This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on May 26, 2021.
Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom returns to the “Future State” status quo and the story of Shilo Norman, the third Mister Miracle, that began there. The first issue of this miniseries re-establishes Norman’s place in the world—world famous escape artist entertainer and part-time superhero in Metropolis—and introduces a new threat for the hero. It sizzles when Norman is in action as Mister Miracle, especially in a riveting 5-page escape sequence at its start. However, Norman’s own life fails to inspire much interest in the character beyond his powers and legacy. The Source of Freedom #1 struggles to assert its leading man and find its own calling amid the looming legacies of Mister Miracle.
The first 5 pages deliver on the promise of this take on Mister Miracle to fuel interest in later issues. Shilo Norman is dropped from space while chained to a chair. Even knowing there are still another 5 issues of story to be told, the sequence builds tension in a believable sense and provides readers with the same thrills the entertainer seeks to deliver his fictional audience. Rico Renzi’s colors make the final few panels sparkle and add a notable sense of power to Fico Ossio’s rapidly accelerating figures. It’s a charming introduction that also offers the most favorable characterization of Norman in these pages as an accomplished professional.
Norman falls flat in every subsequent sequence. He reveals himself to be a competent businessman and semi-competent superhero, but whether he’s discussing strategy or narrowly avoiding loss of life it is without much showmanship. These are scenarios filled with dialogue that could belong in almost any superhero comic book. That also doesn’t lend Norman much clearance in reader’s eyes during a disastrous date revealing him to be something of an egotist.
Most of Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom #1 serves to undermine readers sympathy for Norman excluding the very personal struggle he encounters when confronting his mantle and race. When discussing the idea of revealing his identity as a business strategy, it quickly becomes clear that Norman’s hidden identity is a personal choice as well due to its complex relationship with race in the United States. This conversation reflects on the complexity of the issue, but the dialectical nature of this dialogue leaves it one step removed from a consideration of this issue throughout superhero comics. It is a conversation that existed when Miles Morales first donned Spider-Man’s identity (and many times before and after), but it remains unclear what makes Shilo Norman’s struggle as a Black man inheriting a popular legacy unique.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the cliffhanger where Norman is confronted by another legacy character—one with significantly less style than Norman. It’s the manifestation of his greatest conflicts on these page, but the existence of this new foe reminds readers of the poor definition of Norman’s own powers and personality. His shallowness being lampshaded in this issue makes it no less evident. Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom sets out to define Shilo Norman and clearly defines that problem in its first issue. All of the ingredients of a fascinating new chapter in the story of Mister(s) Miracle are present, but they have yet to cohere by a final page that may prove promising or problematic.
Published by DC Comics
On May 25, 2021
Written by Brandon Easton
Art by Fico Ossio
Colors by Rico Renzi
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Yanick Paquette