Once again I turn to Grant Morrison, the only UK writer it seems to unequivocably love superheroes to sum up Marshal Law in his book Supergods:
Grant Morrison: "[Pat Mills] saw superheroes as emblematic of regressive, reactionary forces and disastrous foreign policy. They were America's self-delusion, a fantasy of US omnipotence that Mills depised and set about eviscerating with the glee of a revolutionary on the purge... This was hardcore lefty comics, taking the superhero back to his socialist roots with a shot of sleazy, antisocial satire".
|The man himself.|
One thing that is most noticable is the sheer amount of content in these six issues, there is tonnes of detail including excerpts from a thesis examining the psycho-sexual image and influence of superheroes in the Marshal Law world written by Marshal's civilian identity's girlfriend (she is unaware of his violent alter ego and has amusingly determined that Marshal Law must be gay), as well as pertinent quotes from real world publications kicking off each issue.
|Marshal Law, Public Spirit, Celeste and Sleepman|
|Sleepman's twisted credo.|
The action then cuts to a Celeste strippergram desperately trying to outrun the Sleepman. He catches her and throws her off the top of a building say she "must fly". She lands near a "hero" called Sorry, The Nearly Man, whose only power is that he has a tail. A criminal gang led by a hero called Gangreen find him with the body and decide to mete out some justice, but before they can kill Sorry, Marshal Law arrives and saves him. He fends off Gangreen who promises to beat him next time.
|Marshal beats down Gangreen|
Marshal Law: "They're just the symptoms... I'm after the disease!"
The narrative jumps forward a little, and Marshal finishes his shift and changes into his civilian identity of Joe Gilmore and returns home to his flat where his fiesty, feminist girlfriend Lynn is waiting. When she sees Celeste on TV she has the following disgusted reaction:
Lynn: "God, look at that sexist cow. The unbelievably long legs... the enormous bosom... the mass of hair... and the exceptionally small head. Do you realise her head is smaller than her breasts?"
|Lynn and "Joe".|
The Public Spirit gives a speech, then Marshal asks him if there is anything he is not capable of. Public Spirit gives a trite answer to the affirmative so Marshal starts listing superpowers Public Spirit doesn't have and begins to fluster him before holding up a small card asking if he goes around with a bag over his head raping women. With Public Spirit on the ropes he then goes on to accuse him of killing Virago because the possibility she was carrying his child would have disqualified him from the star mission.
|It's a valid question...|
When Marshal realises the latest Sleepman victim was Lynn he his completely gutted, holding her boody close to him in grief. Then the Sleepman releases the supercriminals held in a stockade nearby and as they invade the Superdome Marshal engages in some cathartic hero killing.
In the chaos Marshal fights his way to the Sleepman. It goes to show how nihilist this comic is that when the villains throw children exhorting them to fly, unlike say, Miracleman, no one is there to catch them. The Sleepman and Marshal fight though Marshal is no match for him. The Sleepman grotesquely cradles Marshal's head thinking "I love you", then flies off.
|Sleepman's "real" face.|
Marshal: "The photo didn't do her justice. It didn't show the food stains on her blouse or the dandruff on her shirt. Or that she'd opened up my world."
Back at his base, Marshal is told that the Sleepman and the Public Spirit share the same blood group. Marhsal wonders if the motivations for the killings is jealousy. He meets with his boss who describes himself as a super-liar. He tells Marshal the Public Spirit is to be left alone at least until after his wedding to Celeste.
Commissioner McGland: "I explain about the scandal and I appeal to his patriotism. He looks uneasy. He's always had that weakness...he still believes in the dream. That's why he hates the Public Spirit. He thinks he betrayed the dream."
He then tells Marshal that the Public Spirit is donating a million dollars to the home for down and out heroes. Marshal has to give a speeach and it nearly kills him, especially afterwards when he and the Public Spirit deal with Gangreene's men outside and the Public Spirit slaps his back describing it as a "team up". Marshal just thinks that the Public Spirit is safe until the cheque clears and after his wedding Marshal will be coming for him.
The action then cuts to Marshal Law and his neverending war on the superhero gangs. Mrs. Mallon's grocery store gets trashed in a battle. Meanwhile Danny has found evidence that the Public Spirit uses steroids, which Marshal Law says his increased sex drive would be another pointer to his guilt. Marshal then questions Father O'Brian to clear up something that's been niggling him. He wants to know why O'Brian wouldn't marry the Public Spirit and Celeste. O'Brian admits that the Public Spirit told him that he drowned Virago all those years ago because she was pregnant but he suspects she survived and gave birth to a son.
We then return to Celeste getting ready for the wedding, just after she dons her bridal gown, the Sleepman comes crashing through her window. Marshal arrives on the scene to find her dead, violated body.
Marshal Law: "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Should have realised it was you all along. Only I wanted it to be him so bad."
He then goes down to where the Public Spirit is waiting with the rest of the guests. he wants to shoot him dead, but controls himself and grabs one of the servants instead. He pulls of her wig to reveal Mrs. Mallon, who in turn reveals herself to be Virago.
Back with his childhood, everytime he expressed an interest in heroes, his mother spanked him calling heroes "filth" and "bacteria". When he was bullied at school he used his powers for the first time to kill his tormentor. After this, with Danny now a teen, Virago tells him the truth of who his father is. She says that when he grows up he'll get his revenge for her, he says he'll make them all "suffer".
Danny: "The war dragged on for years with no definite direction. It seemed to me that Doctor SHOCC had made an excellent job of ruining countless young lives... as my parents had ruined mine."
When Marshal Law returned to wage his war on the criminal superheroes of San Futuro, Danny's hacking skills got him accepted into the police force and assigned to Marshal. Virago commands him to kill Celeste but he couldn't face her at first and started killing surrogates. He and his mother tried to manipulate Marshal Law into killing the Public Spirit and nearly succeded. Now he waits for Marshal Law as his parents argue about him.
|Worst. Parents. Ever.|
Danny: "...now I'm out of the way you can go after father. Now he's finally killed mother he can't escape justice. And I can sleep forever."
Lynne: "The archetypal sun hero who proves his manhood by destroying things with phallic beams."
Marshal says this proved to him that the worlds greatest superhero was a "dickhead". He and the Public Spirit fight as Marshal reflects on how he used to idolise him as a kid. The Public Spirit knocks Marshal down then accuses him of being a negative influence on Danny, how if it hadn't been for his hatred of him, Danny might have been able to resist Virago. The action during this has been cutting back to Danny in a hospital bed, the psychiatrist has presented him with two artificial mothers to choose between. Danny mumbles "ma.. ma.. Marshal Law."
|Kind of a one-sided battle really.|
Public Spirit: "They expected too much of me."
Marshal Law: "They wanted you to be a superman."
Public Spirit: "It's impossible! No one can be superman! No one!"
Then suddenly his brains are blown out by a police sniper. Marshal Law's boss says that they'll be covering all this up and arrange for it to be known that Public Spirit went out in a plane crash, much to Marshal's disgust. The story ends with a mourning Marshal Law visting Lynnes grave.
|Marshal at Lynn's graveside.|