Okay before I review this I guess I need to do a quick history lesson. Back in the 1940’s a comic-book publisher called Fawcett Comics created a new superhero called Captain Marvel. When young boy Billy Batson said the magic word SHAZAM, he became the adult superhero Captain Marvel who had the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. The character become a huge best-seller, even outselling Superman comic-books for time, and Fawcett created spin-off characters to join him, including Captain Marvel Jr. (who was actually his best friend, not his son) and Mary Marvel (his sister). A British publisher, L. Miller & Son, bought the rights to publish Captain Marvel comics in the U.K., simply printing reprints of the American comics. Then eventually Superman’s publisher DC Comics sued Fawcett claiming that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman. The case dragged on for years and Fawcett initially won the suit, but DC planned to appeal the decision. At that point Captain Marvel comics, like all superhero comics in general, weren’t selling as much as they used to in America, and Fawcett decided to just stop publishing them, leaving Captain Marvel in limbo for years (until DC Comics bought the rights to the character in the 1970’s).
But those Captain Marvel comics had still been selling extremely well in the U.K. So L. Miller & Son had a problem. Since there were no new Captain Marvel comics being published in America for them to reprint, they decided to simply change the character a bit and hire some new writers and artists to create brand new stories in the same tone as the original. So, with some quick changes the Marvel Family:
Become the Marvelman family:
Led by young boy Mickey Moran who become adult superhero Marvelman when he said the magic word KIMOTA (“atomic” spelled backwards and wrong) and joined by partners Young MarvelMan and Kid Marvelman, these comics continued to sell pretty good for almost a decade, before eventually be closed due to falling sales. In the early 1980’s Alan Moore, in some of his earliest pro-comics work, revived Marvelman for a new publisher in the U.K. creating a story set in the “real world” where Mickey Moran was an adult who had no memory of his past as a superhero until he suddenly remembers his magic word again and transforms back into Marvelman and…well, it gets pretty interesting there, but I’ll save the spoilers for some future reviews. Eventually that series was brought to America where, to avoid any copyright infringement problems with Marvel Comics, the character was renamed Miracleman. A few years ago Marvel Comics bought the rights to the character, and are currently reprinted the original Alan Moore series, which had been out of print for almost 20 years. This book however is a brand new comic featuring two all-new stories.
So…got it? Good.
THE PRIEST AND THE DRAGON: The October Incident 1966
Written by Grant Morrison
Drawn by Joe Quesada
This 11-page story opens with a old unnamed Priest walking along the beach by himself one day when Johnny Bates aka Kid Miracleman, who is now a vicious psychopath appears. He recognizes the Priest from a previous time and, well, let’s just say that this little reunion doesn’t turn out so nice. At least not for the Priest. I really can’t give anything anyway with spoilers, but this is written as a prelude to Miracleman #14, when Kid Miracleman goes on a bloody rampage in London. What I can say is that the art in this story is beautiful. I’d almost forgotten how great an artist Joe Quesada is, and this story makes me wish he’d go back to being one full-time. A nice story.
THE MIRACLEMAN FAMILY: Simply Miraculous
Written by Peter Milligan
Drawn by Mike Allred
This 10-page story is interesting in that it is written in the tone of the original Marvelman stories from the 1950’s which, as I said, were simply knock-offs of early Captain Marvel stories. Miracleman’s arch-enemy, the mad scientist Dr. Gargunza (a knock-off of Captain Marvel’s arch-enemy Dr. Sivana) has been hired by a crazy foreign dictator to build a death ray, but Gargunza double-crosses him and build a machine that makes people him all their money. Then a week later flying dolphins begin attacking the city. And then finally a supervillain called Young Nastyman goes on a ramage. In each instance Miracleman, Young Miracleman, and Kid Miracleman team up to stop the crime. But the twist here is that Miracleman starts noticing how silly all of their adventures are, like how no innocent bystanders ever seem to get hurt and how the villains’ plans always seem rather absurd. This is both a meta-commentary on the simplistic superhero stories of the 1950’s, but also a wink toward readers of the regular Miracleman comic who know that all of these former adventures that the heroes had were really just virtual reality programs designed to test their powers (spoiler alert, I guess). So it’s pretty clever on Peter Milligan’s. And Mike Allred’s cartoonish art-style fits the tone of this story perfectly. I hope those two get another crack at writing for these characters in the future.
The comic also features some behind the scenes info. It includes a copy of Grant Morrison’s original script present side-by-side with the black and white pages of Quesada’s art, as well as the black and white pages of Milligan and Allred’s story. Altogether this makes this comic well-worth buying.