CONTINUING BOOK THREE: OLYMPUS
SUMMARY: Miracleman likes to keep busy, doing such activities as reintroducing tame mastodons on Earth. That’s because during the quiet times his thoughts drift, remembering images of the skins of humans hung on clotheslines, of bodies pierced through the hands of the Big Ben tower clock, of severed hands and feet raining on terrified people in the streets below — of what Bates did. “Omnipotent, I can thus turn to no one, cannot share my guilt or shame.” In the past, Bates was first noticed on the Earth hologram behind the Moon. Miracleman, Miraclewoman, Huey Moon and the Warpsmiths teleport to London to confront him, but only after he had been loose for hours, “killing time.” Aza Chorn strikes first, teleporting the Bank of England and dropping it on Bates’ head. When that doesn’t work, he teleports the Marble Arch into his path. That doesn’t slow Bates, either. Miraclewoman fails, too, in a direct confrontation. Next, Huey Moon ruptures a gas main underneath Bates and sets him ablaze, but it’s a ploy to buy Aza Chorn time as he travels to a distant galaxy for means to purchase additional power. He’s back in three seconds. We learn that the exact nature of this power is shrouded in mystery in the present, and Miracleman prefers leaving the mystery intact. But with Bates finally weakened, Miracleman attempts a direct confrontation, pushing Bates underground and into a subway tunnel. Bates punches him back to the surface, where they continue their fight among vehicles fleeing London. Miracleman picks up the closest car and hurls it at Bates. To his shame, he later admits it was occupied. Bates retaliates by throwing an occupied gas tanker at Miracleman, which explodes upon contact. Observing their fight has given Aza Chorn an idea. The Miracleman Family’s force field, their “tinker bell” effect, has made them immune to external attack. So, he picks up a small piece of concrete debris and, instead of throwing it at Bates or dropping it on him, teleports it inside his skull. Bates screams out in pain and strikes out blindly at Aza Chorn, sheering away his right arm. But Aza Chorn has enough time before he dies to locate an I-beam and teleport it through Bates’ heart. Gasping and screaming in agony, Bates spits out his change word, and suddenly a pantsless Johnny takes his place. Johnny cries at having let Kid Miracleman out again, not even possibly realizing the full extent of the damage done. Miracleman finds Johnny and consoles him with news that he has discovered a way to keep Kid Miracleman from returning. Johnny leans against him and gives a tearful thank you. Then, with a single punch, Miracleman crushes Johnny’s skull. He sits there, holding Johnny’s headless corpse and weeping for hours as London continues to burn. Near him, bodies are hung from light poles by barbed wire, and a mother, her eyes gouged out and her arms ripped off at the elbows, hobbles down the street with her two young children at her side. “I thought about the firemen and the dumbstruck ambulance crews,” Miracleman thinks. “The world in which they tried to sleep that night would be a different world to that in which they had begun their day. Different forever.” In the present, Miracleman revisits the site. It has not been cleaned up; the skulls, bones and wreckage remain. He will not let the world forget, nor himself.
COMMENTS: Miracleman probably would have been a comics classic without this chapter, but because of it, it elevates the story to a plane all its own. Since Book Three began and we saw the world radically different, we were left wondering what happened, why it changed. Moore set the bar almost unreachably high, but he delivered with a climatic payoff far beyond our expectations. The atrocities in this chapter astound me, yet Moore dared to present them, and Totleben made them real. The quality of his artwork matches the quality of Moore’s writing. This is the true power of the collaborative nature of comics at work. But I don’t know how Totleben was able to sleep after drawing this issue. This is an incredibly hard story to read, but it really does show what could happen if someone with the power of, say, a Magneto were left unchecked. This chapter might be Moore’s most powerful statement against the superhero archetype.
CONCLUDING BOOK THREE: OLYMPUS
SUMMARY: In the present, at his home, Olympus, Miracleman prepares for a celebration honoring the sixth anniversary of his rebirth. In the past, he sums up the damage Bates caused: 40,000 dead and half of London destroyed. Several countries had considered nuking England but ultimately didn’t because they didn’t know if it would have stopped the threat. Before revealing themselves to the public, the pantheon makes its plans and also mourns Aza Chorn. His five spouses (two other men, three women) perform a Warpsmith mating ritual as the others are asked to watch. Miracleman and Miraclewoman exchange a glance during it. One of the Warpsmiths, Kana Blur, remains behind as Aza Chorn’s replacement. Next, they set about remaking the world. The members of the pantheon meet with world leaders to lay out their plans. All nuclear weapons are teleported by the Warpsmiths into the sun; fresh topsoil covers the Sahara; drugs are legalized; criminals are rehabilitated by correcting chemical imbalances in their brains using alien herbs, and money is eradicated. “From August, everything is free,” Miracleman says in a television address. “Each soul shall have free clothing, food and shelter, entertainment, education, all requirements for a worthwhile life.” The changes leave the power-hungry without hope. Some join therapy groups. Pockets of resistance remain, especially among the religious. Fundamental Christians and Muslims forge an alliance, discovering a mutual distrust for the new order. Upon the completion of Olympus, Miracleman and Miraclewoman consummate their relationship in public, flying over London as they have foreplay, copulating high in the sky and climaxing with a starburst before collapsing into the Thames and resting there in each other’s arms. Later, a Qys named Mors joins the pantheon. He uses Qys technology to pick up on the faint vibrations the dead leave behind and builds android bodies to house them. But the dead must remain in the underworld in Olympus’ basement. Big Ben and Miracledog, rechristened Fenris, are rehabilitated and added to the pantheon. Then Winter returns. Now 4, she takes charge of the “super babies” as they are born. The pantheon has gone about sharing its power. It also allows the public to undergo a version of Gargunza’s body-cloning process. Miracleman has one person in mind for the procedure. It’s Liz. But when he visits her, she’s unimpressed. “Perhaps I could take the baby for a fly around the park while you [and Miraclewoman] were screwing in Fleet Street?” She tosses him out. So, Miracleman doesn’t get all that we wanted in the new world. “And yet,” he thinks, “these faults do not diminish our achievement […] Is this perfection? I think so.” In the present, Miracleman attends his celebration, then afterward seeks solitude on a high balcony, and he thinks, not without some pensiveness, about the world he has created.
COMMENTS: And so we conclude Moore’s statement, and arguably his condemnation, of the superhero. If one were to exist, he says, he would eventually take over the world. As we have seen, when you strip superhero stories of their cartoon violence and substitute real violence, it becomes clear that the only way one could keep the peace is by taking control. It’s a controversial statement, and as we have discussed on this thread, it’s really not the only statement. Moore has shown in other stories, such as Supreme and Tom Strong, that it doesn’t have to be this way. Sadly, much of Moore’s work has been misconstrued by those trying to ape its popularity. But instead of an intelligent statement about the comic-book superhero from the imitators, we got grim and gritty. Violence was played up, grand adventures played down. Yet what Moore said he said with great eloquence, using superb plotting and memorable, believable characters. This work truly is a classic.
Back to specifics about this chapter, I do love the ambiguity of the ending. Was the world perfect? No, it was just radically different. In many ways, I don’t know how Miracleman’s world could function. With no money, what’s the incentive to work. What natural reward is there to clean public toilets, to properly dispose of hazardous waste or to build and maintain roads? Utopias cannot exist; this one included. I’m so glad we have Liz in this story. In a way, she represents us (OK, maybe just me). I don’t understand how sex in public is acceptable, and she’s perhaps the only person who can call Miracleman out on it. All he does is stammer. I love that image of the power Liz still holds over Miracleman. He’s more human than he thinks, and there’s something to society’s mores that, in his godhood, he is turning a blind eye, too.