Review: Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


I enjoyed Brandon Easton’s Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom; his Future State backup story was among those that really stood out to me in story and style. Unfortunately, some of that is lesser in Source, and I wonder if the fact that there’s no additional Mister Miracle content on DC’s horizon suggests Source’s failings mark the end. Pity, that — where Easton’s Source delves into race and the pains of celebrity, I found the book quite interesting, even daring. It is the book’s attempt at Fourth World content, the times it devolves into run-of-the-mill superhero smash-up comics, that hurts it, if not sealing Source’s fate outright.

[Review contains spoilers]

Taking just the first chapter of Source of Freedom, Easton’s title seems unstoppable. No sooner does Miracle Shilo Norman pull off a death-defying fall from space, classic Mister Miracle content, than Easton goes there, just seven pages in — Shilo refuses his agent’s suggestion that he unmask because he’s concerned how he’ll be treated if his audience knows he’s black. It is, I think, a controversial and courageous sentiment from Easton; for the most part, Shilo has been portrayed as a showboat Miracle unconcerned with such things, and not coincidentally, near as I can tell, has been written entirely by non-black writers except for an issue of Firestorm by Dwayne McDuffie1.

Though Shilo does indeed come around by the end (and “Shilo is …” is really, really clever), refuting the “embrace your identity” narrative for the better part of six issues is a gutsy move by Easton. Shilo’s agent, via Easton, speaks the common wisdom that the truth is better than hiding oneself, but this only serves to illustrate the privileged misunderstanding of how taxing being part of “the other” can be. When Shilo is Mister Miracle, he tells, women don’t clutch their purses closer when he walks by. That he should want to “pass” and retain his secret identity so that he can be treated differently as Miracle is, again, controversial, but kudos to Easton for suggesting that people can only handle so much, and sometimes people need ease more than they need to make a statement.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Still in the first chapter, Easton builds on this foundation in two interesting ways. Because Miracle is a celebrity, and because he’s trying to protect his identity, he has a system of non-disclosure agreements that his agent has women sign before Shilo goes out on dates as Shilo. It’s a fascinating and edgy take on superhero romances — where Superman might take a fancy to Lois Lane and then bump into her as Clark Kent and try to win her affections, Shilo will unmask — he doesn’t pretend not to be Miracle, he just does so under legal protections. That’s new and wild, fodder for an entire story all on its own, especially given the flip side and all the dark ways NDAs have also been used of late.

And then, Miracle is accused of stealing his tricks from others, his apartment vandalized, and he’s suddenly being investigated for fraud. It’s the perfect intersection of theme and plot — he doesn’t want to unmask, he’s afraid of prejudice if he unmasks, but now public sentiment is turning against him if he doesn’t unmask, perhaps a concerted plot for the very purpose of bringing him down. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. And to top it off, the apparent daughter of Scott Free and Big Barda, N’vir Free, is out for his blood — and this Shilo hasn’t ever heard of the Frees.

It’s an auspicious start. But from there, most of the story is Shilo hopping from place to place fighting or avoiding N’vir — he’ll find a MacGuffin (Thaddeus Brown’s ashes, the Mobius Chair), variably gain or lose some power to N’vir, fight for a while, and on to the next. There’s a fine sequence in the middle detailing Thaddeus' life (now revealed as Shilo’s grandfather) and how he performed as Mister Miracle during the Civil Rights Movement, but around that is a lot of repetitive fights with N’vir and her faceless automatons. It’s boring and offers nowhere near the nuance of the first chapter (if it was N’vir tarnishing Shilo’s reputation, that’s never made quite clear).

Further, given that Easton’s Mister Miracle is the first major outing for the property since Tom King and Mitch Gerads' stellar Mister Miracle maxi-series, Easton’s got big shoes to fill. The Fourth World material is nothing special — we see Orion and the Source Wall, but the cosmic weirdness doesn’t live up to King or Grant Morrison or Jack “The King” Kirby himself. And though I felt quite nostalgic at the times artist Fico Ossio resembled M.D. Bright, ultimately the art is inked too dark, too much in DC’s standard house style, especially as compared to Valentine de Landro’s smart, minimalist work with Easton on the Mister Miracle backups in Future State: Superman. For a non-Bat-miniseries that was probably already going to struggle anyway, the look of Source of Freedom is not what it needed to succeed.



It feels to me like the legacy of the Fourth World is really what troubled Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom, that the good character base Brandon Easton had at its core got muddled by trying to negotiate all the requisite cosmic shenanigans. I do hope that’s not it for Easton at DC, and I’d be eager for him to try again with his own new character, or maybe Easton on Firestorm Jason Rusch might be interesting.

[Includes variant covers, character designs]

  1. Y‘know, if DC wants to collect something, Dwayne McDuffie wrote three issues of Firestorm and surely there’s something else to go along with that.  ↩

Comments ( 2 )

  1. AnonymousJune 08, 2022

    Excellent review as always. I was really looking forward to this, but the series on the whole never really "wowed" me. There were interesting story points....but on the whole (especially coming out on the heels of King's MM story)....I just didn't feel that this did the character justice. It's not a bad story....the writer just fails to fully elevate it to make it an evergreen title that I would want to read over and over. I do think that Easton has potential, and will look forward to his future work.

    1. Writing a character in the shadow of a 12-issue Tom King miniseries about the same or a similar character is distinctly not a position I'd want to be in. Hopefully Easton did not have his heart set on a Human Target tale.


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