What do you think of our brave new world?

Rereading Miracleman Book Five by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham.

Throughout Book Four there was a series of shorts I didn’t mention appearing in each issue. Titled Retrieval, and usually covering two four-panel pages per issue, they followed a remote drone into underspace and through the immense wardrobe of bodies to the pulverised corpse of Young Miracleman. This plot-relic popped up in Book Two as part of a little switch; the skeletons in the bunker of Book One were Young Miracleman’s, Moore having no use for him, and were retconned into the remains of Young Nastyman when that character got reduced to a flashback. Elements of the body were brought out, new civilian and superhuman bodies created for Young Miracleman, and the final words of the book were Miracleman saying “Wake him up.”

Book Five, which published only two issues before Eclipse went down, is The Silver Age and, for those first two issues at least, is about YM waking up in 2003, 19 years after the world changed forever. Our new hero meets the Pantheon, meets a few of the people, and is thoroughly confused about the whole thing. As a plotline it seems classical – introducing a naïve new face to a new world, and following it through their eyes, is Star Wars and American Gods and Promethea and The Walking Dead and hundreds more – but it doesn’t work like that. We’ve already explored this new world in The Golden Age, after all. There are only glimpses of the unfamiliar: various strains of superhero playing Lee & Kirby games, the creation of a Lost World of dinosaurs. Time is spent on Dicky’s 50s British comic-book view of the new reality, his struggle to frame the changes that have been made, but it’s neither particularly interesting or anything we haven’t seen before. Begging the question, what did Gaiman have in mind by bringing Dicky Dauntless back?

We’ve never found out, of course. #24 ends with a kiss, MM on YM, and the latter’s predictably outraged reaction and his flight. Encouraged by Miraclewoman, who recounted noticing the attraction in her origin flashback in Book Three, it’s a disaster. Was it intended by her? Is this part of Dicky’s journey, his alienation from his father figure? Surely risky, with Kid Miracleman as proof. Was a serpent, or the possibility of a serpent, deliberately reintroduced to Paradise? Does this new world need an outsider’s moral judgement to decide if it’s corrupt?

There are some unlettered pages of the never-published #25 in the back of George Khoury’s Kimota! The Miracleman Companion. They seem to feature Johnny in an allegorical landscape, explaining something to the reader through the fourth wall, and Dicky in the Himalayas with a group of humans. At some point in the 1990s I found four fully-lettered pages from the issue on the web – I have no idea where – and I present those at the bottom of this post. It’s impossible to get much idea of where the narrative was going from them. Or, really, from the first two complete issues.

(Worth mentioning for completeness: there was a three-issue Miracleman: Apocrypha series, of stories by various creators set in and out of continuity, that I perused in comic shops but never bought. I think the only creator I’d heard of was Matt Wagner doing a silent Mors the Qys story. There was also a planned miniseries, Miracleman Triumphant!, that never got published. As Miracleman is triumphant from pretty much Johnny’s death onwards, I imagine it was just full-page splashes of him shouting YES! AWESOME! and HOT DOG! in world locations, like a Swimsuit Special of triumph.)

Gaiman and Buckingham want to finish the story they started and hope to do that with Marvel. Marvel, despite their alliance with Mick Anglo, seem to be no nearer to printing the 80s and 90s comics that are all anyone wants to see. It’s likely that The Silver Age will never be finished and The Dark Age, Gaiman’s planned concluding book, will never exist. I say that with kind of a heavy heart after granting these characters, this version of reality, headroom for all these years. I’d like to see The Dark Age. But the beginning of Book Five isn’t engaging, the character of Young Miracleman a puzzling reinsertion, so it’s not, for me, one of the great unfinished stories of comics. It doesn’t compare to Big Numbers or Zenith (which I’ll be writing about from next week) or Desolation Jones because there’s no real narrative drive; okay, Dicky’s not happy, but everything’s good anyway, right? He’s in a perfect world so what can go wrong? Thematically Gaiman’s playing with Marvel Comics, with superheroes who have problems. What he was planning to do never emerges, though. Book Four is worth reading for itself. The truncated Book Five isn’t.

Miracleman #23 and #24 by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham have not been reprinted. Pages 3, 11, 19 and 21 of the unpublished #25 are below. 

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