STARTING BOOK THREE: OLYMPUS
By Alan Moore and John Totleben
SUMMARY: Time has passed, and things have changed — radically. It’s now 1987, and Miracleman looks out from an unbelievably high window at London. He calls it “the toy city” and thinks of its “toy citizens.” Then he walks to a throne underneath two giant statues and begins composing. “I have legends to write; tales of how it feels to live in a mythology.” We return to where we left off the story. Johnny Bates, in a boys home, is being relentlessly teased, but he refuses to release Kid Miracleman. Meanwhile, Mike leaves Liz and Winter at their apartment so he can clear his head with a walk. In a park, he encounters the Mysterious Couple. Cornered, he turns into Miracleman. The Couple speak a word in an alien language, and suddenly they, too, have new bodies. Miracleman attacks, but he is knocked back. The two speak a different word, change bodies again and attempt to trample Miracleman. In defeat, he thinks of his wife and daughter. The attack stops. “They read minds,” Miracleman thinks, “and hadn’t known my child existed until I’d told them.” One of them leaves. At their apartment, Liz is bothered by two knocks at the door. The first time, it appears no one is there. The second time, the alien breaks in and goes after Winter. Just then, hands reach around from behind the alien and crush its larynx. Without the ability to speak, the alien cannot change bodies and is incapacitated. The person responsible: a female version of Miracleman. In the present, Miracleman takes a break from writing. He looks down from his high place upon the people. “Each evening, I walk the airless battlements … and scatter to the night’s cold vectors the ashes of their unopened prayers.” It’s a very different world.
COMMENTS: There have been notable instances of a writer coming onto a book and changing things radically in his first issue, such as Jack Kirby moving Jimmy Olsen into the Fourth World line at DC, or Walt Simonson slyly allowing someone else to pick up Thor’s hammer at Marvel. Less frequent is a writer doing it in the middle of his own run, but that’s what Moore has done here.* As in the final chapters of “A Dream of Flying,” Moore abandons linear storytelling and decides to use flashbacks the rest of the way. The world is different in the new “present,” but we don’t yet know how different or even why it’s different. Also clouding things is Miracleman’s narration. As Mike noted In Book One, Miracleman has thoughts like poetry, and I think he leaves no metaphorical stone unturned! Still, for a first chapter, it’s an incredible hook.
* — OK, I can think of Peter David shifting the action in The Incredible Hulk to Las Vegas in the middle of his run, so others have done it.
If that's Dauntless, what happened to him? And why would he have been wearing a uniform with a hat?
But ... I suppose it makes some sense ...
CONTINUING BOOK THREE: OLYMPUS
SUMMARY: In the present, Miracleman visits the part of his massive home used by his female counterpart. We learn that the building is so tall that airplanes fly beside it, not above it. (How many stories is it? Miracleman is somewhere in the high 700s!) His counterpart has dedicated herself to changing how the world views love and sex. “She operates a worldwide cable system” and offers “visitations to the chosen, to the faithful.” Miracleman’s thoughts drift to when they met. Back in the past, with one alien incapacitated, the other calls a truce as he requests medical help. Miracleman almost continues the fight, but then he sees her. “Wait. Wait a minute. You’re … you’re Miraclewoman. […] That was a dream, wasn’t it? One of Gargunza’s illusions … and anyway, you died.” They sit, and Miraclewoman fills him in on the missing details. She’s Avril Lear, a former teen orphan who was kidnapped by Gargunza like Moran and the others. Only she wasn’t part of Zarathustra. Gargunza took her and another teen, Terrence Rebbeck, and used diverted funds to construct a place where he could conduct further experiments. Without Archer to curtail him, Gargunza’s sadistic side emerged. He raped the sleeping Miraclewoman repeatedly and videotaped himself as he did so. In her dream scenarios, she was often bound and gagged, much like early comics heroines. He created her in hopes she might breed with one of the males and produce the child he needed to achieve immortality. Rebbeck became Young Nastyman, allowing Gargunza to explore his own depravity through the adventures of a comic-book villain. Eventually, Rebbeck’s mind snapped. He awoke and fled into the world, not knowing it was any different from his dreams. Trying to keep his failure under wraps, Gargunza released the Miracleman family to find him under the guise of a test mission. He released Miraclewoman, too, hoping he could achieve both his ends at once. The four Miracles met, but ultimately didn’t team up. Miraclewoman backtracked Rebbeck’s trail to Gargunza’s secret bunker. There, she found out her origin and how Gargunza had mistreated her.* Instead of crushing her, she found herself freed from whatever symbolic bondage Gargunza may have held over her. “Besotted by my liberty, I swore I’d keep it.” She located Rebbeck and attempted to free his mind, too, but he was beyond redemption. Their fight led to a volcano, where Reddeck was killed in an eruption. She was thought dead, but she survived (yes, the erupting volcano birthed a future love goddess). Meanwhile, Gargunza fled Zarathustra to South America, and Archer redirected the Miracleman family onto their final mission. Miraclewoman reverted to her human self and lived a normal life for years. On occasion, she changed bodies just for the experience but otherwise kept her secret. Her tale finished, the alien hurriedly collects Miracleman and Miraclewoman. To get his partner to safety in time, he has called in the enemy of his people. Two other aliens appear, called Warpsmiths, then all of them vanish, leaving Liz and Winter alone in the apartment. Back in the present, Miracleman floats past a statue of him and Miraclewoman in a naked embrace. “In her compassion, she has shown the ugly, brilliant, dull and beautiful alike a love they understand, making them whole.”
COMMENTS: Moore has accelerated the narrative greatly. Heads that were spinning after Chapter One must resemble a toy top by now. Miraclewoman’s back story fills in gaps we didn’t even know existed, yet it’s perfectly plausible given what we know of Gargunza. Like many readers, I’m sure, Miraclewoman’s view of sexuality left me uncomfortable. In a way, she seems to have installed herself as the ultimate porn star, but under the guise of socially acceptable porn. Is this Moore imposing his views of sex onto the book? Maybe, but Moore is building a pantheon here, and any pantheon needs a goddess of love. Moore is showing what one does, much like Neil Gaiman did with Astarte in Sandman. And, in an attempt to psychoanalyze Miraclewoman, remember that she watched herself being raped repeatedly by Gargunza, yet she claimed to suffer no ill effects from it. Could her hypersexuality be a response?
* — Count the flashbacks: In 1987, Miracleman is remembering the time in 1982 that Miraclewoman told a story about the time in the early 1960s when she watched video of herself from the 1950s!