Saturday, 30 March 2013

Marshal Law Takes Manhattan

Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neill
Crime and Punishment: Marshal Law Takes Manhattan (1989)
At some point around five or six years ago I noticed that I owned one hell of a lot of books that I'd never read, and in fact there were a good few which had been sat on my shelves for no less than two decades without my ever having quite got around to cracking open the cover. This struck me as depressing and ridiculous given how much I enjoy buying books, and reading them when I remember to do so. So I spent some time catching up and made a promise that never again would I fall back to such pathetic habits, and so was born my to-read pile, which I strive to keep down to as few titles as possible at any given time. When the pile grows tall, I try to hold back from further incrementation with any new purchases until it has resumed manageable size, which isn't easy as I enjoy browsing in book stores and buying books.

This requires a certain amount of self-discipline. You might say it constitutes work in some sense, and it therefore feels like a kick in the teeth when my patience and restraint are rewarded with something like E.E. 'Doc' Smith's Masters of Space, anticipated as a literary bouquet of vintage fun and wonder, experienced as akin to a burping sex offender wiping his spent tool on my sandwiches. In need of some sort of brain enema by which I might flush out the lurid gunge of stacked scientist chicks who could pass for seventeen if you know what I'm saying, I opt for comfort food, retiring to bed with a big stack of comics and a carton of Little Debbie Swiss rolls.

And so once again to Marshal Law...

The one-off Marshal Law Takes Manhattan is as short and sharp a shock as you're likely to find in a comic that actually has a story as opposed to being just a sequence of pages of people being punched in the face, although there is quite a lot of that going on here as well. To suggest that Pat Mills' psychotic future lawman lacks subtlety would not be so much an understatement as just a deeply fucking stupid thing to say, roughly equivalent to whining that the Les Humphries Singers' 1976 Eurovision entry 'Sing Sang Song' is the worst industrial hardbeat track you've ever heard. Subtlety is neither the point nor the means of its delivery. Marshal Law is about direct upper case statements broadcast at maximum volume, or if not exactly statements, then insults, sarcastic remarks, and wilfully prurient observations - if Batman had started out in Viz comic drawn by members of Crass, or something. It's very noisy and very funny, on this occasion biting the entire arm that feeds - this originally having been published by Marvel's Epic line - by recasting the Avengers as the unfortunates of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. As a superhero comic written by a guy who really, really hates superhero comics, it's very, very funny; as a comment on the genre, it's merciless; and as a satire of American foreign policy, it hits its target dead, absolutely chilling and without a word wasted.

Jesus - I needed that.

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