Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham #5

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I remember clearly my first day at seminary, the whole incoming class gathered together for orientation.  Of the many things said that morning, these words are among those that have always stood out the most:

Everyone is a theologian.  It is a universal human endeavor, endemic to the human mind and emblematic of the human experience, to contemplate the ultimate nature of reality.  The question of God’s existence is nothing less than what is the cause for everything else in existence, the foundation at the bedrock of reality upon which all of creation is built.  Is it a part of the universe or outside of it?  Is it a Brute Fact or a Necessary Being?  Is it incomprehensible or causa sui? Whenever a man idly ponders such thoughts, he is doing theology.  The conclusions that he comes to, the convictions with which he operates, are his theology.  When those convictions go unexamined and unquestioned, he is a bad theologian.  The goal here at seminary is not merely to make you theologians, but good theologians.”

Though true of all men, it is especially true of the point-of-view characters in Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham that they are theologians.  None hold any formal Masters of Divinity or Sacred Theology, but all spend a great deal of time in contemplation and discussion of the gods.  Their thoughts are not always centered on the God of the Philosophers of classical theism, but rather often mediated through the pantheon of deities which has manifested in their midst.

The Jove of these modern day Olympians is of course Miracleman himself, here for the first time since issue #1 the subject of one of Gaiman’s anthologies of the Golden Age.  But the god is, as always in Gaiman’s run, seen only through the eyes of man, in this case a post-coital twentysomething prattling to his paramour on the three miracles he’d experienced in his life.  Per his status as an amateur theologian, he uses the term incorrectly.  Strictly speaking, a miracle is an interruption of the natural order so that the history of the universe proceeds differently than it would have under the deterministic or probabilistic laws which otherwise govern it.  Our audience surrogate here utilizes it inconstantly as an encounter with the divine directly or an indirect benefit of divine intervention.  In the end, he surmises:

I should have been in London when it happened.  And I wasn’tThat’s a miracle.  Gods keep their promises… that’s why they’re gods.”

The reader knows, and such is Gaiman’s intention, that this theologian is wrong, reading purpose and providence where none existed.  In Moore’s run, the aforementioned events in London, far from preordained, prevented an altogether different divine plan.  For all his omniscience, Miracleman had on that occasion been taken by surprise, and his subsequent intervention was far from perfect in its execution.

The shortcoming of the gods and man’s folly to place too much trust or too much hope in them have been among the most consistent themes in the current series, from the futility of man’s prayer to the gods shown in issue #1 to the futility of the gods’ attempts at sanctifying man in issue #3.  Taken as a whole, the run reveals Gaiman’s own theology, his musings on the relationship between God and man as seen through the strained relationships between these gods and these men.

Such is seen likewise in the other short episode here in issue #5.  What at first seems an espionage thriller is revealed as an attempt by the gods to redeem the various spies, spooks, and secret agents of the previous age from their perpetual paranoia.  The particular operative we follow completes the purgation designed by the gods and is deemed worthy of paradise, but the sin remains.  In the final panel she theologizes that the Golden Age and its gods and all of reality itself may prove another plot to unravel, a scheme beset by beings greater still.  Having viewed the world as through a mirror darkly, she’s now seen the gods face to face, and remains at heart an unbeliever; she may not be wrong.

8.0/10

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