By Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill (Titan Books)
The anti-est of all anti-heroes returns in this prime collection of excessive violence and unnecessary force that further lampoons the All-American Icon of the superhero, courtesy of those Britannic Hero-Harriers Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.
In 1987 Epic Comics, Marvel’s creator-owned imprint, published a six issue miniseries that starred a hero very much in the vein of Judge Dredd, but one who took the hallowed tenets of the superhero genre and gave them a thorough slapping, Brit-boy style, in the tale a costumed cop who did the Right Thing and did it His Way…
San Futuro is a Metropolitan urban dystopia built on the remnants of San Francisco after the Big Quake. America is recovering from another stupid exploitative war in somebody else’s country, and as usual the demobbed, damaged and brain-fried veterans are clogging the streets and menacing decent society. The problem is that this war was fought with artificially manufactured superheroes, and now they’re back they’re a dangerous embarrassment.
Marshal Law was one of them, but now he’s a cop; angry and disillusioned. His job is to put away masks and capes, but as bad as they are, the people he works for are worse. This establishing series was collected as Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing.
Being a creator-owned property, after a 1989 Epic Comics one shot ‘Marshal Law takes Manhattan’ (reprinted, out of sequence, in the third volume of his collected adventures) old zipper-face went with Mills and O’Neill to the British independent outfit Apocalypse, publishers of the talent-heavy 2000AD rival Toxic, which ran from March to October 1991. That troubled, influential periodical was preceded by a Marshal Law Special ‘Kingdom of the Blind’ at the end of 1990, which provides the first tale in this volume.
Although played for more overt laughs than the Epic tales the vented spleen and venom displayed in this captivating yarn is simply breathtaking as the creators put the boot into the most popular hero of the time. The Private Eye had trained himself to fight criminals ever since his parents were murdered in front of him. For decades he made the night his own, to universal popular acclaim: even Marshal Law thought he was the exception that proved the rule…
But when circumstances force Law to question his beliefs he uncovers a snake-pit of horror and corruption that shakes even his weary, embittered sensibilities, and makes him wonder why nobody ever questioned how one hero could get through so many sidekicks…
A second Special ‘The Hateful Dead’ began a two part odyssey wherein the toughest cop in San Futuro faced an undead plague as a Toxic accident (tee-hee; d’you see what they did there?) resurrected a graveyard full of dead supermen – many of them put there by Marshall Law -as well as ordinary ex-citizens to bedevil the conflicted hero-hunter. The story ended on an incredible cliffhanger… and Apocalypse went bust.
After two years Law jumped back across the pond to Dark Horse Comics, concluding the yarn in ‘Super Babylon’ as the resurgent Bad Cop quelled the return of the living dead and just by way of collateral damage devastated assorted superhero pantheons by ending thinly disguised versions of the Justice Society and League as well as such WWII super-patriots as the Invaders and Captain America (and all this decades before “Marvel Zombies” even stirred in their graves). In addition the creators couldn’t resist one more mighty pop at American Cold-War Imperialism that’s both utterly over-the-top and hilarious – unless you’re a Republican, I suppose…
Fiercely polemical and strident, this is nonetheless one of the most intimate of the Marshal Law exploits as Mills shows us another, softer side to the character and even introduces us to his family; but never fear, the uncompromising satirical attacks on US policies, attitudes and gosh-darn it, a whole way of life, isn’t watered down by sentiment: This is a series that always keeps one last punch in reserve and the superbly memorable art of O’Neill actually improves with every page.
This volume also includes back-up feature of sketches, variant and foreign-edition art to augment the experience of Futuro shock. Classically inappropriate mayhem; just who could resist it?
© 2003 Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill. Art © 1993 Kevin O’Neill All Rights Reserved.