Both stories feature peace agreements based on leaders exchanging their sons
FX announced Friday that it has picked up Fargo for an upcoming fourth season. If past seasons of Noah Hawley’s anthology series are any indication, these new episodes will probably take all kinds of twists and turns that viewers can’t even anticipate yet. But thanks to an early plot synopsis included in the announcement, there are a few things we know for sure. Season 4 of Fargo will star Chris Rock, and it will feature a key plot point heavily reminiscent of the comic Mister Miracle.
Rock is set to star as the head of an African-American crime family in Kansas City, Mo. The story will take place in the ‘50s, in the wake of two migrations: the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North, and the immigration of Italians and other southern Europeans to American cities. Rock’s criminal organization faces competition from an Italian-American mafia, so he and the mafia leader have brokered an uneasy peace by trading their eldest sons.
This plot point is not exactly a common trope, but it does have one clear precedent in comic icon Jack Kirby’s Fourth World stories. After co-creating almost every Marvel superhero alongside Stan Lee (aside from Captain America, who Kirby co-created with Joe Simon, and a few others), Kirby switched to rival publisher DC in the ‘70s, where he rolled out an impressive comic saga known as the Fourth World. This epic story consisted of three different comic series (New Gods, The Forever People, and Mister Miracle) but they all revolved around a war between the planets of New Genesis and Apokolips. Since the clash between these godlike races had the potential to wipe out all life in the universe, the leaders reached an agreement.
In one particular issue of New Gods titled “The Pact,” Kirby showed how Highfather of New Genesis sent his gentle son Scott Free to the hellish firepits of Apokolips, while the demonic dictator Darkseid sent his violent child Orion to the sunlit gardens of his rival. With each other’s prized offspring as hostage, neither could dare attack the other (think of it like a mutual reciprocation of Ned Stark raising Theon Greyjoy). Over the course of Kirby’s original comics, Orion grew into a principled warrior who learned to fight for justice and peace, while Scott became Mister Miracle, the ultimate escape artist — capable of even doing the impossible, and escaping from Apokolips. Both of them repudiated Darkseid and his Anti-Life Equation. As acclaimed comic writer Grant Morrison described Kirby’s story in his book Supergods, “Kindness and understanding could turn even a demon into a holy warrior, but an angel could never be broken to the Devil’s service and would always find ways to soar and be free.”
The parallels between Kirby’s Fourth World story and this new season of Fargo will, of course, be limited, since the former invokes a black-and-white Manichaean division between good and evil, while Fargo will feature a more morally-complicated story of “immigration and assimilation, and the things we do for money.” But there’s still plenty of meat there in the story of how fathers’ choices can shape their son’s lives, and what children make of the world their parents built for them. Just look at the current Mister Miracle series for proof of the story potential.
Even before the Fargo announcement, the story of “The Pact” had been taken up again in the modern age, in the pages of the ongoing 12-issue Mister Miracle series from writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads. In this series, the war between New Genesis and Apokolips has started up again, and it’s deadlier than ever. As more and more of his comrades fall, Scott is forced to take up leadership of New Genesis as the new Highfather. At the same time, his long-time marriage to Apokoliptian warrior Big Barda has finally produced a child, an adorable little baby boy named Jacob Free (named, naturally, after Kirby, who was born Jacob Kurtzberg). As Scott desperately tries to end the war before it’s too late, Darkseid hits him with the old offer: Give me your son, and I’ll surrender. Even in a comic so replete with existential crises as Mister Miracle (the first issue opened with Scott’s suicide attempt), this choice shakes Scott and Barda to their core.
“Scott faces a choice I think a lot of people have to face, which is, you look back on your life and you look back at how you were raised and how your parents raised you, and you’re like, ‘That kind of messed me up a little bit. I didn’t come up the right way. I want to give my kid the better life,’” King recently told EW’s Chancellor Agard. “But then you find yourself in a situation when you have to make the same decisions your parents made and you have to decide if you’re going to make that decision or not. That decision both brings you closer to your parents and alienates you from them. It’s this idea that Scott’s father, who was the god of good and everything, chose to end the war by giving him away, and here’s Scott and he has to do the same thing.”
Or does he? Mister Miracle #10, which just hit stores this week, features Scott and Barda grappling with this choice. It’s an impossible situation, but then again Mister Miracle has always prided himself on being able to escape from impossible traps. It’s tough to weigh a peaceful future against safety and stability for your children, especially since children are the future. This story will likely play out in completely different ways in the final issues of Mister Miracle and the next season of Fargo, but as King said, it’s the archetypal version of a choice many people confront in the course of their lives. If and when Ava DuVernay’s promised New Gods movie arrives, it will likely tackle the story of “The Pact” in its own way. The choice between children and peace isn’t going away anytime soon.