If you haven't read my two previous posts on Marshal Law then here is a quick summary. He's an ex-soldier from a catastrophic war between the US and various South American countries. Genetically fiddled with, the soldiers were given super strength and resiliance and when they returned to civilian life many ended up very messed up and Joe Gilmore became Marshal Law, a secret policeman who specialised in dealing with "heroes" roaming the wreckage of the former San Francisco now renamed San Futuro after a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the city. At the same time the government was making supersoldiers they were also creating more traditional superheroes as propaganda tools, who were murderous, venal and corrupt yet worshipped by the masses. The first miniseries I looked at, "Fear And Loathing" saw Marshal Law tangle with "The Public Spirit" his earth's Superman analogue. The Public Spirit was assassinated by the government after becoming an embarrasment to them with his drug fueled murderous antics. This 1991 one-shot follows directly on from that first miniseries and has a very somber tone. "Marshal Law Takes Manhattan" which came after this one saw the finger of fun being poked at Marvel's superhero line-up in a slightly more humorous tale. This time writer Pat Mills and artist Kevin O'Neill take on the Batman archetype, in a typically savage and bloody deconstruction. This one-shot was another "TOXIC Presents" deal, but has been collected in the hardback Complete Marshal Law book, which I don't own hence the rather murky scans of a twenty-four year old comic printed on crummy paper. Let us continue.
|Introducing The Private Eye.|
He thinks about how he has the same dream every night. Lots of hands grabbing and grasping trying to "take it all away from me." They are animals, diseased, parasitic dog-meat. So every night he goes out and deals with them. But once he's cut out their greed he's doing them a favour, they'll become "victims" and then "they'll get sympathy from all the do-gooders and bleeding hearts".
He ruminates that some people speculate that he has "something wrong in the bed department". But "sex is a poor mans polo" and he keeps himself pure because there are "more exciting things to do at night." He then puts on his crime fighting uniform asks the shrine to his dead parents if they approve of what he does? Does he have their blessing? "After all, you were the ones who taught me to love the dark". They were shot leaving a video rental store when he was a teenager.
He drives out in his Eye-Mobile, while a news report fills in the role of Marshal Law in local law enforcement over the radio. Private Eye accosts a young man who just robbed an off-licence. He beats him badly and tells him:
Private Eye: "I am a specialist of criminal disorders. And I intend to cure this city of the infection that is eating its soul."
|Interesting um.. weapon there Suicida.|
Suicida: "I don't want to be rehabilitated! I like being a psychopath!"
Then Marshal Law arrives and they have a knock down, drag out fight that Marshal wins. He drops Suicida down a hole and then tells the rest of his gang to tell him the war is over. "You know our war is never over" snarls one gang member back at Marshal, who is then called away.
He finds Private Eye in the process of slicing up a criminal. Marshal calls out to him to stop or he'll fire. "Somehow I don't think so, Marshal" says Private Eye, and he swoops away. Marshal speaks to the criminal who is now minus seven fingers. Apparently Private Eye offered him the choice, ten years or ten fingers. Marshal notes he's been left three fingers, "time off for good behaviour?" This incenses the man:
Criminal: "I don't believe this! Marshal Law the hero hunter, siding with the hero! Why..? What's so special about Private Eye?"
Marshal says nothing. Back with Private Eye's thoughts and he notes that Marshal "reveres him as a God." Falling for the myth he has created of the avenging hero looking after the city.
Private Eye: "He turns a blind eye to the truth. That I secretly fear them as much as they fear me... that I'm terrified my dream will come true."
|Definitely one of the best designed and coolest characters ever.|
She says he's done good work placing children with his rich friends. He says he wonders if he has the right to "adopt another after the tragic death of my last six wards?" Then he asks how number seven is shaping up and is introduced to a young boy in a green superhero costume called Tom. Private Eye asks how he'd like to be the next "Emergency Ward?" Tom is excited and says yes.
After a conversation about his shruken genitals courtesy of the anti-masturbation pills the nuns give the children, Private Eye says he'll have fun with him, no time for girls. Tom says he might end up like Public Spirit. "Yes, I think you probably will" says Private Eye.
|The new Emergency Ward.|
Marshal Law says Public Spirit was "murderous scum" and that it's a "pity the government had to cover up what a slime he really was." They spot Scott Brennan giving the eulogy. Everyone knows he is Private Eye and Kiloton says they need to go after him next. Marshal admits he bumped into him the other night and let him go, much to Kiloton's horror:
Kiloton: "Joe, he's even more of a shit than the Public Spirit."
Marshal: "Oh, I don't know. I used to really admire the guy."
Marshal says he has an aura like Dracula, a "ruler of the night." Kiloton points out he's a "pervert who enjoys pain" and in the thirty years he's been hacking up criminals crime has actually sextupled.
Marshal says Private Eye is an American institution, Kiloton says he belongs in one. Kiloton then shows him an article by Scott Brennan criticising Marshal Law and when Marshal shrugs it off, Kiloton says that it's a warning shot. Private Eye knows Marshal is responsible for the circumstances around Public Spirit's death and will come after him. Marshal says they are both in the business of "dealing with punks".
|Do YOU feel lucky?|
Then outside his parents are shot by their butler Albert. His mother dies instantly his father is injured but still alive. Scott thanks Albert then asks for the gun to finish his father off and blows his brains out. Back in the present, Private Eye thinks back to how he learned so much about manipulating the human psyche to create a hero figure, from his father's notes. "Enabling me to declare war on them and make them love me for it."
|Private Eye's Secret Origin.|
Private Eye sits and thinks and we get a flashback to his parents who are scientists doing cruel experiments on animals. Most crucially sewing up a newborn kitten's eyes then finding out when they take the stitches out weeks later it can't see. They also decapitate Scott's dog and keep it alive via machinery.
Then they start experimenting on Scott, on Christmas day he is allowed to open his presents and play with them in the morning, then in the afternoon they invite orphans to come over and force Scott to give them his toys. Then they tested how he would react to sight deprivation and make him wear a hood all the time.
Private Eye: "For months I staggered about in the dark. I was as blind as a bat... and I learned to love the dark."
|Flashback to Scott's childhood.|
Kiloton: "The Private Eye is Dracula, okay... a vampire preying on young boys."
Then Private Eye swoops down and rams a huge chainsaw through Kiloton, this galvanises Marshal Law into action, "It's time Marshal Law. I'll be waiting for you" taunts Private Eye.
Marshal Law arrives at the slaughterhouse to be greeted by the dismembered corpse of Kiloton. He admits he was blind to Private Eye's true motives, but now he sees Private Eye for the monster he is. His thermal imaging gun detects someone and he fires, killing Albert. Then Private Eye bursts out from some hanging cow meat and attacks.
Private Eye sneers at the rest of humanity, but Marshal just insults him by insinuating he has sex with his wards. He then jams some hanging meat into Private Eye and escapes down a conveyor belt. He uses his camoflague cloak to disguise himself and hides in a pile of cow guts. He then rises up and grapples Private Eye into a tank of boiling water where he hits him very hard.
|Batman had celebrated his 50th anniversary a couple of years prior to this.|
Marshal Law: "Not even Private Eye deserves such a hideous, cruel death...gotta... gotta save him. Just as soon as I've blown my nose."
Private Eye loses his grip and falls into the grinder. A huge fountain of blood sprays up and an eyeball falls into Marshal's hand. He squishes it in contempt. Then he returns to the body of Kiloton and salutes it, the comic ends with him thinking:
Marshal Law: "I'm a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. I guess maybe I found one."
|Paying Kiloton the ultimate tribute.|