Saturday, 10 August 2013

Marshal Law: The Hateful Dead & Super Babylon

Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neill
The Hateful Dead (1991) & Super Babylon (1992)

Further disgusting adventures of Mills and O'Neill's leather clad lawman and anthropomorphic expression of hatred for the entire superhero genre: this one's roughly speaking a single story which ended up divided into two parts. The Hateful Dead was originally published episodically in the short lived Toxic! comic, then completed a year later in the one-off Super Babylon after Apocalypse Limited went under. Read in one go it makes for a somewhat patchy whole.

The Hateful Dead seems to be trying too hard - which is quite something for a Marshal Law comic, never really the James Taylor of strip fiction even on a quiet day - and the product placement gets a bit wearing after a while, barrels of Toxic! waste and the slogan go with the flow all being references to the weekly comic in which the story first appeared. Furthermore, read in one sitting, it's a little jerky with the narrative delivered in conspicuous eight page chunks, and with no clear indication of where it's heading beyond the general direction of loads more shocking stuff and veiled references to things going up the bum. Actually, on the subject of things going up the bum, I can't help but notice a lot of this in Marshal Law, alongside all the usual references to superheroes fiddling with small boys. I don't for a second doubt Pat Mills' credentials as a brother unto all regardless of race, sex, or orientation, yet at times I can't help but wonder if it doesn't sail a bit too close to those value systems it purports to satirise, and I think if I was myself keen on the chaps of the same sex in romantic terms, it would probably get on my nerves a bit.

The story roughly comes together in Super Babylon, and turns out to be Marshall Law doing to all those golden age superheroes what he already did to Superman, Batman and so on; so it's really another variation on the theme, except it feels like they've fumbled the ball a bit with the preamble, never quite finding their feet in the second half - to resort briefly to football commentary. The art is as ever fascinatingly weird, and some of the jokes are okay, but it all becomes somewhat didactic in places, and frequently in the wrong places so that the grimly serious message ends up jarring against all the up-the-bum-caped-kiddy-fiddler gags. The last few pages wherein the reanimated corpses of war veterans rise up against their golden age super-figureheads works well, but it's almost too little, too late.

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