So this is the sequel to Elliot S! Maggin’s Last Son of Krypton. This time round, a demon possesses a female time-traveler and causes so much chaos that Superman will eventually be forced to kill her, contradicting his moral code. Lex Luthor has also invents magic. If anyone in fiction could, it would be that guy.
What makes Maggin’s Superman stories so memorable is that he takes these characters far more seriously than their absurd situations necessitate. I think that if most writers were to write the story of an alien man who flies around in blue tights, that they’d either play it for comedy or cartoonish action. Not Maggin – he writes these characters with so much depth that their bizarre actions make a sort of sense. His Lex Luthor comes across as a criminal combination of Leonardo da Vinci, Willy Wonka and Sherlock Holmes, or a collection of vices grouped around hyper-competency. His depiction of Superman is even more impressive, a moral exemplar with godlike powers who relies on his Clark Kent persona to relate to the humans he protects. This book proves that superhero stories can be emotionally mature without relying on darkness, if they have believable characterization.
I thought the plotting in Miracle Monday is all over the place. While the demon possession storyline was intriguing, not enough of the novel seemed dedicated, but maybe that’s just because demonic schemes ratcheted up in the last quarter. There was a lot of emphasis on Supermans day-to-day activities, which is hardly a bad thing, given that his everyday life is hardly going to be everyday. Flashbacks were also frequent in the early portions of the book, although these did establish the origin of Superman’s no-kill code, so that’s cool. Reading this book, I got the impression that many of the things that happened within it were stories that Maggin had been wanting to tell about Superman for a while, but couldn’t get it right in the comic format. It was also plain that he really loves these characters and has a lot to say about them.
If this is quality of prose fiction we can expect about Superman, than DC comics should consider beginning a novel range based around their heroes. I’m certain that Maggin has more Superman stories in him, and with writers like Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman in their orbit I’m certain they could produce some truly memorable literature. More cynically, novels would be an easy way for DC to market their heroes to readers uncomfortable with graphic fiction.
Obviously Miracle Monday will appeal to Superman fans like myself, but I think this book would also be good for people who want to see Superman at his best. It’s also required reading for anyone thinking of making a Superman film, because Maggin knows how to do Superman justice.