Friday, 8 May 2015

Miracleman, Book 3: Olympus Review (Alan Moore, John Totleben)


That’s it, I give up! I’ve struggled for two weeks to get through this third and final book in Alan Moore’s Miracleman trilogy and I can’t do it; it’s too depressing. I gave up on page 62, just over the halfway mark(!), but I’m going to review it anyway partly because not being able to finish the book says something about it in itself but also because the 62 pages I read were some of the worst comics pages I’ve ever read. 

So spoilers from here on out because I have to get specific. 

Mike Moran and his wife Liz have had their baby daughter, Winter. Winter is growing exponentially quickly, mentally more than physically, and has already surpassed Miracleman’s powers. Meanwhile some aliens try to murder Liz and Winter; Mike and Liz’s marriage breaks down; and Miracleman and Miraclewoman go discuss space politics with some aliens. What happens afterwards and how it all ends, I don’t know and I don’t care. 

The single biggest complaint I have about Olympus is Alan Moore’s writing. To say it is grossly overwritten and pretentious is an understatement. You’ve heard of “purple prose”? Moore surpasses it to some fathomless level only he occupies. Dense, overloaded sentences describing nothing - what can laughably be called the “plot” is already moving at a snail’s pace but Moore’s rendering of it through Miracleman’s endless monologues and self-important soliloquies make it excruciating to wade through. 

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about: 

“There came a word with syllables that rattled like a night train steaming nearer through the blackness with its cyclops lantern glaring, ‘til it hit and all the world was burned away in one white moment.” p.24

“Through rare and iridescent pigments glisten on the palette of mankind’s desire, they obstinately choose to sketch their love in charcoal, while in secret dreams they smear their fingers through forbidden violets, oranges and blues. They must be taught, though colourblind with guilt, to fathom the impending borealis: taught a new chromatic scale of passions and delights.” p.22

“My words smoulder, cooling upon the open page. I cross to the windows, heels dusted with sparks. More than a thousand floors below, wind-driven clouds drag zebra skins of sunlight and shadow across the waking city. To the north, the same breeze drives the painted sails of windmill forests that wring electricity from clear skies. The great vanes turn, serene as kites, gorgeous and hypnotic as the fans of geishas. Looking down, London becomes a composition of smoke-blues and forties-film-grey, viewed by an abstract painter, or one suffering from aphasia.” p.20 (this monologue goes on for three interminable pages) 

Still with me? Imagine reading page after page of that drivel! Here’s some more, this time from when Miracleman and Miraclewoman go into space! 

“As if enjoying evening’s breeze, the And/oroid stands on a balcony with neither breeze nor evening, such ideas unknown here save by absences: by poignant holes left in the And/oroid’s small, abstract life. This comfort in a word unsaid or artifice unrealised they call (01000000), with no equivalent amongst the tongues of earth of other worlds.” p. 37 (this monologue goes on for 3 soul-deadening pages)

“A phosphorescent cancer that aspired to be a continent, Hir light dappled the furthest reaches of the auditorium’s dome, while platforms holding fifty souls or more revolved about Hir, both in orbit and in audience, was this, then, our tribunal?” p.43

Then Moore introduces some b-movie sci-fi plot: 

“Intelligent space is divided between the Qys Imperium and the Gulf World’s Confederacy, under Warpsmith rule. In perpetual coldwar deadlock, our vast empires coexist: have done so for eleven thousand years.” p. 43

And then we meet a character who literally talks like this:

“WE-WILL-COM-MUN-I-CATE-IN-IN-GUL-ISH-FOR-THE-CON-VEE-NEE-ENCE-OF-OUR-TE-REST-REE-AL-GUESTS.” p.44

Man alive. I don’t know why Moore is held in such high regard as a writer - this is horrible, horrible writing! If you read the first Miracleman volume, imagine a book-length version of that Warpsmith nonsense. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Alan Moore comic without a woman getting raped in the first 25 pages, so we get Miraclewoman’s tedious origins: getting repeatedly raped while unconscious! The space politics - I kept getting flashbacks to the Star Wars prequels which also had the most boring focus on space politics. Why?! Guys, this shit is not interesting!! 

I’m pretty sure Moore was stoned out of his mind when he wrote most of this book and, being the good hippy that he is, his solution to all the aliens’ problems? Love. Just love each other, man, have an orgasm - have two! I gave up when Miracleman started doing his galactic dance. 

You know what makes Olympus worse? The first two Miracleman books were pretty good. I didn’t view them as the greatest superhero comics ever written, which many of Moore’s fans insist upon, but they were decent. Why Olympus went so wrong, so quickly, I have no idea - maybe Moore began believing his hype that he was the greatest writer in the universe and always will be? Because his writing is so pompous and stuffy, it’s a wonder he saw what he was typing with his head wedged so firmly up his own bum!

A word on this 2015 Marvel hardcover edition: Olympus is actually only 120 pages long. I didn’t know this when I bought it - I thought this was a 328 page big finale. And it is 328 pages long, it’s just most of it isn’t comics. Besides the 120 pages of the actual comic people are mainly going to be picking this up to read, there’s 20 pages of a previously unpublished Grant Morrison Miracleman script drawn by Marvel head honcho, Joe Quesada, and a Peter Milligan short drawn by Mike and Laura Allred. 

But Moore’s writing left such a bad taste in my mouth, I not only gave up the book but didn’t want to read these extras - and I’m a fan of Grant Morrison and Mike Allred! 

That only adds up to 140 pages of comics though - there are literally 180+ pages of filler! This consists of “behind the scenes” stuff, showing John Totleben’s sketches, how the original pages looked contrasted to the remastered pages. We had this in the first two Miracleman volumes and, even if we didn’t, wouldn’t a few pages of this suffice? Do we need to see the entire comic as pencils?! There’s even more padding with sketches and covers. 

This edition is so obnoxiously overstuffed with way too many extras (in the same way Moore overstuffs his sentences with verbiage), it made me hate an already dislikable comic that much more. The extras are literally longer than the actual comic. And all so Marvel could charge more for the book! Fuck. You. So much, Marvel. 

Miracleman, Book 3: Olympus was one of the most miserable reading experiences of my life - and I suffered through V for Vendetta, cover to cover! Don’t let anyone tell you this is a masterpiece or the greatest superhero comic ever put to paper. The first two books are ok but the third is complete and utter garbage, so much so I’m not sure it’s worth even recommending to check those two out seeing as where it heads is Moore believing he’s the comics Shakespeare. This book deserves no stars and no stars it shall receive.

Miracleman, Book 3: Olympus

2 comments:

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  2. I don't know Sam. I mean, this is fairly shallow and simple reminded review. I know you've got some kind of personal quibble with Alan Moore among other writers, but still, you've got to get past this and recognize the good and the bad. Now I do recognize that Olympus doesn't have the macho energy thing that you love in most of your favorite selections, and I've noticed you generally feel some need to rise above critically acclaimed artists, but a little objectivity without personal baggage and maybe a little tolerance for poetic narrative would be good now and then.

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