Part of this is because during the midst of King's ascension, he scripted a critically-lauded twelve-issue run on The Vision over at Marvel, and DC probably decided, let's get him to do something like that here. Readers who still can't puzzle out what the hype was about at least know how beloved Vision was, because everyone talked about that one. It's probably his most straightforward comic to date, an existential tragedy full of inevitability.
King and artist Mitch Gerads have collaborated a few times already, most notably in another twelve-issue run, Vertigo's Sheriff of Babylon, a story about life on the ground in post-Saddam Iraq. Every great writer needs a signature artist or two with which to collaborate, and Gerads has become King's. That's what DC is saying with Mister Miracle.
So what about the comic itself? I loved it. I love how much King works into it. There're plenty of juicy references. There's Legends' G. Gordon Godfrey (Darkseid minion Glorious Godfrey in disguise) as a talk show host. There's big bad Orion, who's depicted as shorter than Big Barda. There's King depicting the casual progression of war (as in Omega Men, Sheriff of Babylon) as the fate of Highfather is referenced offhand. There's Oberon, who's been absent from visible continuity for so long, readers (like me) will assume he was mostly associated with the Justice League (circa the "Doomsday" era), when in fact he started out as Mister Miracle's assistant.
But mostly, I love this constant refrain, of which this is an example:
I'm speaking, specifically, about "Darkseid Is." It repeats like a drumbeat throughout the issue. Readers with a casual relationship of comics lore will think it's just King doing his repetition thing with inscrutable rhyme or reason, but there is a reason, and it looks like this:
That's from Grant Morrison's JLA #14 (part of the "Rock of Ages" arc). That's been one of my favorite comics since I read it. At the time, I was a fan of Morrison mostly because of the JLA hype (he's making the team relevant again!), and not so much because I was a fan of Morrison or particularly aware of what he'd done previously (or in the case of The Invisibles was still doing). I became a fan of Grant Morrison years later.
That issue, the refrain of "Darkseid Is" repeats, and that final page drives home its impact, just how thoroughly the villain dominates Apokolips. I would go out on a limb and assume King is actually using Darkseid as a stand-in for Saddam Hussein (again, Omega Men and Sheriff of Babylon are both war stories, but specifically the Iraq War).
The whole issue also sets up Mister Miracle's next big trick: beating death. It certainly looks like a suicide attempt, and maybe it is, but it's interesting, too, because again, King is following in the footsteps of Morrison. After that issue, Morrison went on to reconnect with Jack Kirby's New Gods in the pages of Final Crisis, a version of a conclusion to that saga Kirby himself never got to create. As in Final Crisis, King has Darkseid finally attain his much-loved "Anti-Life Equation" in Mister Miracle. The whole issue is strongly suggested to be the result of Darkseid manipulating reality (at one point, Mister Miracle asks Big Barda whether her eye color has changed).
Before Final Crisis, Morrison used Mister Miracle, too, the Shilo Norman version, in one of the Seven Soldiers of Victory mini-series. In it, Mister Miracle has to beat death. I don't find that to be a coincidence.
I love how King is able to play with expectations so brilliantly. He knows that comics have changed over the years, that the way they're written has drastically evolved. He himself is at the vanguard of another revolution, of course. But the way captions used to be hyperbole, how Marvel used to build up its hype in the comics themselves, playing up the cosmic significance, or maybe just plain comic...King's reputation is that he's too dark, and yet I'm hard-pressed to name another writer who can so effortlessly shift between moods. Mister Miracle himself, when wearing his mask, seems like a truly comic personality. Gerads is equally comfortable presenting him that way as he is Scott Free as a normal individual who doesn't seem like superhero material at all.
I love it.