We began discussion of “The Yesterday Gambit” last time, having previously introduced Miracleman and discussed its first, second, and third chapters. We now turn to the story of Alan Moore’s “The Yesterday Gambit,” from Warrior #4.
The story begins in Silence, the sanctuary Miracleman builds for himself at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in Book Three. There, Moore doesn’t do much with the place. Miracleman builds it, over the course of a few pages, in chapter four. It’s destroyed, over the course of a few pages, in chapter five. Based on “The Yesterday Gambit,” we can surmise that Moore intended Silence to be more prominent than it otherwise became. Moore almost certainly intended it to be the hero’s equivalent of Superman’s Fortress of Solutude, only located at the ocean’s deepest point rather than in the arctic – a logical improvement, keeping the sanctuary on Earth but moving it far more effectively away from human hands.
The depiction of Silence in “The Yesterday Gambit” differs from its presentation in Moore’s later Book Three. There, it seems gloomy, cavernous, and dark – otherworldly, even. Miracleman can see even at such depths and isn’t shown making any attempt at lighting. In “The Yesterday Gambit,” Silence is far more conventional. Steve Dillon, no doubt following Moore’s instructions, depicts both its exterior much more like a formidable human building, echoing the association with Superman’s “Fortress” of Solitude. Moore’s caption, along with Dillon’s art, indicate that the structure’s exterior is lit artificially, despite its depth. Silence’s interior also looks like a human structure, despite its grandiose design, and it’s clearly filled with air, not with water.
In the years between “The Yesterday Gambit” and Book Three, Moore thought better of this. He realized that it was illogical for Miracleman to illuminate his secret hideout, despite the cool visual this might allow. Similarly, Miracleman had no need to fill his underwater sanctuary with air. Given this, why follow human architectural designs so slavishly? In Book Three, Moore seems to have been able to better imagine how a truly superhuman mind would act than he was capable of doing in 1982.
The story is clearly from the start intended to be a flash-forward. “The Yesterday Gambit” takes place in 1985, which the captions call “a twilight future some three years hence.” Clearly, Alan Moore believed that he’d be wrapping up his planned story by that point, although he wouldn’t do so until 1988 – twice as long as planned. Such delays are common in the arts, which seem to always take longer than planned. But it’s worth noting that, while Moore learned to slow the story’s pace after its early, rushed chapters, Moore couldn’t have anticipated the bulk of his story’s delays. The idea that Moore would conclude his story in 1985 seemed perfectly reasonable in 1982.
The situation, as the story opens, is ambiguous. A caption tells us that it depicts Miracleman and Warpsmith “begin[ning] their struggle to save a world.” On the second page, Warpsmith goes further, saying, “If we fall, my friend, many worlds fall with us.” The extent of the story’s stakes are therefore established from the start, although the circumstances of the threat are unclear.
Miracleman welcomes an injured Warpsmith to Silence, indicating that Warpsmith hasn’t been there previously. That doesn’t contradict Book Three, as Moore eventually wrote it.
Asked about his injured arm, Warpsmith explains, “Warping here from the heart of that inferno has melted part of the derma-circuitry.” Presumably, Warpsmith therefore possesses the power of teleportation, by which he and Miracleman were transported to silence.
The location of “that inferno” remains unclear. Its cause is alluded to as Warpsmith says, “Firedrake and the others cannot contain the enemy for long.” Miracleman speculates that “Firedrake’s flame-out may have killed” their enemy, a possibility Warpsmith discounts. Clearly, Warpsmith is only one of several other super-heroes who would join Miracleman. This also doesn’t contradict Book Three: in chapter five, Firedrake’s attack is clearly depicted.
Miracleman and Warpsmith’s motivation is slightly less ambiguous. They rush to Silence’s “chrono-phaser,” which Miracleman says he’s “set […] up in accordance with [Warpsmith’s] instructions.” It is, for all intents and purposes, a time machine. This is another indication that Moore originally envisioned Silence as parallel to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, where Superman kept (along with mementos and the like) strange and alien technological devices.
Miracleman neatly summarizes, “Our mission is to trap a massive field of energy in warpspace, ready to unleash at will against our enemy.” “To obtain such a vast burst of raw kinetic energy,” as Warpsmith puts it, Miracleman explains that they will “engineer a physical clash” between different versions of himself, whom he calls “the most powerful source of energy readily available.” Warpsmith will somehow “contain the energies thus released.”
It is, of course, the silliest of comic-book plots. Surely, such technology, capable of traveling through time and containing vast energies, would have a more ready source for those energies than such a melodramatic conflict. Why would such a “physical clash” be necessary? And given the super-hero family to which these characters allude, is no one so strong as Miracleman’s past selves? That’s certainly not the case, in Moore’s later Miracleman, in which Warpsmith and the rest of the Miracleman Family is very much Miracleman’s equal, if not superior. The plot makes no sense, but it’s really only a dress for the joy of watching alternate versions of Miracleman hitting one another.
And of course, for an exploration of Miracleman’s history. That’s an odd subject, for what was only the fourth story in a series. Fortunately, as Warpsmith puts it, “The timefield will permit us [only] two excursions into your past.” Warpsmith leaves the selection of these two temporal destinations to Miracleman, who announces that his first choice is 12 February 1963, when the Miracleman Family was killed by the exploding spaceship.
It’s an obvious choice, given that it’s the only past event the series has dwelled upon. Of the three chapters published before this story, two explored this event: chapter one, through Miracleman’s dream, and chapter two, during Miracleman’s discussion of his past with Liz. Still, this will be the only time in the series that those events are depicted objectively, rather than through the filter of memory.
Next time, we’ll turn to the 1963 sequence, illustrated by Paul Neary.