I recall much ado being made in early 2012 regarding the impending release of Before Watchman, which would for the first time see other writers pen tales in the same universe and continuity as Alan Moore’s opus magnum. One wonders if similar sentiments, albeit without decades of nostalgia and the internet echo chamber to magnify them, ran through the comics community of early 1990 as the Miracleman torched was passed from Alan Moore to Neil Gaiman.
Similarly to how Watchman was a repurposing of Charlton Comics characters, Moore’s Marvelman was not an original creation of his own, but rather a total reinvention of a preexisting character (furthermore, Mick Anglo, the “creator” of Marvelman, was simply reimagining Captain Marvel, following DC’s successful lawsuit against Fawcett). Though less seminal than Watchman, Moore’s sixteen issue run on Marvelman is arguably the superior deconstruction of the superhero genre, it’s status as such unrecognized less so due to any inferior quality and more so due its inaccessibility to new readers, the reprint rights having been in legal limbo till just recently.
Given that industry-shaping titles such as Watchman and The Dark Knight Returns were published only after Miracleman (as the book and character were renamed by the end of Moore’s run), it is safe to say that the world had truly never seen a comic quite like it before. It’s thus not hard to imagine the apprehension which must have plagued readers-in-the-know in learning the series would be continued by then relative-newcomer Neil Gaiman (Sandman had only begun a year prior).
For the most part, Gaiman delivers in his inaugural issue. The narration is surprisingly sparse, a far cry from the dense prose of Sandman or the poetic stylings Moore had employed earlier in the series. It succeeds, surprising, in how it both continues the themes established by Moore and departs from the conventions he established. Miracleman is not a superhero, he is a god; as such, there is virtually nothing in the way of action. This is a story of pilgrimage and fasting, meditation and contemplation, supplication and petition, temples and icons, heaven and earth, and of a distant deity whose ways are mysterious and will is incomprehensible.
Appropriately (and herein lies the departure), the reader is no longer privy to Miracleman’s inner dialogue. He is not so much as the point-of-view character even, barely making a cameo in his eponymous title. But such speaks to his apotheosis; Gaiman cannot divulge Miracleman’s inner life to the readers, for his thoughts are no longer like our thoughts; they are above our understanding.
Miracleman #1 is a brief, fluttering glimpse. Gaiman shows just enough to prove that he understands the character and themes he’s inherited, but not so much as to hint at what he might do with that inheritance. There’s potential in his story, but it’s for the most part as of yet unfulfilled. It doesn’t stand up to any individual issue of Moore’s run, but it does provide promise enough to keep reading and see where Gaiman takes things from here.
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