Sunday, September 28, 2008

Marshal Law--Fear and Loathing Prologue (June 1990)

"I was five when I felt the magic... The whole Jesus League of America was assembled... Stigmata... Shroud... Virago... Sin-Gorger... Monstrance... Private Eye... Devil's Tool (later known as Rubber Johnny)... Black Abbot and his ward Red Riding Hood... Purgatory and Whipping Boy... and their leader: super hero supreme... Colonel Buck Caine... The Public Spirit.

They were there to announce man's first mission to the stars... I didn't understand it all... especially the way girls made a fuss about him... but Buck seemed above that sort of thing... Soon after, he ascended into Heaven...

Years later, I tried to follow him... Instead... I descended... into Hell."

Joe Gilmore was an impressionable young lad who idolized the Superman-type that was the Public Spirit. Colonel Buck Caine saw it as God's will that he should join the astronauts Sherman and Lomas in their mission to reach Nemesis, our sun's dark companion star. "Travelling close to the speed of light, the round trip had taken two years... While, due to Einstein's Theory of Relativity, a quarter of a century went by on Earth." In the meantime, other artificially empowered beings were created by S.H.O.C.C., Super Hero Operational Command and Control, to fight in a Vietnam-style quagmire called the Zone. "Doctor SHoCC says... 'Thanks to my unique operation, you can go into combat without fear! When wounded, an electrical stimulator in your body will cause fat nerve fibers to generate fast impulses, closing a 'pain gate' at the spinal cord before slower pain signals from thin nerve fibers reach it. Result: No pain! Because no pain impulses can reach your brain!'"

Gilmore enlisted, joining the Screaming Eagles in a jungle nightmare, serving under McGland and alongside the future Suicida. "While back home... the long-awaited 'Big One'... the mega-quake... arrived. Nothing... would ever be the same again. Downtown became a no-go area... controlled by warring gangs. The new times... called for new solutions. New ways of dealing with law-breakers."

"After the Big One destroyed San Francisco... after the war in the Zone ended in stalemate... after the super heroes came home... It was time for... Marshal Law."

The utterly, irreparably devastated San Francisco was re-dubbed "San Futuro." The utterly, irreparably devastated Joe Gilmore was re-dubbed "Marshal Law." In his own words, "I'm a hero hunter... I hunt heroes... Haven't found any yet... Bad old days... Bad new days... We'd come full circle... Only now the outlaws were called super heroes... Lot of people say I hate super heroes... That's not true, you know... Well, all right... it's partly true... Okay, it's true. I hate the way they look... I hate what they were ordered to do. I hate what they turned us into. 'Cos God help me, I'm one. Only one who wanted the job of doing it to his own."

An eight page prologue to the 1987 "Marshal Law" mini-series from Epic Comics was created by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill for the 1990 trade paperback collection "Fear and Loathing." While rather decompressed when compared to the dense original story, the introduction was so seamless that it led directly into the cover reproduction of the first issue, a virgin offering that appeared as though it were a silent story page. The piece is filled with in-jokes and references to future volumes, and is the sort of extra I miss in the perfunctory collections of modern times. Trades were still an extravagance back then, you see, and having read most of the story in that volume, I can't separate the "extra" in my mind from the whole (especially a callback to a couple of gag panels in the second issue.)

Marshal Law #1 (October 1987)

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