Page 45 Review by Stephen
Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham's first of three MIRACLEMAN Ages, perfectly accessible to newcomers. If you've not encountered Alan Moore's run on MIRACLEMAN, no matter. I've not read it in 25 years and, in any case, this is a completely different game, a completely different genre.
In fact, it's a series of short stories in multiple genres with Mark Buckingham employing multiple styles using multiple media - often in the same chapter.
This is "What if Gods walked among us? What would our lives be like?"
This is not their story; this is ours. And it is ever so rich in ideas.
"It was the best of times.
"And what was miraculous was this: everybody knew it...
"For once in our history, the Golden Age was not separated from our hearts and minds by the incomprehensible gulfs of misty-eyed time. It was here. It was now. It was ours.
"God was in his Heaven...
"All was right with the world."
In a book spanning seven years we will meet individuals whose lives have been changed by the Age of Miracles and the catastrophe in London which preceded it.
It begins overlooking London and the gleaming, golden statue of Miracleman posed like Lord Nelson atop his column, before pulling ever upwards to take in the Thames and the unimaginably vast new Pyramid, Olympus, which we see rising above the clouds, above the atmosphere, far more visible from space than the Chinese Wall as the sun blazes behind our globe, then finally above them both, above us all... Miracleman gazing down upon us, this thoughts, his perspective, unknowable.
In the first chapter we meet a man who lost everything in London except Hope. He lost his family in that atrocity but now he is making a pilgrimage along with three others, climbing Olympus to pray and petition. Imagine: making a pilgrimage not to some city made holy through associations with the past, but to petition God himself in the flesh.
At the foot of the steps, the base of this cathedral, Buckingham has created the most massive vaulted ceilings most minds' eyes couldn't even contemplate, coloured in gold by D'Israeli like so many more Baroque details to come which are embossed with the Miracleman logo. One is left in no doubt of the awe shared by these strangers. The colours become trippier under more modern, neon installations, a hint of the frazzling some minds will suffer as the atmosphere becomes rarer, one individual undergoing a complete Bill Sienkiewicz, expressionistic meltdown.
And what will they encounter at the top? What are their prayers? How will they be answered?
The second tale is told during a post-coital cigarette, Jason's first, to a lover under cover of the sheets. It's of his own little miracle - an encounter and an escape to the seaside full of period British details.
The third also involves a love life, drawn with an apposite '80s poster chic reminiscent of comics' Paul Smith, as a whisper from lonely John Gallaway is overheard by Miraclewoman high up in the sky during in an electrical thunderstorm. He has retired to a countryside windmill which forms part of a worldwide network powering the planet after becoming disillusioned by imperfections in his lovers. Typing those two sentences reminds me just how intricately Gaiman layered his ideas.
Next up is the one episode which might require a bit of prior MIRACLEMAN knowledge, but there is a full-page recap at the front of the book. It's a discussion between two school children - and arguments between others each drawn in a different kids' cartoon style about the increasing probability of modern miracles - about the possible return of Kid Miracleman, the cause of the catastrophe in London, just as Jesus rose from the dead. I like the flipping of the sides there. The one thing that puzzles me still about the interlude is why the girl is drawn like Jaime Hernandez's Hopey. I'm sure once someone points it out, it will seem ridiculously obvious. Is it the anti-establishment angle? Possibly, yes. I know why the whole is drawn as it is: for the sake of a punchline I don't think you'll see coming. I know I didn't.
And so to my favourite, 'Notes From The Underground', the characters drawn in white pencil crayon (a chalk-like effect) against almost pitch-black subterranean scenes of photorealistic classical beauty reflecting Olympus above them. They're lit by D'Israeli in dark purples and greens like a tropical nocturnal house in a zoo.
Down below Mors is resurrecting the dead into android bodies, like Andy Warhol who really is a scream. He's actually Andy 6 because there are multiple, identical copies - of course there are! Andy is success-orientated, money-fixated, fey, jealous, bitchy and ever so slightly vacuous. It's a perfect impression!
"I wish there was money down here, though. Without money, how do you know you're doing well?"
It's a recurrent joke which becomes cumulatively funnier. I won't spoil it for you.
"We've started telling each other stories.
"I like stories. Stories make me happy.
"The trouble is, he wants me to talk, too, and I just like listening, and watching.
"I stayed away for a few days, but then the other Warhols started asking if we'd had a tiff. They're rats.
"I don't like myself very much."
As I say, a perfect portrait as are Buckingham's. That particular scene with its immaculate compositions made me howl.
As you can probably tell by now, so much of this is about the human heart. Society may have changed - science or miracles too, but the human heart hasn't and, as much as anything else, this is a book of contemplation.
Our next heart belongs to Rachel Cohn, a film director who wanted a child to melt a cold place inside her: someone who would adore her, need her and never leave her - at least not for long. Her partner's certainly unfaithful. So she applied, like other childless women, for a donation of Miracleman's seed. The result was beautiful baby Mist, who looks like a two-year-old toddler but doesn't need her mother at all. She floats in the air, glowing, and can traverse the globe in a second. There's far more going on in her head than it looks. She doesn't say "Mommy" but "Mother".
"Mother? How's the new movie going?"
"It's fine, hon."
"That's good. I saw the last one."
"Did you like it?"
"Mm. It was okay. But metafictions have an intrinsic distancing effect I think you're foolish to ignore: the ideas were strong, but if you don't care about the people, then what does it matter?"
Out of the mouths of babes...
There's a children's story within this story told at bedtime which contains an awful lot of "Good-bye"s.
All these individuals we will meet once again after a grainy, photo-referenced 'Spy Story' of signs, countersigns, double- and triple-crosses, and reality-eroding, raging paranoia.
Like the opening gambit, 'Carnival' is a pilgrimage, this time a public one where our by now familiar faces join tens if not hundreds of thousands celebrating the Age of Miracles in London after five days of mourning the modern holocaust. It's a truly inclusive affair, a climax which concludes with a boon, an act of divine beneficence, the one gift so many of us dream about.
Next: The Silver Age.
After that: well, that one is all about Them.