The chapter’s final three pages couldn’t be more different than the first four. They’re more traditional, moving the main story forward rather than focusing on a single character’s point of view. The first four pages resolve the fight, resolving the previous chapter’s cliffhanger, and these final three pages move the plot into the cliffhanger that sets up Book One’s final chapter.
What’s most striking, as we shift to these final three pages, is the sudden disappearance of the somewhat claustrophobic captions that filled the first four pages. Those pages only had a single word balloon, on page four. These final three pages only have a single caption, on page five. But the captions haven’t been replaced with word balloons. Instead, page five is silent except for that one caption, and page seven has only eight words of dialogue. In the entire chapter, only page six has substantial dialogue, and even that page has more silent panels than panels with dialogue – the page’s emphasis is upon a single action of Miracleman’s.
It’s a startling mid-chapter shift. Both parts of the chapter also hold different meanings for the chapter’s title, “Inside Story.” In the first four pages, that title refers to the fact that each page gives us a look inside a different character. By the end of the chapter, however, that title has come to refer to the secret story behind Miracleman’s origins. One definition refers to internal conflict, while the other refers to external conflict and to the world of covert operations represented by Sir Dennis Archer.
Page five depicts Evelyn Cream progressing through the forest, much as he did on the chapter’s first page. An unconscious Big Ben comes flying through the trees. With his tie, vest, and a flower in his lapel, he’s an absurd sight, especially juxtaposed to the nature around him.
Cream walks past, accompanied by the single caption: “White man’s magic…” It’s the only text on the page, and it offers a callback to the first page. This single caption isn’t free of the racial tension of that page (and of Cream’s prior portrayal), but it does help to characterize the world of covert operations, of which Miracleman is a product, as a white world, into which Cream has inserted himself without ever resolving his own racial identity. The caption casts Miracleman as a kind of loa produced by the white religion of guns, assassinations, and coups.
As Cream arrives at the bunker, on the top of page six, he twice calls Miracleman “Mr. Moran.” This repeats his mistake on the penultimate page of chapter eight, which prompted Miracleman to respond, “You’re not talking to Mike Moran now, you know.” Here, Miracleman simply corrects Cream with one word: “Miracleman.” Cream now gets to respond, which he didn’t in the previous chapter. He stutters, repeating the name “Miracleman,” but it’s clear that he hasn’t fully grasped what Miracleman is, because he warns that “There will almost certainly be back-up troops in the area and proceeds to carefully attach dynamite to the bunker door. Miracleman tears the door off, dynamite still attached, and tosses it behind him.
It’s a rather traditional maneuver, in super-hero stories, for the super-hero to demonstrate his powers in such a way, despite another character not thinking of them. The effect of this maneuver is both comic, adding some light-hearted laughs between scenes of fisticuffs, and dramatic, in that it underlines the super-hero’s power. Both are on display here, and the comedic aspect is especially important, because what Miracleman is going to find inside the bunker is especially dark. But Moore and Davis redeem the cliché of this scene by giving us a full panel in which Miracleman watches, with a bemused look on his face, as Cream prepares the dynamite. It’s a small touch, but it makes all the difference. Miracleman is supremely confident in his power, and he looks charmed by this human’s lack of understanding, much in the way one might a household pet.
It’s surprising that Cream, who seems to be a very practical man, wouldn’t grasp Miracleman’s powers. We can rationalize that this is because Cream has spent his life in the world of black operations, which has trained his brain to understand dynamite as the correct response to a sealed bunker door. His world is defined by practical problems and practical, though often amoral, solutions. But there’s no mistaking that Cream is here playing the traditional role of the super-hero’s comedic sidekick. Despite all of his training, he’s reduced to playing a bit part in Miracleman’s comedic display of super-powers. This role continues, as Miracleman enters the bunker: following, Cream warns nervously that “There may be traps…” – as if these could hurt Miracleman, who’s already shown that all the obstacles put in his way are little more than distractions.
Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that black characters have often been relegated to comedic foils, and there’s something insulting about reducing the obviously talented Mr. Cream, who figured out Miracleman’s secret identity, to such a role. It serves a narrative point by adding comedy and underlining Miracleman’s power and confidence, but it’s a narrative choice not without racist overtones. By itself, we might be inclined to ignore or to forgive this, but Cream’s portrayal has been rife with such tensions. And despite his being given a full page (at the beginning of this chapter) to showcase his inner thoughts, these tensions aren’t yet over and will continue into Book Two.
On the final page, Cream catches up with Miracleman, who’s standing on a balcony and staring into a massive room. Something’s finally stopped Miracleman in his tracks, and it’s not flamethrowers, nor grenades, nor the “threat” of Big Ben. It’s a sight.
Below him, we see machinery of complex design and unknown functions. Despite this, they have levers and buttons on them that look a bit antiquated, like something out of the 1960s Star Trek.
We also see what looks like two skeletons fused together, one of which looks like that of a human-sized dinosaur. The motif of two fused skeletons recalls the fate of Young Miracleman, and we know that this is tied to Miracleman’s origins. We might even guess that this was a prototype of sorts.
Most ominously, we see a round screen on which is displayed the smiling face not of Miracleman but of Marvelman, from those old British comics. (American readers, or those unfamiliar with Marvelman’s history, may recall the image from Book One’s prologue, added for Eclipse’s American reprints.) Book One has come full circle.
There’s something creepy about that smiling face, with its spit curl, staring out at readers. Fantasy has just intruded onto reality. Miracleman’s memories of all those carefree adventures, prior to the destruction of the Miracleman Family, have just intruded into the realistic, recognizable world that Moore, Leach, and Davis have built over Book One.
This is the bunker of Project Zarathustra, a term Book One has now teased for several chapters. And it is the subject of Book One’s final chapter. In which Miracleman will finally learn his origins.
And in which Miracleman will once again follow through on its promise to (in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche) “teach you the superman.”
To be continued.