Thursday, December 08, 2016

Miracleman: The Golden Age by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham

I was going to say that Marvel must have been thrilled to have the travails of Miracleman behind them -- wrangling over rights, trying to figure out how to promote a book whose writer insists that his name never appear in conjunction with it -- to settle into this run by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, two not just excellent creators but very professional men still active in the industry. It must have seemed like a Golden Age of its own.

But in starting to write here I wondered when the next book -- The Silver Age, half-completed by Gaiman and Buckingham twenty-plus years ago as Eclipse Comics went onto the rocks -- was going to come out. And I find from a quick Google that those legal issues -- or maybe different ones; one can never assume with Miracleman -- have reared up again, and the next storyline is on hold until the lawyers finish up their work.

So perhaps Miracleman is cursed, after all, as I suggested when I looked at the first volume of Alan Moore's stories a few years ago. (See also my notes on the second and third Moore volumes -- I feel like I'm shouting his name and Miracleman repeatedly into a mirror, to see if he manifests and tries to murder me.) Something in this world does not want you to read Miracleman stories, and each one must be snatched from the claws of that something and dragged out into the wider world.

The most recent batch of things snatched from those claws is Miracleman: The Golden Age, written by Gaiman and drawn by Buckingham. It was planned, all those years ago, to be the first of three ages that this team would create for Miracleman before handing it over (possibly) to some other team to keep going forward. The Silver Age was half-done when it all went to hell in the early '90s, and The Dark Age apparently just a few pages of notes. Maybe they'll exist in full someday -- you never can tell with Miracleman.

These stories did make it out: they tell of the utopia that Miracleman and his superpowered compatriots created after the destruction of London. It's told as a series of mostly independent short stories, from the points of view of ordinary people in that world -- Miracleman and his pantheon are gods at this point (though both benevolent and active, not usual for most pantheons). The world is full of wonders and plenty, but life goes on -- couples find each other and break up, kids explore the boundaries of who they want to be, and ordinary people tell each other of their encounters with the gods. Some of those gods are their own children -- Miracleman's daughter Winter was only the first, and now, a few years later, there are hundreds of superpowered, super-intelligent, super-advanced creatures that look like small human children.

There's a lot of sadness in this Utopia, much of it from memories of the destruction in Olympus, the climactic Moore storyline. But there's a deeper melancholy as well: the Miraclepeople and the new children are not really human, and their parents can no more understand them than those parents could go frolic in the heart of a star. (But the children can do both, and a million other things besides.) The old humans get plenty and new fancy technological toys and the freedom to do and live anything...but none of it really means anything when there are gods flying around ruling the world.

This was always planned to be a transitional storyline, moving from Moore's budding Utopia at the end of Olympus to the peak of that happiness and showing the seeds of the unhappiness that would follow. It's not meant to be an ending. And, I hope, before long it won't be, and we'll finally be able to read the full Silver Age. But, for now, we have this ambiguous Utopia, with the cracks showing, and the wonder of what will happen to it.

(Note: the book I have features a cover very similar but not identical to the one above. As is too common these days, Marvel has infested the market with far too many covers for this book and its component single issues, and created a thriving market for lots of things that are internally the same but look different from the outside. There's a metaphor there, I think.)

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