A short-lived but disturbing comic book
series created by Alan Moore
It began with a "golden age of comics"-type segment with the "Miracle Family" (based on the Marvelman family of British comics, but renamed to avoid copyright problems) defeating an invasion by ruthless time-travellers from the facist future of 1984. Upon the time-travellers' defeat, the story freeze-framed on Miracleman's face and zoomed in, panel-by-panel, while quoting Nietzsche's line about the superman, "He is this lightning. He is this madness."
The story from that point forward was completely different, with the gradual revelation that the adventures of the Miracle family were all dreams or simulations used to program them as experimental weapons. We learn that the Miracle Family, with the exception of Miracleman himself, was killed in an atomic blast to end the experiment. Miracleman was severely injured in the blast and lost his memory, eventually rebuilding a normal life as a reporter.
Miracleman regains his supressed memory of the entire incident when he is involved in a terrorist incident at a nuclear plant. As the terrorists are dragging him through a hallway, he sees the word "Atomic" backward, printed on some frosted glass. He whispers "kimota" -- his "magic word" -- and suddenly is transformed into Miracleman once again.
Subsequent stories re-introduce Miracle Boy, who survived the blast as well, but never lost his memory. His story is particularly chilling, as he has never reverted to his "secret identity," instead growing up knowing he was the most powerful being on earth. The old "absolute power corrupts absolutely" maxim applies to him in spades. The evil Dr. Gargunza, the Miracle Family's arch-nemesis, is revealed in subsequent tales as the creator of the original experiment and the inevitable confrontation occurs.
As is fairly typical with Alan Moore's work, the Miracleman series is very bloody and disturbing. At one point, Miracle Boy kills just about every person in the city of London and we are subjected to horrifyingly hellish vistas of the city in flames with dismembered and mutilated bodies by the thousands. Other disturbing imagery in the series included rape, molestation, and child abuse.
The story is never lost amid the violence, however, and it never fails to be a moving and thought-provoking tale. It turns the standard superhero tales upside-down, not unlike Moore's Watchmen.
When Alan Moore left the series, Neil Gaiman took a stab at continuing it. Though Gaiman's take on Miracleman had some interesting ideas, it failed to capture the scale and visceral impact of Moore's work. It didn't last long.