Marvel have quickly reached the final issue of their reprints of Alan Moore’s Marvelman/Miracleman material and for a comic I’ve probably not read in around a decade it’s every bit as good as I remember it.
After the last issue where Johnny Bates destroyed much of London killing tens of thousands not to mention killing Miracleman’s ally, the Warpsmith Aza Chorn, this is a hopeful, yet at the same time bleak vision of a world where superhumans rule us benignly looking out for us, but yet this offers a darker ending as I remembered. Part of this is because Moore set things up for Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s subsequent run and party because I assume Moore at this point in 1989 is so deeply cynical of things that it spilled over into this work. There’s also something quite prophetic about powerful being sitting far, far above London’s skyline that resonates so much today with monstrosities like The Shard destroying that great old city’s horizon.
Much of the issue deals with wrapping things up and as said, setting things up for Gaiman. This doesn’t make the issue boring let alone predictable, but it does allow Moore to slip a knife into someone hated by so many of us at the time.
It’s interesting looking back at this page as Moore shows some sympathy even though he has Marvelman dominate a figure who in the UK of the 80’s, was the most powerful creature in the country. Overthrowing Thatcher is Moore showing just how things have changed, and also the basic decency Miraclewoman shows by showing compassion to a person so hated then, and now.
In these scenes Moore creates this world being reshaped as a sort of socialist utopia as economies are reshaped, powerful leaders are rendered useless and nuclear weapons are eliminated so a new society is formed where nobody loses out. Yet people have lost much, and the Miracle-family do dominate them, albeit in an seemingly benign way to make humanity ‘better’.
Moore forces the reader to face the moral problems of essentially being ruled by gods (a theme Gaiman picks up) that means ‘free will’ is something that doesn’t exist as there’s parameters. Yet the Miracle-Family heal the Earth. They make the planet better. Yet there’s a sense that Moore has a crystal ball in his predictions of people saying things like the smallpox virus is a natural thing when today people are dying because they think viruses, or conditions like cancer can be cured by the likes of diet or homeopathy.
Money is abolished, all drugs are legalised, crime dips down to next to nothing, and Olympus is constructed on the ruins of London as Miracleman and Miraclewoman finally get it together at last.
Humanity itself begins to be reshaped through the Miracle-Family’s eugenics programme, and the dead themselves can be brought back to life to life in an android body. Earth is a place of wonders yet Miracleman ends the issue, and indeed, the run, wondering if that something isn’t right with people like his wife Liz refusing to undergo the superhuman process. It’s this note of doubt that Gaiman grabs and uses in his run, but provides a somewhat bitter note as Moore ends his story with gods ruling the planet, but humans have lost so much and gained so much at the same time. He forces people wanting a better world to confront the possible moral issues needed once we get there, and he forces those dreaming of neoliberalism a world that doesn’t rely upon a few raping the planet and it’s people for profit.
Morally and politically this is a tough issue that isn’t easy to digest on one reading, yet even 25 years after first reading it, I still struggle with the issues in here. Like Moore, I’d like to see a world like this but not with gods looking down upon us removing our humanity and free will. It’s a sign of a writer at this point at the peak of his powers that its such a strong issue so many years later and one that is still so relevant to the 21st century.
The rest of this issue is made up of unseen art, sketches and original art. It’s actually full of some lovely stuff like this previously unpublished cover for the final Moore Eclipse Comics issue.
Marvelman/Miracleman isn’t perfect. It’s not Alan Moore’s best work, but it does contain some of his finest work, and is a fascinating example of a writer learning his craft, while becoming increasingly confident of his ability so that if you compare his style in the early episodes (still very rooted in traditional superhero comics) to the final issues (something more literary and challenging) then it’s an extraordinary journey. By this issue Moore has not just found a voice, but he’s confident of his ability to such a degree that at the time it was hard to think how much better Moore could actually get? Thankfully with work like Lost Girls and From Hell, he was to become even better. This though is a work that will persist, so a thanks is due to Marvel Comics for having the time, money and inclination to untangle the legal minefield around the character so that now we have these stories back in print.
Next issue Marvel starts the reprints of the Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham Eclipse Comics material though not from #17, but another #1. I imagine this should help sales a bit not to mention make it easier for new readers to start picking these stories up which Marvel intend to finally complete.
The Gaiman stories I’ve not read more than a couple of times in the early 90’s so next review is going to be as fresh as it possibly could be as I rediscover these issues after a couple of decades.