Second issue at the $5 price, and we’re finally starting to get our money’s worth of the reprints. This issue folds in three installments from Warrior #6-8, wrapping up Mick Moran’s confrontation with Kid Miracleman (and redefining the superhero format along the way). But the treat is the focus on Warpsmiths in the other reprints, which are colored from black and white by original artist Garry Leach (and Kellustration) and introduce the whole space opera universe into which the Miracles will soon be thrust (if not judged unworthy and eliminated).
The main installments are beautifully rendered for maximum drama and style by Davis and Leach, and Davis also provides a cover showing he’s lost nothing over the years. This is when we meet Mr. Cream, a colorful (blue teeth) but rather dated Bond-type assassin who might have once been the Yaphet Kotto or Michael Clark Duncan dream role. He’ll be our gateway to Zarathustra, but no reason to rush.
The return of Miracleman puts a lot of people in danger. It’s also basically a djinn story mixed with Jekyll/Hyde, as the protagonists magic words free their more powerful selves, who must then be tricked back into their boxes if they go bad.
The story in the back is at first almost impenetrable, but that’s just the way the Original Writer had of immersing us in an alternate world of alternate rules. Culture shock was the mode of science fiction then, the better to be convincingly alien. Four clownish youths infiltrate a secured complex as a bit of a joke; they speak some sort of futuristic palare patois. As they appeared in a British comic, this is just the Original Writer’s way of signifying that they are young and hip and kind of stupid. It’s beyond easy to imagine them played by the likes of Kate Bekinsale and Michael Sheen. We don’t have to understand their references to sense their personalities. An even stranger, quiet moment comes later, when a Warpsmith apprentice is comforted by a senior officer, with an elegant few words that suggest volumes in their obscure clarity.
Leach outdoes himself contrasting ridiculous clown costumes with militaristic attire, as the reckless band is so opposite to the ordered hierarchies of the Warpsmiths. The latter find “distance” an intriguingly alien concept, but they do live in time and must ascertain if the youths are agents of their enemies, the skin-suit prone Qys, quickly. It turns out they are more like dupes, as aggressive Llans Ivo attacks and neophyte Uxu Chil overreacts and makes a tragically bad choice. She also appears to be Isabella Rossellini with extra nostrils, which gives us the eighties most of all.
Turns out there are layers within layers and ruses within ruses, but we are also given a spectacular battle between future Earth hero Aza Chorn and the mole in their midst. That’s what made this time in the Original Writer’s career so exciting; while he’s redefining what comics can be about and pointing out to his followers just what they’ve always been about (Nietzsche and Nazis, pretty much), he’s also delivering the goods as far as the expected mechanics; battles that break things and slice up bodies, high stakes, hints of a worlds much grander than we know.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Somehow that led to him writing the Harvey Kurtzman entry for Icons of the American Comic Book: from Captain America to Wonder Woman (2013). He is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), an NGO of UNESCO.