Miracleman returns to print once again and it’s a beautiful must-own collection.
Story: The Original Writer
Art: Garry Leach, Alan Davis
What They Say:
KIMOTA! With one magic word, a long-forgotten legend lives again! Freelance reporter Michael Moran always knew he was meant for something more-now, an unexpected series of events leads him to reclaim his destiny as Miracleman! The groundbreaking graphic novel that heralded a literary revolution begins here in A DREAM OF FLYING. After nearly two decades away, Miracleman uncovers his origins and their connection to the British military’s “Project Zarathustra” – while his alter ego, Michael Moran, must reconcile his life as the lesser half of a god.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
It’s been far too many years since I last read the singles that I spent time collecting back in the day, but there are such fond memories of those issues being discovered, pulled together and eventually read in a way that allowed it all to make sense. With the material being out of print and in legal limbo for so long, it was thrilling to see it return to print once again as Marvel finally secured the rights and brought out the single issues with the best presentation that they’ve likely only seen. The only mar on an otherwise gorgeous work is the continued foolishness that is Alan Moore and his need to be credited only as The Original Writer. As much as I adore the man’s work over the years, he makes it very hard to be in his corner when it comes to things like this, warranted or not. There’s all sorts of ownership issues here and while he believes he had likely taken the job when the rights weren’t properly secured, it just feels off when you get down to it.
That said, revisiting the work again after so many years is definitely a treat. This volume brings us the first four issues of the series as released here, which makes up about 90 pages of material, while the rest of it deals with other material from different works and a lot of great behind the scenes pieces. The core story itself is one that I definitely find a lot of appeal in. We’re introduced in the first chapter to that kind of classic 1950’s superhero material where Miracleman and others of his “family” have to fight off human invaders from the future that have come from 1981 to conquer the less advanced world. It is, at its core, a good plan, albeit one that plays wonky with the science of time travel of course. Miracleman and the others do what they can, but the real solution is to go to the future (by flying really fast) and stopping them before they even come back. It’s the beautiful kind of SF of the time written with a great love that in turn is wonderfully illustrated to capture the style. What it does is to set the tone of innocence and simplicity of the time of those kinds of comics and what being a superhero is all about.
The rest of the book… not so much. What we discover is that during that time period in some adventure afterwards, the heroes all fought against an enemy that utilized a massive atomic weapon that in turn essentially destroyed them. Miracleman ended up being forced into his normal human form and lost all memory of what his alter ego was all about. The others were simply vaporized. And since then, he went on to live a normal life, which takes us to 1982 when through an accident, he ends up rediscovering his past self. This realization is hard to share with his wife, Liz, but she tries to believe him until he can actually show what he’s capable of doing. There’s a lot of difficulty on his part accepting all of this as well because he realizes the losses along the way with the others that he had partnered with. At least until he discovers that one of them is actually still alive and in human form like he was, but remembering the past. Or at least that’s the ruse as it starts to unfold.
What Miracleman is about isn’t exactly the stories of superhero adventures or even a fish out of water kind of work. Instead, it’s an exploration of how comics had started to grow up over the decades to where they had come to in the 1980’s. That simplicity of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s was something magical in a way, though I’ll certainly admit that they don’t read well for me. There’s a charm but a lack of something to really connect with because I’m not from that time. I came of age with comics in the 80’s so there’s certainly more familiarity there and what The Original Writer does here is have us explore that simplicity of the past in a critical way as Miracleman struggles with the truth that what they did, how they did it in those old adventures, was like a game where nobody got hurt. But people got hurt at the end and now in the present people are really getting hurt as the danger level is so much higher. And that has him having to deal what his place is in everything and what he must do to either help or stay out of it in case things go really bad to worse because of it.
It’s one of those early cases of comics being self critical within itself and doing it in a thoroughly engaging way for a lot of it. Admittedly, it’s the first several chapters after the opening piece that work the best for me here and some of Moore’s later work as well, but I also know that my bigger love of the Miracleman work came from the Neil Gaiman run on it. But this is the foundation for it and it works very well for establishing it. The chapters that involve Kid Miracleman definitely work well and I was very drawn into it, as well as the story material afterwards that starts to explore his origins and connections to both Young Miracleman and Kid Miracleman. When they got to the special stories from other works afterwards, the “black” pages of the book, I’ll admit I lost interest pretty quick and that section of actual comic material was a chore.
The other supplemental material here is fantastic though. We get pages and pages of original character designs, cleaned up and really beautiful looking original cover artwork design pieces with just the artwork itself rather than with all the logos. The sketches and all the aspects of how it was put together. A lot of original pages before they were fully inked and colored which also looks great as you get to see how both Leach and Davis work and how it transitions from the pencil to the final product. There’s also pages of the original covers in full and the 1980’s US releases as well which gives us some striking visuals that I can remember finding so fascinating when I saw them on the shelf and wondered what it was all about. We also get a few pages with a look at the new covers that Marvel produced, though I wish each of them was given a full page rather than just a few of them. Essentially, we get a fantastic package here overall that really shows this is a passion project.
Troves and troves of pages and words have been used to talk about the Miracleman works over the last couple of decades of its existence and my few words certainly won’t much of anything to it, which is why I was hesitant to even put anything together for this. What I wanted to convey was the importance of the work itself, what it represents, and how lavishly Marvel put together the final product that makes it worth of being on every shelf. It’s not the easiest material in the world to read at times and there are layers of meanings you can take away from it, but it is the kind of work that is fully worth of the word criticism as it demands to be broken down, explored and discussed. But it’s also meant to be enjoyed, as much as you can a work that takes a simple and fun superhero and shows how bad it would be dealt with in the real world. There’s a whole lot to love here, warts and all, and we can’t recommend it enough.
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Marvel Comics
Release Date: May 27th, 2014