Comic Book Review – Miracleman: The Golden Age & The Silver Age

Miracleman: The Golden Age w/The Silver Age
Reprints Miracleman #17-22, extra material from #23-24
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Mark Buckingham

Alan Moore’s departure from Miracleman did not mean the end of the character. Instead, Moore personally handed the reins over to Neil Gaiman. This was 1990, and by that time, Gaiman was growing in prominence with The Sandman title for DC Comics. This was not the height of Gaiman’s fame but definitely at the moment where he became one of the premier writers in the genre. Gaiman set out with big plans for the Miracleman title, a trilogy of six-issue volumes that would explore the utopian world Moore set up. However, Eclipse, the company that published Miracleman was struggling in the direct market distribution model, publishing exclusively for comic book/hobby shops. This was to be an unfinished magnum opus, ending on a cliffhanger.

The Golden Age is my favorite part of the Miracleman saga, I love the pause in the protagonist’s story to have one-offs that look at a different angle of this brave new world. At this point, there isn’t much to say about Miracleman, he has become a living god. What is more interesting is seeing how the average person deals with such a remarkably different world. Gaiman uses the same spotlighting of minor characters as he would use in Sandman here to tell some pathos rich humanistic tales.

Miracleman #17 follows a group of pilgrims making their journey up the tower of Olympus in London, the home to the Miracle Family. This is an opportunity to feature the otherworldly architecture and artifacts Miracleman has collected in the years that have passed since he effectively became the dictator of Earth. The journey is an opportunity to feature people from different walks of life and force them to confront issues about their identities and lack of place in the utopia. There is a powerful spiritual aspect to this issue, certain characters becoming unable to continue the trip and stopping along the way, seeming to find their permanent resting spot in life. Gaiman is essentially remaking The Canterbury Tales, as told by Harlan Ellison. The conclusion of this chapter leaves Miracleman in the position of a cold & random deity, blessing one person while denying another. It’s a much bleaker and more inhuman take on the character than Moore presented but definitely an extension of the groundwork he laid.

Miracleman #18 is about a lone sentinel, a man stationed at a windmill in rural England. He has a chance encounter with Miraclewoman, a single night that becomes an ongoing tryst. The man quickly succumbs to the divine nature of Miraclewoman, viewing her as the epitome of women. Eventually, she reveals her true self to him to adjust his thinking. This same issue has a back-up story featuring a conversation between teenagers who are self-proclaimed Bates. These are the cult of personality centered around the deceased villain Kid Miracleman. It’s a fascinating conversation about pop culture trends, hero-worship, and religious beliefs.

Miracleman #19 is a mind-bending philosophical meditation on death and the role of the patriarch by resurrecting Dr. Gargunza in a bizarre technology-driven underworld. Issue 20, focuses on the transformation of childhood as a group of children is born to women who have requested Miracleman’s seed. This new generation of kids become like Winter, the original Miracle Baby. Instead of being a story of triumph and hope, everything is tinged in sadness, melancholy. Issue 21 follows a woman involved in the remnants of the Cold War espionage network. Because her life is so consumed with paranoia, she falls into a spiral of mistrust without care for the wonder of the world around her. The perfect world where all the basic needs are met will leave humanity with nothing to face down but ennui and existential dread. This is neither good nor bad, merely a different paradigm of life.

Miracleman #22 is a culmination of all these threads, bringing all the characters together into London for a carnival celebrating the beginning of this new world. Throughout the Golden Age, Gaiman presents a world where the dark side of life, destruction & death are not ignored. The human species came to the brink of complete annihilation at the hands of Johnny Bates, and so celebrations of life are explosive and more inclusive. All people are accepted because humanity has a better understanding of how fragile its existence is.

There are only two published issues of The Silver Age arc with Eclipse folding in the middle of the story. The plot that Gaiman was laying out in this arc involved bringing back Dickie Dauntless, aka Young Miracleman. Dauntless was to serve as the reader surrogate, finally asking those questions about Miracleman’s utopia and the underlying absence of individual agency in the direction of society. The two chapters we have are fantastic, and I hope it will be finished one day.

After Eclipse folded, they sold much of their intellectual property to Todd McFarlane at Image Comics. There were legal battles throughout the 1990s and 2000s to decide who actually owned any of this. Ultimately the courts and series of sales brought Miracleman to Marvel Comics, where he was able to regain his original moniker of Marvelman. Thus far, Marvel has only reprinted Moore’s run and Gaiman’s Golden Age, along with some of the original 1950s Marvelman stories. More legal battles ensued that canceled plans to deliver on a complete Silver Age with The Dark Age following. Apparently, sometime in 2020, we should be getting these stories. Here’s hoping this brilliant unfinished saga finally gets an ending after 30 years.

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