We’ve begun discussing chapter ten, the conclusion of Book One, of Alan Moore’s Miracleman, illustrated by Alan Davis. Today, we continue our exploration of that chapter.
The chapter’s first panel has no less than six captions, constituting Archer’s cover letter to his report on the incident. We don’t learn an awful lot from these captions, except that Archer has offered his resignation in response to what’s happened. We also learn that he could have called in additional soldiers (as Cream warned, at the end of the previous chapter) but thought it pointless, given Miracleman’s demonstrated prowess. And we learn that he arrived, with others, at the bunker at 3:40am on the morning of 9 July 1982. (It’s only through this reference that we know the dates of the two days during which chapters seven to ten occur.)
The accompanying art by Alan Davis sets the tone immediately, and it’s one of devastation. Most of this damage was done prior to this chapter, but the tone is communicated nonetheless.
Archer’s cover letter stresses, in bureaucratic language, that these were “extraordinary circumstances” to which he had to react. Of course, he’s not wrong. But a rampaging super-hero is quite ordinary indeed, in the universes in which most super-hero stories are set. What Archer recounts is only extraordinary because of Miracleman’s realistic approach, in which the world must react to the presence of a superhuman. And because Moore and his collaborators have done their job so well, what we see here does feel “extraordinary,” despite it not featuring a single super-hero battle.
Archer’s report begins with Big Ben reviving and heading to the bunker, which we’re told occurred at 3:35am. The report also summarizes what Big Ben thinks is happening: that Miracleman is “Major Molotov” and that the bunker controls a death ray. This helps recap things, for readers who might have missed or might have forgotten previous chapters, but it also helps to set up what follows, since what Big Ben thinks, thanks to what Archer calls “para-reality programming,” is key to this chapter’s story.
It’s curious, from a practical or realistic standpoint, that Archer’s report would start with this, although it does help to set up elements for later. It’s also another example of this final chapter’s astounding indirectness. Not only is the chapter told from Archer’s point of view, after the fact, but the story begins with Archer, then precedes to Big Ben, before finally getting to Miracleman. In this way, we feel as if we’re approaching Miracleman, getting closer to the story’s subject and to the truth, which builds dramatic tension.
Even then, Davis’s artwork begins at a distance, with the dual skeletons in the foreground and the silhouette of Evelyn Cream in the background. Everything’s at a remove, and quite deliberately so.
Over these images, Archer’s report jumps backward in time to 2:39am, when Miracleman and Cream “breached” the bunker. This nicely ties back to the end of the previous chapter.
So far, the three times given by Cream regress backwards in time: Archer arrives at 3:40am, Big Ben revives at 3:35am, and we begin with Miracleman at 2:39am. It’s another case of this final chapter beginning at a remove and only slowly approaching our protagonist. From here, though, time continues rapidly, progressing beyond what we’ve previously seen.
Archer’s report explains that Miracleman and Cream presumably spent “the next half hour” looking around. Archer notes two sets of skeletons, each set a fusion of two beings’ remains. Only one set, with at least one of its skeletons obviously inhuman, was visible at the end of the previous chapter; Archer calls it as “the skeleton(s) of the Visitor.” Archer narrates that Miracleman and Cream would have also seen “the mounted hull fragment of the Vistor’s craft.”
It’s not hard to figure out, from this and the inhuman skeleton, that Archer’s referencing something extraterrestrial. But he doesn’t come out and say it, which helps add to the chapter’s slow reveal. It’s also a case of Moore letting the reader be smart and piece things together, which helps condition the reader to imagine how Miracleman later felt, upon learning his origins.
But there’s a second set of fused skeletons, not seen at the end of the previous chapter. Archer calls this “the skeleton(s) of the dead superhuman.” Both of the skeletons that are fused together appear human. Aiding identification is a convenient plaque above the skeletons’ head. What we can make out reads “Young Mirac” but disappears behind the fused skulls. Obviously, this is the remains of Young Miracleman, who died in the 1963 incident and whom Miracleman (in chapter two) said looked, as he died, like “two bodies crushed into one.”
We can guess that seeing Young Miracleman’s remains would upset Miracleman. But Archer’s report rightly notes that these sights “would not have produced a reaction ferocious enough to devastate millions of pounds worth of technology.”
Appearing in the final panel of page one, this is the first indication that Miracleman exploded with rage. It’s the first we’re hearing of what’s happened to our protagonist, who’s strangely disappeared from the story right as it was about to conclude.
And this frames the rest of the chapter as a mystery, which Archer’s report is attempting to solve.
What a fascinating, unorthodox, and brilliant way to tell this story.
As we turn the page, Archer begins to solve the mystery of “the monster’s apocalyptic outburst.” Archer’s report warns us that the precise trigger is impossible to determine. And he notes that “we are dealing with a mind that is not human” – a fascinating hint about how Archer and his superiors see Miracleman, or “the monster” as Archer has consistently called him.
Nonetheless, Archer is able to use the evidence available to get closer to an answer to Miracleman’s rage. He notes that “Cream and the monster” turned on “the master video display” at 3:10am, then proceeded to watch it for “three quarters of an hour.” And at 3:56am, “the creature known as Miracleman went suddenly and inexplicably berserk.”
The trigger must therefore have been “the video tapes and the documentary evidence contained therein,” which Archer adds (since this is an official report) contained “several key sequences of a classified nature [that] were viewed in their entirety.”
This, then, is the mystery of Book One’s final chapter: what sequence set Miracleman off?
Archer’s report generally avoids melodramatic language, which continues to place readers at a remove. But Alan Davis’s art doesn’t have to be so restrained. And so most of page two shows a shocked (and beautifully rendered) Miracleman, tearing up a console.
The first two pages of “Zarathustra” could be considered a kind of prologue, setting up this mystery. Moore frames the story brilliantly, abruptly distancing us from our protagonist at a key point in the story, which makes what we’re reading feel more suspenseful and important. But Davis’s artwork brings this concept home emotionally.
Seeing our protagonist so enraged and acting so violently, without motivation, may be shocking. It’s all the more shocking because it’s not a super-villain, like Kid Miracleman, who’s inspired this in our ostensible hero. It’s something he’s seen. Something he’s learned.
All of this become emblemized in Davis’s image of a raging Miracleman. How did we get to this point, after the conclusion of the previous chapter? Moore’s shifted perspective before, but never so abruptly or surprisingly as this. Especially for an eight-page concluding chapter, it’s hard to imagine a more dramatic set-up.
It’s important that it’s Archer who presents this to us. Archer considers Miracleman a “monster.” All along, Book One has teased the danger, the very real threat represented by superhumans. That’s implicit even in Miracleman’s return, in which he blinds and burns the terrorists without a second thought, and in which his dialogue briefly refers to Mike Moran as little more than a prison. The battle with Kid Miracleman, the likes of which super-hero comics had never seen, also suggested the dangers implicit in such powers, should they be turned loose. Miracleman’s condescension, in dealing with the obstacles on his way to the bunker, echo his smile as he’s shot by those terrorists, right after his return. There’s something menacing in him, implicit in his power and just beneath the surface. And now, Miracleman himself is lashing out.
There’s no evidence that Miracleman is going evil, or going the route of Kid Miracleman. But in Davis’s image of an angry, violent, out-of-control Miracleman, we seem to be seeing the proof that Miracleman is very much a “monster,” or at least monstrous.
This is what happens when you anger a man who smiles confidently as he’s being shot.
It’s all well and good to call super-heroes gods. But this is what happens when you anger a god.
To be continued.