Miracleman Book 1: A Dream of Flying Review
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Okay, quick quiz: name the most influential superhero of the last 30 years. Unless you’re a truly dedicated comics fan, the odds are pretty good that you didn’t answer Miracleman—much less the character’s original British sobriquet, Marvelman. In 1982, up-and-coming writer Alan Moore (who would later go on to pen the much more well-known Watchmen) took a cheesy rip-off of Captain Marvel from the ‘50s and reworked it in Warrior magazine into one of the greatest deconstructed superhero epics of all time. After a series of financial and legal disputes, the character moved over to Eclipse Comics, a small publisher in the United States, before vanishing into limbo in the mid ‘90s.

A decade and a half later, Marvel Comics (ironically the company that forced the name change in the U.S., due to copyright disputes) purchased the rights to the Miracleman catalog and has begun to reissue the series. A hardcover collection of the first story arc, Miracleman Book One: A Dream of Flying, finally offers superhero fans a chance to catch up on a book that has shaped so much of the genre despite its relative rarity.

  
 
Mick Anglo’s original Marvelman series told the straightforward adventures of Micky Moran, a reporter who transformed into the mighty superhero Marvelman whenever he uttered the secret word “kimota” (or “atomic” pronounced backwards). Along with his sidekicks, Young Marvelman and Kid Marvelman, he fought mad scientists and supervillains and regularly saved the word in classic ‘50s golly-gee-whiz style.

In Moore’s radical revision, Moran has become a depressed, middle-aged freelancer who only dreams of super-powered adventures while he frets about his wife covering all of their bills. While reporting on a nuclear power protest, he accidentally rediscovers his magic word and regains his forgotten powers. Once the exhilaration wears off, Moran begins to unravel his own true history, as well as the tragic fates of his former sidekicks.

Such a description doesn’t begin to do justice to Moore’s intricately layered narrative. Weaving together action, science, and philosophy with commentary on both the nature of power and its almost goofy expression in superhero comics, the story rockets along at a brisk pace. The art by Garry Leach and Alan Davis packs in detail, clearly painstakingly restored and recolored for this new edition. One of the most surprising things about the collection is how well the material has held up over time. Tonally it feels like something that could be produced today and still be regarded as ground-breaking.

While Moore’s name remains conspicuously absent—he’s credited only as “The Original Writer”—Marvel has done a thorough job of repackaging this decades-old material. The Miracleman story from the Warrior magazine issues, along with the Eclipse Comics reprints, are included alongside the original Anglo-penned Marvelman stories and a wealth of original sketches, design material, and essays on the history and importance of the character.

As superheroes mover further into mainstream popular culture, it’s a treat to rediscover one of the lost milestones in the genre’s evolution. Any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to check this one out, and newcomers will be impressed by the range of ideas it contains. Moore not only proved his bona fides with Miracleman, but he also set the stage for many of the better superhero tales that we’ve come to enjoy today.

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