By “The Original Writer” & Garry Leach
At some point in every comic reader’s career, the title Mircaleman invariably gets mentioned, a discussion sparked. Hailed as one of the greatest superhero stories told by legendary writer [REDACTED], and artist Garry Leach, the British reincarnation of Captain Marvel has been elusive to those unfortunately born too soon to enjoy its initial print run. When discussed with fans able to reminisce about the launch and American release of the title, their eyes typically glass over, their gaze impulsively looking beyond the conversation, entering a trance of comic fan bliss. As the years passed and legal disputes continued, Miracleman became more than just a compelling read: a run of the comic became quintessential for any serious reader or collector. 30 years after its initial release, Marvel has finally been granted permission to reprint and even expand upon one of the holy grails of comic reading. Has [REDACTED]’s story telling withstood the test of time, is Marvelman shouting “KIMOTA” still capable of sending reverberations of bliss through the minds of comic fans? Or has the overextended delay of reproduction and overzealous reminiscence doomed this reconciliation of the past from the very beginning?
To start, this is absolutely an [REDACTED] comic. His style, his tone, and everything comic fans have come to love about the writer are present and accounted for. Handling the rehabilitation and reintegration of a somewhat dated superhero is never an easy feat, and the British Scribe fields the task with confidence and panache. With a bit of Kirby drama, and a whole lot of darkness characteristic of many now canonical 1980s superhero enterprises, Miracleman’s return simultaneously pays homage to its roots while taking bold strides towards something new.
It becomes apparent very quickly that groundwork for future projects was being laid, even from the origin of the new Miracleman. A changed world, a hero from a bygone age with outdated morals and perspectives unwittingly dropped at the starting line of chaos. Every bit of it feels like a proto-Watchmen: exploration of the meaning of “hero” in a society refusing to believe in such rubbish. With the ability to look back in time to the ‘80s and see comic history as it unfolded, the comparison is little more than instinct, which is a damning notion for Miracleman’s individual identity.
Against the legacy of an entire generation’s worth of influential storytelling, this illustrious comic feels like a fading echo behind the voices of its peers. Perhaps the magnificence comic fans remember requires a few issues to warm up, and maybe it’s unfair to judge this comic against an entire decade of authoritative stories, but from the first story alone the hype is a bit hard to feel.
As for the reprint side of Miracleman, Marvel has produced a product that is similarly two-sided in quality. On the one hand, the art restoration has entirely fixed the brightness and contrast issues of the Eclipse printings. Every page is entirely readable, and a lack of ink bleeding through newsprint opens up the art brilliantly. Leach’s artwork vibrantly explodes off the page and the nuances of his style are much easier to appreciate. Yet, the recoloring this comic has endured feels out of place and too modernized. Symptomatic of many modern reprints of older material, the styles and embellishments employed by the color restoration team, techniques unavailable when this comic was first made, may work in some panels, while making others look muddy.
Beyond its restoration issues, the superfluous content not only gives these reprints and unnecessarily inflated price tag, it makes the comic feel bloated as a whole. Reprinting classic stories is one thing, but forcing content nobody cared about during its initial release at a premium price is just lame.
So where does that leave fans yearning to read and relive one of the most acclaimed yet evasive [REDACTED] stories ever told? Although it is now widely available, and unfinished content will finally be completed down the line, the long-awaited reprint of Miracleman seems to have arrived with more of a forced “hurrah,” than with an enthusiastic bugle fanfare. Being able to finally read this story at an affordable (yet inflated) price is excellent for penny pinching collectors. But if each issue is as crammed as this first one, it might be worth it to wait for the trade.