September 1973. DC Comics.
“Here it is! The origin issue of the newest, most sensational young super-hero in comics!”
Shilo Norman. Now there’s a name from the Jack Kirby archives that makes me warm and fuzzy with nostalgia. I’m serious, I liked Shilo Norman. Forget what most Mister Miracle fans thought, dismiss all the vile comments the critics spewed in print, Shilo was cool, and he looks hipper today than when he was first introduced.
No Fourth World madness here, just a solid urban detective story as Mister Miracle and Big Barda become involved in the hunt for the murderer of Shilo’s brother. Barda looks terrific; if there had been an award for Sexiest Woman in Comics in 1973, she’d be flaunting it in Oberon’s face. Kirby’s imagination is out of control here: it’s not just anyone who’ll take two pages to draw the biggest pair of pliers ever constructed (and who’s going to complain when a sparsely-dressed Barda is holding the dang thing!). The dialogue is handled with that tight, caustic feel that permeates most ‘hard-boiled’ detective stories; check out the banter between Lieutenant Driver and Scott Free on page 8 and the hushed tones between Scott and Barda as they wait for Shilo to bolt from Free’s apartment to track down his brother’s killer on page 11. The hoods may not have seemed realistic then, but they’d fit in perfectly with today’s ‘gangsta’ crowd.
I don’t know why so many had a problem with Shilo. He wasn’t an irritating kid at all, and any alleged sassiness on his part can be understood since he had just lost his brother. The boy saved Mister Miracle’s life in this story, for Pete’s sake! I’m sure a lot of Miracle fans didn’t like the idea of Shilo coming on board to be trained as Free’s protégé, but think of it, in today’s day and age, when kids are drawn to gangs and dabble in all kinds of violent behavior, Free’s willingness to steer this kid on the straight and narrow and Shilo’s acceptance of the offer, albeit reluctantly, is a positive sign. It helps give this fine story a particularly timeless quality that most critics never seem to take into account after reading a comic only once. Kirby was ahead of his time in more ways than one!