SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles’ Mister Miracle #3, on sale now.
Mister Miracle is arguably the most critically-acclaimed superhero comic of the year, which is no mean feat for a book that tackles subjects such as suicide, ever-lasting war and the existential terror of reality being wrong. So far, Scott Free has survived a suicide attempt only to be conscripted into the final war between New Genesis and Apokolips after the death of the New Gods' Highfather. Everything seems somewhat off, though; Orion — now Highfather of New Genesis — is even crueler and more brutal than he ever was before, while Granny Goodness — Scott’s childhood torturer — is seen as a more caring and welcoming figure, someone that Scott reminisces almost fondly of.
Everything is falling apart for Mister Miracle, and in this week’s issue things go from bad to worse as Scott Free is visited at home by an old friend and finally has some quality time with his “brother.”
Rise of the Bugs
While on leave from the war effort, Scott is visited at home by Forager, who represents the Bugs who live on New Genesis proper. While the New Gods live in Supertown, the Bugs work the land, living underneath the ground where they worship their queen and are looked down on by the New Gods who treat them, well, like bugs. Forager himself has been hinted to be more than a Bug and actually a New God himself, one who joined the Bugs either through choice or through force, and over the years has proven himself to be one of the most heroic of any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters.
The reason why Forager is visiting Mister Miracle tackles the obvious question posed by Kirby all those years ago. What kind of gods rely on the exploitation and subjugation of a lower class, and does it make the gods of New Genesis any different than the Gods of Apokolips? After all, Apokolips has The Hunger Dogs of Armagetto, also known as The Lowlies, and when you compare their quality of life with the Bugs, is there really a difference? Forager’s visit to Mister Miracle is to inform him that Orion has been sacrificing the Bugs en masse as cannon fodder in the war against Apokolips. Six-and-a-half million Bugs are already dead, and if they march on Apokolips itself, triple that number will die. The Bugs sent their queen to try and convince Orion to spare her people, only for the new Highfather to mount her head right next to Granny Goodness'.
Forager wants Mister Miracle to lead the armies of New Genesis over Orion, and for that treason he was is hunted down and vaporized by Lightray, once the kindest of the New Gods. His final plea touches on something that’s in the zeitgeist at the moment when it comes to superhero comics, the idea that supposedly benevolent beings prospering while a working class struggles below them is a bad thing that needs addressing. It’s currently a major aspect of both Christopher Priest and Phil Noto’s Inhumans: Once and Future Kings and in the Inhumans television show. In both franchises — featuring characters co-created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee — royal families of super-powered heroes live in luxury while the working classic — The Bugs and The Alpha-Primitives — live in abject poverty and essentially slavery.
Kirby was a working class man at heart until the very end, always concerned that he had work coming in, as did his colleagues, and he’s someone that was exploited by publishers and executives for most of his life. It’s a shame that it’s taken comics creators so long to tap into these aspects of the seemingly heroic New Gods and Inhumans for so long, but it’s hard to root for heroes who turn such a blind eye to the struggles of their own people and through those two franchises, maybe people can realize the blind eye they’re turning to their fellow man on a daily basis.