For the most part, we conceive time in a linear fashion. What happened a moment ago is what we call the past. What is happening right this moment is what we refer to as the present. The countless experiences we are going to have to endure after this moment, we call the future. But the more we learn about how we conceive of time, the more fluid our definition of it must become.
Why am I beginning a review of the new hardcover collection of The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury from Archaia Comics with a discussion about our understanding of time? Because time is what this book is really all about.
Sure, on his website Brandon Thomas, Miranda Mercury’s writer/creator, will say this about his main character:
She’s the greatest adventurer in this, or any other galaxy, the kind of old-fashioned, classic science-fiction heroine that can successfully defeat The Time Raiders of Xaxium, brave the wonders of The Glass Planet, survive The Perils of Yor, and battle The Infinity Class to a veritable standstill!
And this is a fairly accurate description of the character. Miranda Mercury does, indeed, kick some serious ass. She’s got the moves, the sass, the smarts, and the strategy to make her a great action hero, and the stories in this collection have plenty of action and are really fun to read. I don’t want to make a big deal out of the fact that here we have a comic book hero who is both female and black (although in the wake of recent events this is certainly something that should be acknowledged), but it is truly refreshing to have this character be the sort of hero she is, neither in spite of or because of her gender or race.
What really separates The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury from a typical sci-fi adventure comic, though, is how it deals with the concept of time. To begin with, the subtitle to this collection is Volume 1: Time Runs Out. This is, on the surface, a reference to the fact that the stories in this collection are about Miranda’s last year of life. She has been poisoned by her arch-enemy with a compound that will cause her vital systems to slowly degenerate over the course of a year. A lot of the subplots in this collection are focused on that, both in terms of Miranda’s understanding of her own mortality and what sort of legacy she wants to leave behind, as well as providing an overriding motivation for her sidekick, Jack Warning.
This aspect of the time theme really allows Brandon Thomas to explore his characters and bring them to life, not in a pandering way either. This struggle in particular really allows the characters of Miranda and Jack to be heroes.
The other way time is used in The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury is to structure the narrative itself. Although this is the first collection of Miranda’s adventures, it starts at Episode 295. Thomas and co-creator (and artist) Lee Ferguson did this on purpose. They start Miranda’s adventures in the middle, as it were, respecting the audience enough that they will understand this conceit, as well as to tease the audience into wanting more of a back story. It’s an interesting narrative design, and in lesser hands it could easily disintegrate into chaos. But Thomas and Ferguson have a tight clamp on their story and pull this trick off deftly.
Throughout each self-contained episode in the collection, time is also a toy that the creators play with, especially in Episode #297, which Joe Casey calls “pure storytelling bravura” in his Foreword. It is something that has to be experienced to understand, but this episode is an incredible feat of time-manipulation and narrative ingenuity.
Throughout the book Lee Ferguson’s art is sharp, dynamic, and often times just beautiful to look at. The work of the various colorists should also be noted for its vibrancy and creativity.
All in all, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury works on pretty much every level. It has everything in it that I love about comics. From dynamic characters to fantastic action, from inventive storytelling to thematic intelligence, there’s something for everyone here.
I think Brandon Thomas himself said it best:
This entire project is an intensely personal, yet very public, love note to the comic book medium. Miranda Mercury is everything that I’ve loved about comics since I was introduced to them in the seventh grade. The kinetic storytelling, the unexpected twists, the intensely complicated partnerships, the crazy villains and gadgets, the imagery, the morality—but more than anything else really, the possibility. Nothing is impossible in comics, and this romanticized notion is at the core of the Miranda Mercury concept…if anything can and will happen, why the hell isn’t it? Why aren’t there more comic books willfully pushing against the walls the marketplace has built up around them? When did we just start accepting everything we’re told—that female characters can’t headline books unless they’re running around half naked, or that titles with minority characters don’t have a chance in hell of making it past their sixth issue. This book endeavors to take the rules and restrictions, expose their lack of validity in public and say with every bit of possible intensity that can be mustered, I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.
The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury Volume 1: Time Runs Out contains the kind of comics that reminds you why you read comics in the first place. I can’t wait to read Volume 2.
Daniel Elkin has been reading and commenting on comics since the mid 70’s. He also used to wear a great deal of brown corduroy. He lives in Northern California surrounded by Great Danes, a fact which he insists was never part of the plan. Daniel has worked in bars, restaurants, department stores, classrooms, and offices. He is a published poet, member of MENSA. He is also a committed father, gadfly, bon vivant, and can over-intellectualize just about anything.
P.S. He keeps a blog, Your Chicken Enemy.