Years and years ago, a three-issue miniseries by the name of "Miracleman: Apocrypha" was put together by Eclipse Comics. It had a fairly high-caliber list of creators, and even featured Neil Gaiman (who had already taken over writing "Miracleman") creating bookends to put the other visions into context as their lack of continuity was explored. "All-New Miracleman Annual" #1 feels like an extension of that concept, with four very big-name creators tackling two "Miracleman" stories, and although both look gorgeous, ultimately neither of these feel quite right
Joe Quesada draws the opening story, and it's beautiful: seaside cliffs, titles carved into their surface, a pounding storm and a dark figure approaching a priest. These are all fantastic images Quesada sinks his proverbial teeth into. His rendition of the smiling, nasty, dangerous Kid Miracleman has a real menace to him, and not just because he's dressed all in black. There's an aura about the character that makes you fear him and want to stay far, far away. The art has a strong cohesive nature to it, and Quesada has taken the time for lots of little touches, like being able to see the priest's face reflected and magnified in the fallen spectacles' lens.
Unfortunately, Grant Morrison's script, written decades ago, is not the mark of what he's capable of these days. It's little more than a character study but, more importantly, it's a boring and trite one. The dialogue here is awful, cliche after cliche, and the narration leading up to it is so overwrought that it's hard to think of this being by anyone but a novice who has not yet learned to show rather than tell. This story is one where it's better to just look at the images, not read the words, because there is nothing at all to recommend about the script, save for that it gave Quesada something to draw.
Peter Milligan and Michael Allred team up once again for the backup story, set back in the day when the Miracleman family was still in Gargunza's virtual world. It's silly and disjointed and, while some of the bits are funny -- the dolphins being noteworthy in that regard -- it's a strange sort of shaggy dog story on the whole that has a series of unconnected events all strung together. When you get to Milligan's conclusion, it's hard to tell if his point is supposed to be about the nature of the world they're trapped in, the nature of today's comics or some strange combination of the two. Presumably, it's the final one, but even then, it doesn't hit its mark at all; it comes out of the blue and lacks any real impact when it lands on the reader.
On the bright side, just like the main story, it looks great. Allred is the sort of artist who can take the direction of drawing dolphins sitting around a campfire sharpening their spears and somehow present it as both funny and dangerous. The characters overall look fantastic, with Allred drawing in the clean, uncluttered style creator Mick Anglo used so many years ago. It's a handsome looking story, which is unsurprising considering who illustrated it.
I wish "All-New Miracleman Annual" #1 was better, but if anything, it's just a sharp reminder that Gaiman's success writing "Miracleman" post-Alan Moore is that much more of an impressive feat. It looks gorgeous but, considering the "All-New" part of the title, these stories have scripts that feel old and somewhat stale.