We're back after a quick little hiatus with MISTER MIRACLE #9, and...well, you probably don't need me to remind you of this, but things for Scott and Barda could definitely be going better. After the birth of their son, Jacob, the war between New Genesis and Apokolips kind of faded into the background for a while (for reasons that should be obvious). But, like a pendulum swinging far to one side only to inevitably come rocketing back, the war has come to collect on its time out of the spotlight.
We're focused on Apokolips this month, and it's just as bleak as you might expect.
First, before we talk content, there are some new faces in the mix this month. The hulking, monstrous Kalibak is acting as Darkseid's chief emissary in peace negotiations, and for good reason. He's Darkseid's first born son, which makes him Scott's adoptive half-brother and the biological half-brother of Orion (may he rest in peace). Kalibak's one of the few members of Darkseid's family who hasn't tried to assassinate him or otherwise manipulate their way to power. Kalibak's chief motivation is, typically, just to gain his father's approval. It very rarely works out in his favor.
You could say Kalibak has daddy issues, but that would really be putting it lightly. In fact, Darkseid frequently murders his son for one reason or another—usually because Kalibak's schemes to impress his dad backfire—but he resurrects him shortly after, just to make his point. Fatherly love at its finest.
Then we have Kanto, one of Apokolips' finest (and finest if you know what I mean) assassins. Don't let his charming and classy persona lull you into a false sense of security—Kanto is as deadly as they come. His story is actually a little weird, even by New Gods standards. Kanto was originally born with the name Iluthin. Iluthin was caught trying to steal weapons in Apokolips and banished by Darkseid to Renaissance-era Earth (his fling with Da Vinci may have been a lie, but that part of the story wasn't). Iluthin’s time in the Renaissance gave him his trademark lothario style and allowed him to train under some of Earth's best killers before Darkseid’s personal assassin, Kanto-13, came back to try and kill him. However, Iluthin proved himself the more skilled assassin when he murdered Kanto-13 instead. Impressed, Darkseid promoted Iluthin, gave him Kanto's name and the rest is history.
Kanto's time on Earth gave him a unique perspective into the world of the New Gods, which explains why he stands out so much in the ranks of Apokolips' death and destruction. Sure, he's a brutal and effective murderer in his own right, but he's actually a pretty chill guy beneath it all. Sort of. As chill as a person can be living and training under people like Darkseid and Granny Goodness, I guess.
Now the reason both Kanto and Kalibak are present in this issue is because the primary focus is on peace talks—and they're not going all that well. For his part, Scott is doing a fantastic job of keeping it together in front of his audience, but privately, things are a very different story. Let’s be honest, Scott hasn't been doing great for a while now, but it feels like things are escalating for the worst. Despite all outward appearances, Scott is (literally) shaking apart, which, strange as it may sound, may actually be kind of a good sign in this particular situation.
Stay with me here… Scott is putting on a huge show about being "Granny raised" and unaffected by the death and destruction around him, but if that were actually true, what would separate him and Kalibak, really? Of course, it's not great that he's having to internalize the horror surrounding him, but at least, at the very least, he's still feeling things. Bad things, obviously, but things nonetheless. And sometimes, that's really all we can do. Scott's struggling, but the fact that he's still present enough to struggle is sort of a good thing, in a roundabout way. At the very least, he's not developed into a sociopath, so...that's some sort of win, right?
...Though on the other hand, that may come back to haunt him even more than it already has now that Darkseid's real peace treaty is on the table. Being present in this moment may actually be the worst possible place for him to be.