Best known for his portrait of Marylin Monroe and canvases of Campbell soup cans, Andy Warhol was one of the pioneers to infuse commercial art into high, appropriating it from popular culture and preserving a place for such in the marble mausoleums of fine art galleries. Perhaps it is only appropriate, then, that Warhol should feature so prominently in Miracleman, one of the pioneering enterprises on the part of Moore and later Gaiman to infuse high art into commercial comic books. Within the story, Warhol himself is a work of modern art, carved of plastics and polymers, warts and all, by Mors (god of the underworld), and mass produced like t-shirts or silk screens.
One of these Warhols serves as the point-of-view character in issue #3, continuing Gaiman’s pattern of exploring each of the gods and new world they wrought through eyes of everyday denizens. Whereas the first issue dealt with the jovian Miracleman himself, and the second with the venereal Miraclewoman, issue three explores the plutonian Mors (whose name derives from the Latin mortem meaning “death”).
These parallels being drawn to the Greco-Roman deities are appropriate, as Gaiman’s thesis seems to be that the new gods are no better than the old. Moore’s run ended with the promise of paradise on earth, with all the trappings of the Millennial Kingdom of Judeo-Christian eschatology. But Gaiman’s Miracleman is no Christ-figure, and the age he has brought about is not the End of the Ages. The Golden Age, as is the title of this volume and nomenclature used within the issues as well, is, like the pomegranate which Mors carries, is a clear reference to the myths of the Greeks and Romans.
According to Hesiod and Ovid and Gaiman alike, the Golden Age is more Edenic than heavenly (Mors himself refuted comparison to the later in this issue), the height of human happiness to be followed by a Fall. The subsequent volume of Gaiman’s Miracleman continues the established pattern, with a Silver Age succeeding the Golden (likely a reference to the Golden and Silver Age of Comic Books as well).
Beyond obvious allusions to classical mythology, however, the real gold in this volume is the mythologizing of elements from Moore’s run in the lead up to the inevitable Fall to mark the end of the Golden Age. Whereas last issue saw the emergence of a cult prophesying the return of Bates, issue #3 prominently features Gargunza and gives insight as to the manner of his inevitable return.
One of the high points here is a conversation between Warhol and Gargunza regarding the various religions that had sprung up surrounding Miracleman and the other Olympians, each quite different in their theological propositions and interpretation of the miraculous events of their day. This is despite the fact that the gods have made themselves known, seen with human eyes, and in recent memory no less. It is during this conversation that Warhol reveals to Gargunza that he still prays every Sunday. “Miracleman won’t be around forever. God can wait.”
Buckingham’s art style is such a departure from one issue to the next that it’d be easy to mistake each for the work of a different penciller were not his name in the title after Gaiman’s. There is an ugliness to the style employed in issue #3, but one altogether appropriate. The underworld which is Olympus’ basement is not a world of beauty, nor should it be rendered beautifully. Furthermore, the ugliness of style reinforces the contempt both Warhol and Gargunza feel towards the ugliness of the bodies; again, neither the pencils nor what they depict are meant to be beautiful. Finally, the styles employed in this issue are all derived directly from the work of Warhol himself.
Gaiman’s work remains a huge departure from Moore’s. While such was made evident from the first two issues, it is only here that Gaiman has begun to find a voice for the characters and the world that is not merely enigmatic or contrarian. Issue #3 is his best yet, and while still not recapturing the magic of Moore’s run, it finally holds promise for what’s to come.