Thursday, February 5, 2015

Miracleman #14 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

When I did some research on "Miracleman" before getting the first issue, it was clear that issues #15 and #16 were going to be particularly brutal.  At first, that didn't seem to be too high of a bar.  It wasn't like the first few issues were tame exactly; after all, Miracleman spends most of issue #2 with a burnt-off face as a result of his confrontation with Kid Miracleman.  But, they all seemed within the bounds of the adult-oriented comics that an independent publisher in the 1980s would be producing.  The violence steadily increased over the next few issues, with Cream's decapitated head narrating issue #7 and Moore describing Gargunza serially raping Miraclewoman in issue #13.  The art also got more graphic, such as the scenes showing Liz giving birth in issue #9.

This issue is clearly a prelude of the heightened level of violence to come.  Johnny Bates is raped by a sadist in the home where he's lodged, and it forces him to release Kid Miracleman to protect himself.  I'm not a fan of rape as a plot device, but Moore at least doesn't make this one as gratuitous as Miraclewoman's.  (Just writing that sentence makes me feel dirty, in a moral-relativism kind of way.)  Moore makes it clear how Johnny's Dickensian existence over the last few issues finally pushed him over the brink.  In fact, the scene is made all the worse by the fact that Johnny seems to understand just how terrible what he's doing is; he keenly feels it as a failure on his part.  Moreover, the returned Bates' rampage through the home is a level of brutality that I'm not sure I've seen in comics; his cruel murder of the nurse reminds us that he has become evil incarnate.

On Johnny, I'll say that I'm interested to learn more about him.  Moore's thesis when it comes to him is that absolute power corrupted him absolutely.  It's a valid thesis, but I'm not sure if it explains his actions.  Losing his grip on humanity after spending so much time as Kid Miracleman is one thing.  But, why would he feel the need to murder indiscriminately, as he does here?  On some level, wouldn't the nurse be beneath his notice?  If you really view yourself as a god, why bother with the little people?  I feel like we're missing the explanation for why he decided to use his power in the way that he does, to damage humanity, since ignoring (or helping) them remained a completely valid option.  I feel like Moore is going to get there in these next issues, so it's not a complaint so much as a question.

Looking at the rest of the issue, we continue to get future Miracleman's weird narration as he dances some sort of dance, presumably in his fortress.  But, more importantly, we witness the "death" of Mike Moran in this issue.  Liz has been driven to leave Miracleman since she can't take the pressure of existing as a lesser being to her husband and daughter, and Winter, freed from her concern for her mother, departs to find the Qys and learn more about her powers.  Having lost everything connecting him to his past life, Mike hikes into the mountains and turns into Miracleman for the last time.  It's a profoundly sad moment raises all sorts of questions about whether he's now on the same path as the one that Johnny took.  But, again, it goes to this question about motivations:  what turned Johnny bad but what might keep Mike good?

Finally, we get some more insight into the mythos of this world, learning that a "firedrake" is the first person on a planet to create fire.  We meet an ancestor of Earth's firedrake here, learning that the Qys originally came to Earth to find him.  (Their crash provides the impetus for the creation of Miracleman.)  We're also reminded of the other "extraordinary" being on Earth:  "Big Ben."  He appeared briefly in issue #4, a failed post-Gargunza experiment driven insane.  It'll be interesting to see if he appears again.  We also watch Miracleman construct his subterranean lair, "Silence," a reflection of the loneliness that he feels now that he's lost his family (and, in a way, himself).  In other words, a lot of hints about the future that we've seen previously in this series are starting to come together.

*** (three of five stars)

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