The cover for Miracleman #24, by Barry Windsor-Smith

Miracleman Book 5 - 'The Silver Age'
Eclipse Comics

Covers: Miracleman #23-24
Neil Gaiman
Art: Mark Buckingham

Probably the most famous incomplete comic story, 'The Silver Age' is something I greatly dislike. Not because it's rubbish. On the contrary, it's very, very good. It's just every time I read it, it gets more frustrating. You keep checking for extra pages, scrutinising the few pages of #25 that have emerged, hoping to find something more. But there isn't. It just ends, just as it's really starting to pick up.

It's obviously a little difficult to judge an incomplete arc. For all we know the wheels could have come off somewhere in the next couple of issues and the rest of 'The Silver Age' could have been dire. On the other hand, it could have made 'Olympus' look like a Bill Jemas comic. But what we do have is very, very good. Dicky Dauntless is back alive, and he doesn't like what Miracleman's done to the world. Young Miracleman basically takes centre-stage for the two-and-a-bit completed issues, and it's great to see him after four books of flashback appearances. His 1950s attitude is rather charming, and casts him sympathetically against Miracleman's grandeur. The dialogue is brilliant, straight out of the L. Miller material, and Gaiman wonderfully articulates the feeling of a character totally out of his depth, but putting on a brave face about it, stiff upper lip and all that.

That said, we do have the downside to 1950s values as well, as Dickie clearly isn't elated at the presence of Huey Moon (and not simply because there's no real point to Huey Moon). But it's hard not to be sympathetic as he's forced to absorb all the information Miracleman has had decades to gradually adapt to in just a few moments (especially when Miracleman brutally tells him the truth of his mother's death), especially as he cries himself to sleep at the end of the first chapter. His gentle, frail nature is expertly contrasted with the superpowered brats overrunning the world, playing out superhero games.

His naïve excitement about seeing America, or Australia ("I want to see a real live kangaroo"), or his embarrassment when asked by Kay if he wants to fuck is quite endearing, while his conversation with Miracleman concerning Johnny is interesting (as is the assumption Dicky makes that Johnny's body in the documentary Veneer is a victim of Kid Miracleman... considering Miracleman's frankness with him about Dicky's history, that he ignores some of the uncomfortable details of London - that he killed Johnny because he was unable to stop Kid Miracleman - it's more than a little hypocritical and thus perhaps a nice hint that he is still human after all). And the hurt is palpable as the one person he trusts betrays him by forcing himself on him - whether Dicky is gay isn't here or there, the poor lad's had his world turned upside down.

The other central characters aren't in it much, which is good - it allows Dicky the centre of attention, with Miracleman as a kind of ersatz guide. It allows Young Miracleman plenty of space, and it keeps the holier-than-thou Avril out of the way. Talking of whom, what is she up to? And this is where it all gets a bit too frustrating... Where was it heading? Well, geographically, Tibet, but I meant more philosophically. What pencils we have seen from #25 are fascinating, as Dickie is haunted by Kid Miracleman. Is he going to go bad? Where does Avril fit into it all? What brings the whole Golden Age crashing down?

Argh. I was tempted to give it no stars out of pure, malevolent spite. Trust Neil bloody Gaiman to give us six issues of middling filler, and then pull out this lot. He's obviously found the confidence to do more with the Miracleman universe than simply play with crumbs left by Moore, and what we do have of 'The Silver Age' is superb, absolutely classic. Would the rest have been as good? Maybe. It doesn't look like we're ever going to find out now, seeing as everyone's too involved in a legal pissing contest to sort out finishing the thing. Damn shame.