the box he goes. Oberon picks up a flame-thrower and er, fires away.
Horrified, our young onlooker dashes in and attempts to help but MM easily breaks out of the burning box. He introduces himself to the young lad as Thaddeus Brown, while the lad in kind reveals his name as Scott Free, much to Thaddeus' amusement. "I was raised in an orphanage" explains Scott with a wry smile, "And many of the foundlings were given such names to sort of--well--make them feel as individuals."
Scott's about to set off on his way when up drive a bunch of goons from our old pals Intergang, last seen licking their wounds after running into Superman back in the pages of Forever People #1. I suspect this bunch of Intergoons aren't going to fare much better...
Yep, MM, Oberon and Scott make short work of the thugs and send them away with their tails between their legs. Seems Thaddeus has some history with Intergang's local Division chief, a guy who goes by the sobriquet "Steel Hand". Hmmm! I wonder how he got that name?
Steel Hand - Power! POWER!
Oh, I see! Apparently he lost his right hand due to an incident with a Tommy Gun and it was replaced with an artificial hand made of... wait for it... steel. But this isn't any old common or garden artificial steel hand. No, for "With radiation treatments it gained power -- power!" Enough power to shatter a bar of solid titanium. A BIG bar of solid titanium at that! The wonders of comic book radiation! And Steel Hand is NOT happy at all that his goons have messed up the Mister Miracle job. Now he's going to have to take care of it personally.
Meanwhile, Thaddeus offers Scott a place to stay for a few days, which Scott gladly accepts, partly to keep an eye on Thaddeus, and partly because he has nowhere else to go. We get a potted history of Mister Miracle, how he started out as "The Great Thaddeus" and later adopted the identity of Mister Miracle after an idea by his son Ted, who was later killed in Korea. Thaddeus reveals he is preparing for something called "The Big Trap", an escape so dangerous says MM, "even if I slip my chains in perfect time, I may not survive!".
Scott takes this moment to demonstrate some escapology tricks of his own. After getting Thaddeus and Oberon to wrap him up in chains, Scott uses a mysterious device to shatter the chains into "a million pieces" via "intense magnetic repulsion". Although Scott is cagey about the device, and the others he keeps with him, Oberon insists that such gadgets could help Thaddeus defeat "The Big Trap". Mister Miracle, however doesn't think so, claiming that "Every professional must live or die by his own methods!"
The next morning, Mister Miracle prepares to rehearse another death-defying stunt, which involves being tied to a tree, whilst a giant metal sphere hurtles towards him. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Thaddeus and his friends, Intergang has found them. As Mr. Miracle struggles with his bonds, a shot rings out. Although Scott diverts the giant sphere with a power burst from his hand, he is too late. Thaddeus lies dying, and all Scott can do is help his last moments pass peacefully with the help of a small box that he wears in a brace on his arm. A Mother Box, although it's not called that here, and bears little resemblance to the much larger device we saw The Forever People use last time.
Oberon tells Scott the history between Steel Hand and Thaddeus. They met in hospital some years beforehand and Steel Hand bet Mister Miracle a considerable amount of money that he could devise a trap that the escape artist couldn't get out of. When Thaddeus found himself in need of money to finance a comeback, he approached Steel Hand, by now a big shot with Intergang and reminded him of the bet. Steel Hand decided to have Mister Miracle removed, not because he was worried about losing the money, but because he was afraid of losing face with his gang.
Needless to say Scott decides to avenge Thaddeus, so surprise, surprise, he takes on the Mister Miracle mantle and pays a visit to Steel Hand in his own office. How did he find it? Your idea is as good as mine. Maybe Mother Box told him...
Anyway, Steel Hand is understandably surprised when the supposedly dead Mister Miracle comes crashing through his window. "You! I - I don't believe it! You're dead -- dead!" Obviously Steel Hand hasn't noticed Mister Miracle's new voice and different physique. 
"No, I said the SECRET missile site, not the out in the open one!"
Anyhow a bunch of Intergoons rush in and make quick work of Scott and so we come to a classic comic book cliche. Yes, it's time for the good old "villain puts the hero in a death trap which he can't POSSIBLY escape from" routine. Except, for probably the first time ever in comics, it does actually make sense here, for this is the death trap he had originally planned for Thaddeus before he decided that just having him shot was probably the easier option.
So what is this ingenious death trap? Well, it involves Scott being strapped to a missile and being launched into space. And where is this missile? Why, at the "secret Intergang missile site", of course. As opposed to the one everybody knows about, I suppose!
So Scott's chained to a missile and is sent heading skyward. He doesn't make it to space, though as the missile explodes shortly after take off, much to Steel Hand's delight. His pleasure is short-lived however, because guess who's waiting for him back at the office?
No, it's not Jimmy Olsen - I know he gets everywhere, but come on!
It is, of course, Scott Free, the new Mister Miracle. Steel Hand, understandably, goes berserk, trying to crush Scott with that steel hand of his. Meanwhile as the two crash around the crime lord's office Scott demonstrates the tricks he used to get out of that "Murder Missile Trap" as the story's title calls it.
"Hyper-sound intensifiers" took care of  the metal chains, and they work just as well on Steel Hand's hand. "Retro-jets" blasted him away of the missile, and he uses them here to pummel away at Steel Hand. And finally a "Compact Cocoon Spinner" which we're informed "turns out yards of plastic material at fantastic speeds" which he used to form a parachute, and now uses to cocoon Steel Hand, just in time for the police, accompanied by Oberon, to come hurtling in to cart Steel Hand away.
And so ends the first issue of Mister Miracle, with Scott Free taking up the mantle of the late escape artist. What interesting is that there's no obvious connection to Kirby's other Fourth World titles. No mention of Apokolips or New Genesis, nor is there an appearance by Darkseid. In fact other than the appearances of Intergang and a Mother Box, there is nothing to tie it in to Kirby's other books as yet. And even that ubiquitous Mother Box, when it appears here, isn't named and as I said before looks nothing like its previous appearance.
So how DOES this title fit in? That will become apparent over time. It may not seem it at first, but this will prove to be a very vital part of the mosaic that makes up Kirby's Fourth World.

1 comment:

  1. As good an inker as Mike Royer was, I really thought that Vince Colletta should've stayed on the mag. Kirby's art was getting more and more cartoonish by this time and Colletta diluted that aspect. However, after Jimmy Olsen, this was my favourite Kirby DC mag.