Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Miracleman: A Dream Of Flying

There has been some renewed interest in Marvelman (or Miracleman as he was later called when Marvel threatened legal action over the name) recently due to the announcement at SDCC the other week that Marvel had bought the rights to Marvelman from Mick Anglo. So now seems like a good time to review this little 80 page trade paperback which collects together the first few issues of Eclipse's Miracleman series in the US - which were themselves reprints of black and white material originally in the Warrior magazine in the UK.

Marvelman was originally a British version of Fawcett's Captain “Shazam!” Marvel. First printed in 1954, Marvelman lasted until the early 60s before interest in the character faded. Then, Alan Moore took the idea and decided to reinvent and deconstruct the character. In the 1980s, a new, darker Marvelman was born in the pages of Warrior magazine to much critical acclaim. I'm not going to go any further into the history of this character - others have covered that much better than I could. It’s all quite complicated.

The story in this book goes something like this. Mike Moran is a reporter in his 40s who suffers from strange and terrible nightmares. One day, he's covering a story about the opening of a nuclear power station when the place is attacked by terrorists. By pure chance, Mike Moran happens to see the word "Atomic" reversed through the glass in a door and upon uttering the 'magic' word Kimota, is transferred in a boom of thunder into Miracleman. For twenty years he's been unaware of his powers - ever since that fateful, deadly, snowy day in 1963 which still haunts Mike's dreams.

Since the 60s, the Miracleman family were all thought to be have been destroyed - but Mike Moran isn't the only powerful superman who survived!

This was Alan Moore's first deconstruction of the modern day superhero. It came before Watchmen but covers similar territory to that fantastic story. Like Watchmen, it takes a person with all-too-human thoughts and emotions in the real, modern world, gives him unearthly superpowers and then examines the effect on the world and on the superhuman himself. It's an interesting story that rather cleverly manages to merge the bizarre, old-fashioned stories from the 50s by Mick Anglo into this modern day interpretation. And this *is* modern, in the sense that it's dark and brutal. Characters are beaten to a pulp or killed with little effort, whilst we're shown again that absolute power can corrupt absolutely.

The art by Gary Leach and, later, the wonderful Alan Davis matches the gruesome story and is dark and realistic. The complex emotions of characters are well depicted during the quiet periods whilst furious action scenes are stunningly shown in murky colours. And that's my only criticism of the art on this book - it's perhaps a little too dark to make out the details at times. Alan Davis' work is perhaps a little easier to follow than Gary Leach's although this is some early art from Davis so is not as polished as his later stuff.

Overall, this is a bloomin' marvellous (or should that be miraculous?) story. Of course, by now, this sort of dark examination of superhumans has been done many times, but in the early 80s this was all very new and exciting. Plus, Alan Moore is one of the best at this sort of thing. I’d also recommend reading other reviews of this TPB that are out there.

And, if you’ve never seen this before and want to read this story yourself, I'm currently selling the book on Ebay. I’d certainly recommend it. So, you too can own a rare copy of Miracleman "A Dream of Flying".

What can I say? This review is a shameless cash-in. Still, at least it's starting at a decent price!

Grade: Very Fine.