One of the most transformative characters in comic book history makes his return to the page in Miracleman #1. Conceived in 1956 by writer-artist Mick Anglo, the previously-titled Marvelman was the United Kingdom’s substitute for DC’s Captain Marvel (not to be confused with Marvel’s various Captains Marvel) and was published by L. Miller & Son. Powered by atomic energy, young reporter Mickey Moran utters the magic word “Kimota” to become the blue-and-red-clad superhero Marvelman. Published until 1963, the original Marvelman series had a healthy run and was reprinted for sale in Italy, Australia and Brazil. Due to copyright issues, legal disputes and struggling sales of reprints, the character eventually disappeared from store shelves entirely.
As the decades passed, both Marvelman and his family of kid sidekicks faded away until 1982, when they were revived by Alan Moore, Gary Leach and Alan Davis. Appearing in the monthly British anthology Warrior, Marvelman became Miracleman, a dark deconstructionist work of superhero fiction. This new and different take on the character featured a very adult Michael Moran, plagued by migraines, domestic struggles and feverish dreams of flight, taking genre conventions of 50s and 60s superhero comics head-on. This book would later be taken over by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who took the story even further. However, falling again into legal limbo in the 1990s, Miracleman changed hands several times before being secured by Marvel Comics in 2009. As of 2010, Marvel has been reprinting various collected editions of Miracleman’s numerous iterations, and in January 2014 he returned to store shelves in Miracleman #1: A Dream of Flying.
This oversized issue features collected reprints, restored classic Marvelman comics, concept art, and an interview with Anglo. The artwork has been beautifully restored by Michael Kelleher and Gary Leach, with lush digital color work by Steve Oliff. Digicore’s crisp restoration of the classic comics will please nostalgic readers looking to revisit the hero’s early days. #1 opens up with Prologue: 1956 by Angelo and artist Don Lawrence from 1985’s Miracleman #1. On face value, this half-tone piece of 50s action comic nostalgia reads as a kitschy throwback for unfamiliar fans, but ends on a haunting note that paves the way for the stories of Moore and Gaiman. The final page, an unsettling and ever-advancing close-up of Miracleman’s face captioned by a quote from Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, is one of the eeriest and most satisfying pages I have ever seen in a comic.
Rounding out the issue is the first two collected stories by Moore and Leach from Warrior #1 and #2, featuring the rebirth of Miracleman as we know him today. …A Dream of Flying and its follow-up are dark and uncompromising, exploring Miracleman’s origins, his mysterious fall, and his eventual return from struggling journalist Michael Moran to the hero of his youth. These stories examine the strange and innocent world of 50s superheroes through the lens of modern cynicism and nuclear paranoia of the Cold War-era West. Whereas Anglo’s shiny gleam of scientific inquiry and magical fantasy painted Miracleman’s powers in broad and optimistic strokes, Moore’s vision of the nuclear-powered hero is far more jaded. Similar themes are strong elements in Moore’s later work such as Watchmen, and it is interesting to see how these ideas have developed in different books. In these issues, readers see their first glimpse of the corrupting sway these powers can have over heroes, as Johnny Bates, the original Kid Marvelman, survives into adulthood with his abilities but is rendered a sociopath.
This is an exciting book for fans of comics and comics history, reviving one of the most important characters of the last thirty years. Whether you’re new Miracleman, or you’ve been a longtime reader since his earlier iterations, this book is absolutely worth picking up. It’s an essential work that has informed comics creators for years.
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