Feb ’18 – Marshal Law: Fear And Loathing

Posted: February 8th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Review | Tags: | No Comments »

“They say I don’t prey for my enemy.

I do.

I pray they go to hell.”

It’s hard to say what’s the more amazing thing about this Marshal Law comic. Is it the book itself, or the fact that EPIC Comics – which was essentially MARVEL under their creator-owned imprint guise in the ’80s and ’90s – published it?! Regardless, it certainly has to be one of the greatest ‘inside jobs’ in the history of comic publishing, EPIC/MARVEL letting two of Britain’s finest (and angriest…. and crazed!) creators, writer Pat Mills and artist Kevin O’Neill, loose on the superhero ethos. Naturally this dynamic duo step up to the plate and let rip over six issues of quite the most glorious and subversive cloak clobbering mayhem….

….hmm, looks a bit like Pat Mills…?

San Francisco has been destroyed by the “Big One”, the mega-quake, and what remains, San Futuro, is devoid of the colourful optimism of the classic era of ‘men in tights’ that preceded it, the Jesus League Of America. It is instead populated by warring gangs, pumped-up, government-generated, semi-superheros-cum-soldiers-cum-superheroes who think they’re still in “The (war) Zone”. Add to this a diseased and deranged killer known as The Sleepman – “I wear a bag over my head because I’m shamed of what I am. And what I’m going to do” – who is going around killing women who are dressed as Celeste, the super heroine recently engaged to the hero supreme, Public Spirit. Among all this insanity lurks Marshal Law, the city’s official ‘Cape Catcher’….

You could argue that this is all just an (excellent) excuse to allow O’Neill free reign to draw page after page of mindless violence, his panels peppered with wildly imaginative gigantic grotesques – such as the Gangreen Gang – and countless sly background slogans that give the whole thing a distinct ‘underground unleashed overground’ feel. But it’s a testament to the sheer skill of the creators that a panel like that above – a simply rendered face off between Marshal Law and the Public Spirit, crammed into the story amid all the brutality and chaos – is able to genuinely stop you in your tracks, to draw breath and sit up and take notice. And really make you think….

Even better is the fact that 20 years later this comic still feels as dangerous and as unhinged as it must have done when it was originally published. It’s not just the politically charged content courtesy of Mills. Or the fact the pair seem to be mercilessly tearing down the establishment from the inside. Nor is it O’Neill’s stunning art – he’d bring the same manic momentum to the following Marshal Law Takes Manhattan and Kingdom Of The Blind comics. It is perhaps the feeling that mainstream comics – the “Big Two” – still haven’t really moved on from here and that, unfortunately, for every target gleefully taken out another simply springs up (not so) fresh in its place. And while MARVEL might have learned their lesson publishing-wise it seems obvious DC Comics weren’t paying too much attention, as they gathered together a wonderful Deluxe Edition of everything Marshal Law in 2013. Highly recommended….

“I’m a hero hunter.

I hunt heroes.

Haven’t found any yet.”

Leave a Reply