Friday, April 29, 2005
MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN Epic Comics, 1989
Only a Brit could come up with a character like Marshal Law.
I don't know what it is over there. Is it the water? The weather? The lack of adequate dentistry? Whatever it is, British writers and artists have been creating the most fucked-up comics for decades now. Americans my age grew up reading Spider-Man and X-Men - Brits grew up reading 2000 AD and Judge Dredd. When American comic companies need somebody to write something depraved, they hire a Brit. I think it says something that in gun-toting America, The Punisher is written by an Irish guy. My pet theory is that the more outwardly polite and reserved your society is - I'm looking at you, Japan - the more twisted and subversive your pop culture becomes.
Marshal Law is the creation of writer Pat Mills and artist Kevin O'Neill, two demented people. Law lives and works in a nightmare future America, where he hunts and kills superheroes. You see, Marshal Law fucking hates superheroes. Bad. He slides into his weird bondage/gimp/Rob Halford outfit and mercilessly guns down his prey, who are usually analogs of existing American heroes. That's about all you need to know.
Epic published a Marshal Law series, as well as a number of sadistic/funny one shots and mini-series like this one. In Marshal Law Takes Manhattan, the good Marshal is hunting The Persecutor, a paranoid right-wing Punisher-type who has taken refuge in The Institute, a towering asylum for insane superheroes in New York City. Marshal Law goes to the Insititute and kills everybody. That's the story, which may not sound funny, but trust me, it is a frickin' laff riot -- if you like that kind of thing. (I do.)
During the big climax the crazy-ass superheroes bust out of the Institute when the water tank on the roof bursts. The deranged heroes -all Marvel parodies - blast out of the top of the Insititute skyscraper, plunging towards certain death many stories below. Hilarity ensues.
Here's "Daredevil" attempting to stop his fall with his usual grab-the-flagpole move:
Here are more superheroes plummeting to their death:
I think you can guess how this ends - beautifully.
Marshal Law Takes Manhattan is a transcendent work of fiction that challenges our long-held ideas of violence and sanity and the role that our governments and societal establishments play in defining and shaping these ideas. Who is insane? When is violence acceptable? In the world of Marshal Law the State decides these questions and, with the complicity of other institutions, crafts our very notion of reality in subtle ways, as evidenced by the profusion of seemingly trite signs and graffiti throughout the book. These scrawled messages represent the subliminal ways that the dominant paradigm is continually reinforced and our notions of acceptable/unacceptable behavior are kept in place...
Okay, I'm just fucking around. The big take-home message from Mashal Law Takes Manhattan is: violence is funny.