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:



Ouch.

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.

15 comments:

Ian said...

Garth Ennis is from Northen Ireland, not Scotland.

I loved the first Marshall LAw series and this one looks great. Kevin O'Neill is one of my favorite artists.

David Campbell said...

Damn it!

Thanks Ian...

Tim S said...

This is one of those comics thatI just hated. I dunno why. Usually I love parody and violence. Maybe I just thought the ham-handed, too-obvious parodies of Marvel characters were too obvious and ham-handed.

On a generalnote, I really love this blog. You always have something interesting to say!

David Campbell said...

Hey, thanks Tim!

Ken Lowery said...

Well, America may be gun-happy, but we got NOTHING on Ireland re: modern violence.

Psychbloke said...

Didya catch those brilliant superhero parodies that featured way back in Ennis and McCrea's Hitman? - Dogwelder and The Defenestrator - truly hilarious....!

DougBot said...

My favorite new character in Hitman was Nightfist.

HE WILL HIT YOU WITH HIS FIST!

That makes me laugh every time, almost as much as Doom Force Special #1.

Anonymous said...

Bueno...

NiolK said...

Props for the Rob Halford dig.

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