Monday, 16 January 2017

Fury MAX: My War Gone By (#1-13) PART ONE

"My name is Nick Fury.  I've had a bullet in my head since nineteen forty four. I can't seem to die.  Don't even seem to age much. I fight and fuck like a goddamn demon. I lick up war like it was sugar.  These are the things I've done for my country" - Nick Fury

This thirteen issue maxi-series written by Garth Ennis in 2012 to 2013 under the MAX imprint is something of a magnum opus for him.  Ennis is a student of military history and this series takes Fury through the post-Korean war military antics of the US goverment and CIA and uses the popular character to force us to face up to the upsetting facts behind them.  There are no superheroes here, no S.H.I.E.L.D, no LMDs, this is a Nick Fury purely of our history - the only concession to fantasy is that after WW2 he no longer ages he just gets more grizzled at time moves on.  So he is given a small supporting cast with which to show the ravages of time and a book that starts out as an angry one gradually turns into a heartbreakingly sad one as well.  The framing device is Nick Fury in the present day (2009 I think, roughly by the dates given in the book), holed up for days in a hotel room, dictating his memoirs into an ancient tape recorder. With a gun, the occasional three prostitutes and seemingly non-stop amount of booze to hand, it gives the feeling that this is also a last will and testemant.  This is another hefty and densely written volume that I have had to split into two posts just because there is so much information on the CIA and US military's cack-handed deeds abroad in it.  His artist is Goran Parlov, who illustrated the final two Punisher MAX volumes and the Barracuda miniseries with him.  Parlov has a nice and distinct style not uber realistic, but not too cartoony either.  I like his work a lot, and also for once the reliance mostly on widescreen panels works, giving the whole thing a steady and relentless pace and the feeling of a war on film slowly unfolding before you. 

We start in 1954, with Fury meeting another CIA agent called George Hatherly in French Indochina. There job is to watch the place, because if the French lose their grip, "[they say] the whole of South East Asia will go communist".
Fury and Hatherly meet in 1954
Hatherly asks if he isn't better informed being the agency's station chief out there.  Fury says he thought it was all about the blood debt owed by World War II, but it's all Empires  and colonies, "business as usual".  Hatherly says he missed WWII he was just a little too young.  Fury says someone thought he must have done something wrong to end up here.

They look at the US flag fluttering over the embassy. Fury asks what it means to Hatherly. Hatherly says he wouldn't believe him if he told him.  Then there is a ruckus inside the bar the are drinking outside of.  A woman is being attacked but doing an awesome job of defending herself.  Fury intervenes and gets the man to stop and get lost.

The woman introduces herself as Shirley and she is here as a secretary with a Congressman's party.   She says she was fed up with all the "nancy boys" at the US embassy and went exploring, "never know who you might meet" she grins.
And Shirley makes her mark on Fury too.
Later Fury and Hatherly are at a party thrown for the Congressman.  Fury grumbles that he's not on a fact finding tour, but a vacation.  Hatherly says maybe not, Congressman McCusky is seen as something of an up-and-comer and very anti-communist.   McClusky is then introduced to Fury.

McCusky introduces him to another man who goes where he's sent and can get things done, a French Major called Lallement.  While they talk Shirly says to Hatherly that Fury is "hating every minute of this isn't he?"  Shirley says she knows why Nick Fury is assigned to this "little jewel."  A friend in the typing pool told her.

He was involved in a big retreat in the Korean War. Some units got cut off from the rest and brass wrote them off.  Fury had other ideas and led an attack that rescued all the men and "ended up in so much shit he was lucky to get even this job".

We cut back to Lallement, Fury and McCusky.  Lallement says "Dien Bien Phu" is under siege but they think they can hold it even though France is not the power it was.  Lallement says he is convinced that if France loses Indochina, Cambodia and Laos and the rest will turn communist.
Talking politics at Pug's party.
In two days time he will be escorting a convoy to Son Chau and would be honoured if Fury came with him to witness what they have been up against.   He says bluntly to hold Indochina they need more US backing, their forces are stretched while the enemies grow stronger.  Fury tells Hatherly that they are flying out tommorrow and he will need to check out a weapon.

Hatherly wishes Fury and Shirley a good night and leaves.  Shirley smiles that he is a "sweet boy".   Fury asks her where she learned to handle herself in a fight like that. She says she grew up on the South Side of Chicago.  She says that where "Pug" McCusky found her and said "a figure like hers and an aptitude for shorthand were an unbeatable combination".  Pug's being spoken of as a possible Vice President.
Arriving at Son Chau
Then we cut to the convoy riding out a couple of days later. They are driving through Viet Minh territory and they arrive at the Son Chau fort.  "Hell of a place to have to defend" says Fury. Talking to one of the soldiers it is discovered that the Colonel supposedly in charge has left.

The leiutenant on duty reports they have been mortared every day for a month.  Thirteen dead, twenty wounded.  Ammo and supplies are critically low.  Lallement says he has bought them as much as he could.  Then they hear a cry, it is sergeant Chef Stienhoff, a German Foreign Legionnaire who is throwing around a couple of men in a defensive position.

Steinhoff and Fury chat for a bit, Steinhoff has respect for Fury being as he was in the Airbourne Division.  Then they discover Steinhoff was with the second SS Panzer division and if the West German army reformed they wouldn't want him, "I killed too many Jews".  This makes Hatherly turn and say "what?"

The next chapter begins with Shirley and Fury having wild sex.  Fury says they came back after two days because Hatherly met someone he didn't like, and "I figured I bring him home before he got himself killed".  She asks about the report he's going to write and when Fury hesitates she asks if he thinks she's "fishing for Pug?"
Fury and Shirley start their affair.
She laughs and says she's not and when Fury confesses that what he wants is to be where the war with the Soviets starts, she says they have the bomb now and this sort of thing he's engaged in now is probably something he's going to have to live with and they start having sex again.

Then we cut to Fury sitting outside a bar talking with Pug saying "the French can't hold". Pug asks if more support would help, but Fury says it's "good money after bad."  He says the soldiers on the ground are doing a good job, but the commanders seem to think this is a good old fashioned colonial war and it's not.  They are stupidly not taking the enemy seriously.

Fury: "The Viet Minh aren't a rabble of sneaking little backstabbers.   They're a well-organised battle-tested army doing exactly what they should: fighting superior forces with guerilla tactics".

Pug says but if the French are superior..?  Fury says that their bases are built in all the wrong places and he doesn't think Dien Bien Phu can hold out despite what Lallement says.

Fury says that the Viet Minh emerged four years ago and killed five thousand French soldiers, leaving their heads on spikes along the road. Pug says he appreciates Fury's straight talk but folk back in Washington still want to support the French because of the fear they'll all go commie.

Fury: "Congressman, I don't know if it's really a question of communism. This is a European colony in Southeast Asia; if you treat people like shit eventually they will buck".

Pug starts to say he'll keep needing a man on the ground as the situation develops then Shirley turns up, she brightly hands Pug a message while secretly passing one to Fury which says, "Hatherly on flight to Hanoi this A.M."
Hatherly off getting into trouble.
We then jump to Fury arriving at the Son Chau fort where Hatherly had gone back to. He had wanted to kill Stienhoff but had just got himself badly beaten instead. They have to stay overnight, and Fury manages to sort it so what happened with Hatherly won't leave the base.  Then when Steinhoff appears and accuses Hatherly of being crazy because all he did with the "kikes" was line them up and shoot them, Fury punches him very hard in the face.

Steinhoff isn't floored though and punches Fury back saying he's better than Hatherly.  He knocks Fury off his feet and when he gets up punches him again.  The Major in charge tries to call Steinhoff off but Fury then hits him across the back of his head with an assault rifle. Now Steinhoff is floored and Fury starts to choke him. They wrestle on the ground when suddenly the Viet Minh attack.
The Viet Minh attack.
They mortar the base then charge inside it.  The defenders barely have time to arm themselves and there is chaos and blood and fire and smoke.  Hatherly takes a bullet to the shoulder but the defence is successful and the attackers repelled, for now.  However they get news that Dien Bien Phu has fallen.  There is widespread panic as things are slipping out of France's grasp.

Lallement says that Fury is stuck there for now as Son Chau will almost certainly be attacked next. Fury goes to see Hatherly lying bandaged up.  Steinhoff is standing over him saying he thought Hatherly was brave and could have been a real "Hitler Jugend".  He leaves Fury with him, and Hatherly says "he has no idea there is anything wrong with him, does he?" Fury scowls and says it's time he talked "the facts of life" with Hatherly.

Later they are sitting outside watching the French aeroplanes futilely bombing the nearby area. A relief force probably isn't coming, so Hatherly comments "that's why we've got Nazis on our side". Fury says they didn't all get hanged at Nuremburg.  Hatherly says they are evil and should be wiped from the face of the Earth.
The unfairness of war.
He says he's going to submit a report on Steinhoff to the State Department, but Fury says it'll be buried.  "He's a monster" says Hatherly. "He's a minnow" responds Fury.  The war has been over for nine years, can't he see how the new pieces are falling into place?

Hatherly says Steinhoff doesn't deserve redemption and Fury says he doesn't understand, Steinhoff doesn't want to redeem himself, "he wants to keep on fighting.  Because he's a soldier and it's all he knows".  Hatherly asks if he sympathises with him.  Fury angrily says of course not and asks what the fuck he thought he was doing coming all the way out to confront Steinhoff? 

Hatherly dodges the question by saying Fury did the same.  Then they discuss the previous nights battle and Hatherly admits he might have hit one of their own.  Fury says the same. Then a helicopter arrives to take Fury back home, but Fury insists Hatherly is flown out instead.  Just before the helicopter takes off Fury growls at him, "let this be the last time your conscience gets the better of you. Clear?"  And Hatherly is gone to safety.

There is going to be a supply drop that afternoon so they'll be ready for another attack.  The long term?  Things aren't looking so good.  Then the ammunition dump goes up.  It wasn't hit by a plane, it was sabotage.   Then they spot a suspicious looking soldier walking towards the command tent, before they can stop him, he blows up.  It hits Fury, Lallement and Steinhoff full force.

Lallement is mortally wounded, Steinhoff and Fury manage to pick up weapons as the base is overrun with Viet Minh. Fury realises it is hopeless and stops fighting as Steinhoff is beaten to death by the enemy soldiers.
The fort is lost.
Back at the embassy, Pug admits his frustration that Hatherly came back and not Fury as the French have written off the Son Chau garrison now.  Pug says he imagined great things in Fury's future.  Shirley says some people are beyond politics and can't be "tamed".    She goes to the balcony and sends a kiss on the wind to Fury before accepting the offer to stay for a drink with Pug.

Back with Fury and against all odds, he is still alive.  The leader of the Viet Minh who now hold the base introduces himself as "Captain Letrong Giap".  He says he regrets Lallement's death as he had respect for him, and has respect for Fury as well.

He tells Fury they have won the battle and maybe now the war as well.  But he fears for the future fate of his country being held by outsiders:

Giap: "... this is not a place that the west can come and work out its frustrations.  Not without incurring a terrible price in blood.   This is not French Indochina Fury.  It is not French anything.  This is Vietnam".

And he allows Fury to leave and along the road are all the heads of the garrison's soldiers stuck on spikes.   Fury looks at his broken pistol, then starts silently walking.
Nick Fury is spared.
Then we jump forward to Cuba, as Fury sits in his hotel room with three sex workers sleeping on the bed next to him, he keeps on dictating. "Cuba.  Christ.  What a clusterfuck that was" he says.

Fury: "It was the agency at its most stupid and most arrogant.  There were so many hidden agendas that the right hand lost sight of what the left was doing from the get-go... but it got me where I wanted to be: right back in the goddamned frontline".

With Indochina proving conventional wars couldn't be fought anymore and both sides having enough nuclear bombs to fry the planet several times over, it was clear the battles were going to be via proxy wars.

So the US, the Soviets and China picked their countries and psychopaths backing them with arms and training or installing psychopaths of their own. The main problem was too many of the likes of him had started in "special operations" and had convinced themselves they beat the krauts and Japs by stealth alone, "we were a stiletto to the heart not the baseball bat to the head the army kept blindly swinging".
Next up: Cuba.
Really though the war was won by the grunt in the trench, or the navy gunner who kept on firing at the kamikaze pilot, the kid who climbed into a B-17 for his last mission and came home with his guts spilling out, "again and again, for what seems like forever".

But special forces would find evidence for missions they were needed to carry out just to sell the notion they really were special, "and somewhere along the way we got the idea there was nothing that we couldn't do."  Then the flashback begins, 1961 Fury and Hatherly are running exercises training anti-Castro Cuban forces in Guatemala.

After an exercise, Fury complains to Hatherly that he doesn't like the idea of not going with the soldiers when they launch their attack on Castro.  Hatherly says the US can't be seen to be intervening.  Fury points out the aircraft they are supplying haven't been disguised properly, "devil is in the detail".
Training and supplying anti-Castro Cubans.
Hatherly says he should be in D.C. planning this sort of stuff.   Fury just says they've rushed the plan they do have. That's because the best Cuban pilots are in Russia training in MiGs and when they get back this airforce won't last five minutes. Also the hope is the invasion will spark an uprising but Castro is getting more popular by the minute.

He says he told all this to Pug but it was in front of one of the leading anti-Castro Cubans.  Not very diplomatic. Then he asks Hatherly why he seems so happy.  Hatherly says his wife has just given birth to a son, he's a father now. Fury says he can have the week off while he goes to Miami to speak with Pug about the invasion.

Then it's more wild sex with Shirley time as they take a bath together. She teases him about him getting her to use her influence on Pug to get what he wants.  She also tells him Pug is pretty much a shoe-in for Senator now.  She says if the Cuban thing works out he was a tireless crusader against communism, if it doesn't, he was just here for the marlin.

She says this is the last time they can sleep together, Pug has asked her to marry him.  This takes Fury aback somewhat. She says he is nice and treats her well.  She is fond of Fury but they both know he's not the marrying kind and she takes her leave of him.

We then cut to Pug and Hatherly chatting in a Miami bar, Hatherly is travelling home to D.C. but his plane broke down so he is waiting for a replacement.  He congratulates Pug on his nomination. Pug asks him for his candid opinion of Fury.  Hatherly says he's a war hero and a brilliant soldier, he saved his life and there is nothing Hatherly wouldn't do for him. Pug says yes a war hero, but of what war?  A colonial one that wasn't their's to begin with? He says Fury needs to draw the attention of the right people at the right time.
Fury is given the go ahead to assasinate Castro.
Next day Fury meets with Pug and the anti-Castro Cubans on Pug's yacht. Fury suggests The Bay of Pigs as the best landing area for the invasion and goes to point out the good and bad points of it.  But Pug interrupts saying the Cubans know the details of the operation, they are here to get a look at him.

One of the Cubans says Kennedy is living in a fantasy, "whoever heard of a discreet invasion?"  Another says the important thing is their airforce wipe out the Cuban's one.  The bearded Cuban says the enemy should lose its head, Castro is a coward who will run back to his bunker they say.  "Assassinate Castro" says Fury. That's exactly what they want, no stupid CIA messing about with poison, "we want a man who will look him in the eye and put an end to him".

Pug cheerfully says Fury will get Agency permission to do so and Fury agrees.  He and Pug go for a walk, Fury says Hatherly better cancel his week off, this is a two man job and Hatherly is an excellent sniper.  He could probably use a radioman as well.  Pug comments it's getting less "deniable" by the second.  They arrive at the pool where Shirley is swimming, she gets out and leaves them to keep talking and Pug grins at Fury saying "that's mine".

We're back to Fury in his hotel room, he says that there was supposed to be a diversonary landing away from the Bay of Pigs but it was cancelled.  The air strikes didn't wipe out the Cuban planes and that the resistance should have been warned so it could time an uprising with the invasion, they were never told.  Still two days after the invasion, he, Hatherly and Elgen the radioman were dropped into Cuba.
The attack on Cuba is in full swing.
While that is happening the failure of the Bay Of Pigs invasion is taking place and the Anti-Castro Cubans are not happy by the way things are turning out.  Pug tries to reassure them as they get more aggressive that they should trust the people on the ground.

Fury and Co. set up in a building with a clear line of sight to where Castro is projected to be, Elgen tells them there could be a problem: no one is answering his hails.  Fury tells him to keep trying.  Curfew is keeping the streets deserted, but Fury is suspicious about all the empty government buildings.

They hijack a Cuban military vehicle and the man tells them Castro is taking charge of defence personally.  So they drive out there and witness the air battle which the invaders are losing.  Things on the ground are confused but Fury says Castro will be at Giron, they have a choice.  Keep moving in the open or take the swamps.

Hatherly can't believe what's happened to the men they trained.  Fury says taking out Castro might make things easy for the next lot. Then they are discovered and attempt a getaway from the soldiers.  They escape and climb onto a nearby buildings roof, they can't fight their way to Castto so they are going to wait for him to come to them.

Fury: "He comes down here. He starts crowing for the cameras.  That's when you blow his goddamn head off."

Listening in on the fiasco are the Floridan Cubans.  They tell Shirley to fetch Pug as they look on grimly. Pug however has done a runner.
Everything goes tits up.
The invading infantry are mowed down leaving the sea red with blood.  Fury says to Hatherly to get ready. He gets Castro in his sights and then they are spotted.  A Cuban tank blocks the shot and Hatherly misses.  Fury hits the tank driver and it careens out of control into the building they are standing on, which partially collapses.  Fury takes a rifle butt to the back of the head and everything goes dark.

He comes to and he, Hatherly and Elgen are tied up together and being told outright there isn't anything that won't be done to them. The man standing over them wants to know who fired the shot aimed at Castro.  He has one of the invaders strapped to a table with his head in a vice, "think it over.  Take your time" he says.

Back with Shirley, she is trapped with the Florida Cubans who want to know where the hell Pug has gone.  They realise he fucked them over because the CIA botched the invasion.  Shirley says it's time for her to leave, when one of them tries to stop her, she strikes out at him but he punches her in the face and knocks her down.  She crawls away and gets a gun from her handbag and points it at him telling him the safety's off.

Cut back to Fury, the man with his head in the vice has had it crushed so his eyes are bulging out and his bones are crushed but he is still alive. Nick lashes out yelling at them and is beaten down.  As the Cubans leave them to stew, Fury says he's testing a theory that the Cubans haven't hit them in the faces yet. His theory is the Cubans want a show trial so are keeping them alive for that reason.

They talk and Hatherly on finding out Elgen is married says he's going to confess and do whatever they say so the two of them can go home.  Fury says "Hatherly, we're supposed to be deniable".  Pug won't help get them back.
Caught by the Cubans.
Elgen tells Hatherly he'll contradict every word if Hatherly tries it.  He take responsibility for the shot and "so help me God.  I will make them kill me". He says they came here to help free these people, "that's the point of this country.  To make things better".  He says they can't weaken or fail or it's back to kingdoms and empires.

Later that night the three of them are dragged out to a pier, someone is thrown in before them and sharks immediately rip him apart. Then Elgen gets thrown in.  In a rage Fury knocks down his captors and bites the leader's nose off. Hatherly kicks a couple in the waters as well. They cut each other loose and go to rescue Elgen.

Shirley meanwhile has caught up with Pug. He apologises saying he didn't think they'd turn on his secretary. He says he had to start protecting himself from the fallout from the Bay of Pigs immediately. She tries to walk out on him and he wheedles, "Don't leave old Pug alone in the world. It's a cold, cold world to be alone in" he says and she stops and looks pained.

She sits and takes a drink while he complains that the CIA didn't seem to have been very well organised and "it's coming out that they might have told him one or two little white lies". He says the President isn't a teamplayer having cancelled the follow-up airstrikes. Shirley just drinks in silence.

We rejoin Fury, Hatherly and Elgen.  They are on a small boat, Elgen is in a very bad way, he's lost both his arms. Hatherly tries to comfort him, but Elgen looks at Fury and Fury looks back, then kills Elgen with a pistol shot to the head.  Hatherly screams at him, "what about his wife?".  Fury just says "she'll get a folded flag.  She'll never have to know".  The wind will take them to the Florida Keys by tommorrow.
Fury makes an hard choice.
And that brings my look at this half of the collection to a conclusion.  I have thoughts about Nick Fury I'll share in more detail after the rest of the book, because coming up is the big one - Vietnam - and a guest appearence by Frank Castle.  Fury's messy exploits in French Indochina and Cuba make for compelling reading and Ennis has created a very human set of characters to orbit round the Eternal Soldier that is Nick Fury.  Hatherly the kindly young man and expert sniper.  Shirley the tough but vulnerable to anxiety about the need for stability in her life.  And Pug the not yet quite detestable politician using anti-communist feeling to ride his way up through the US political establishment.  As usually there is a sense of authenticity to Ennis's writing and as usual he doesn't judge the soldier on the ground carrying out the orders of those more politically motivated types above them.  Check out part two in a few days time as things gradually fall apart for everyone.


  1. Wow, I just luuurve this. So many things to say I don't know where to start.

    As I was reading this I got a tingle. Ennis obviously reads all the same stuff I do. It was like that thing where you're watching a movie and you start to get hints that something specific is about to crop up so there's all the anticipation. Then it arrives and you cheer.

    It's so refreshing to see a Vietnam story that isn't the usual jungle warfare or Hanoi being bombed tropes. So many people forget that, for the Vietnamise especially, the Vietnam war started decades before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and that it wasn't a war against communism, it was the last vestige of a European colonial war like Algeria.

    So as soon as I saw a reference to the Dien Bien Phu massacre my (metaphorical) ears pricked up.

    He also gets bonus points for the accurate reference to the Viet Minh (rather than Cong).

    I also loved all the bay of pigs stuff. You may have seen my Mammoth comments on this. Especially in relation to the fact that the New York Times ran a story about the proposed invasion two weeks before it occurred.

    I like that they actually look a the background and all the "five things you didn't know..." rather than just going with the stuff people already are familiar with. That's quite a brave decision. We're so steeped in all the familiar tropes it'll probably seem like alternative universe material to a lot of people so risks being alienating.

    It's like that thing where when we look back at history we sort of impose a narrative on it. As if it was scripted. It all makes sense in hindsight. It's therefore understandable when fiction follows that. An arc is more satisfying. But realpolitik was far messier. People forget that Ho Chi Min was quite a fan of the U.S. initially. But for a few quirks of fate (bad foreign policy decisions) he might well have been a US ally. How different things would have been then. And who knows what might have happened with Cuba of the aid hadn't backed Batista and the Mafia.

    This just works so well with Fury as an almost Zelig or Forest Gump character, being the reader's proxy taking us through the lesser know parts of US history abroad. That alone would have been enough to make this engaging. But they also manage to graft an interesting personal character driven narrative into the wider background. Fury is a great character here. He's very plausible. Someone who reacts to things in a realistic way and is affected by them, but without falling into the trap of just being the cliched world weary cynical anti-hero.

    This perfectly straddles the balance between black and white gung-ho "USA! USA!" Sergeant Rock jingosim and the equally lazy 'lets just paint the US as a the villain" post watergate nihilism. Can't wait to see where this is going to take us.

    Also, I really fancy Shirley.

  2. Glad you'r enjoying it! We do return to Vietnam in part two, because well any look at US wars post WW2 has to and we get an appearance from Frank Castle as well. Also it gets much bleaker.

    I did find myself learning a lot from this. It was all stuff I think I kindof, sortof knew about but having it laid out like this coalesced it all in my head.

    I've heard complaints about this series that it didn't have to be Nick Fury in the role, that seperating him from SHIELD etc means it could have been anybody in the main role. But first of all they are forgetting the MAX imprint was specifcally designed to tell out of continuity stories about various Marvel characters and two that he makes it more likely for a casual reader to pick this up and be educated than just some other invented military character. And the none aging thing is used to devastating effect in part two, that's part of his character and doesn't require an explantion that again a new character would need.

  3. The immortal hero crops up quite a bit in that old style pulp that I like. Tarzan, John Carter, Doc Savage etc. They all end up immortal in various ways. Isn't Tom Strong also immortal? Perhaps a discussion for another day.

    I think it works really well here though because you've got that wondering jew type vibe. The guy trudging through history, playing a part, but also somehow detached and aloof. But in a tragic rather than superior way. See also Dr Who and Highlander.

    Of course the idea that such people would always be at the centre of events is another trope. Theres a nice deconstruction in a story about an immortal cro magnon. He's done 40,000 years but never met anyone famous. Realistically why would you? But there's a justification with Fury I suppose. It's part of his job to get involved in stuff.

    I'm really looking forward to seeing US foreign policy through his eyes. I hope they do all the 70s and 80s stuff like Iran Contra and the Latin American shenanigans as well as they've done indo-china so far.

    I can see why people may think a new character could have done the job. I don't know a huge amount about Fury so in a way he is a new character to me. And I don't have that emotional investment in 'continuity' that an established fan might have. I just like the portrayal here though as mentioned. He seems very believable and rounded. He's also just badass enough but without losing credibility. Comics have a habit of having even their 'normal' humans being effectively supernatural in ability. But Fury isn't doing anything that people haven't done in real life. So it's no effort to totally absorb oneself in the story. You don't need to suspend disbelief. Not that there's anything wrong with that in the right context. But here it lends an authenticity that this story needs. Otherwise you're in 'why didn't Batman stop 9/11?' territory, with all the slightly distasteful implications

    Of all the tales you've talked about this is the one that speaks to me most. That doesn't necessarily mean it's my favourite or the most enjoyable, but that it's the 'world' that I could most imagine myself as a part of. I'd love to chill with squirrel girl, but I'm very aware that's a fantasy scenario. I could see myself transplanted to the Furyverse though and I'd probably fit right in. The only other character I've found as realistic is Frank Castle, so I'm looking forward to him coming on board too.

  4. Spoilers, yeh they tackle Iran Contra, couldn't really cover screw-ups and corruption in the CIA and US military in the 80's without it. And nicely uses another established character (Barracuda) to accentuate the villany. Really this miniseries, The Punisher MAX run and the Barracuda mini done by Ennis are all part of his own MAx universe. Funnily enough though I have read a MAX comic called Alias which very much takes place in the Marvel U and the main character is now shacked up with a kid with Luke Cage. But Ennis's MAX stuff is definitely it's own parallel universe I just like how he's linked it all together into a bigger tapestry (Nick Fury guests a couple of times in Punisher MAX).

    Much as I love Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury, this here is how I always think of Nick Fury a world weary soul who only feels alive when he's in combat. His growing realisation, like Frank Castle in Punisher MAX that this has left him an empty shell of a person really hits home in part 2. Get your hankies ready, I faintly embarrassed to admit I got tears in my eyes writing up the end of PART 2. Damn you Garth and your unerring ability to hit me right in the feels.

  5. You know I have quite a few friends from that world. Now they're all pretty nice well balanced individuals; but there is that thing about adaptation to civvy life and missing the military existence.

    It's complex. No one is more anti war, in a larger sense, than people who've seen it close up. But at the same time they've been finely tuned for combat and it's something they're very good at. So it's inevitable that's the environment they're most comfortable in. And there's a type of bonding, both with their comrades and the unit in an abstract sense, that just can't be replicated in a peace time environment.

    And also it is just exciting. You get to jump out of aeroplanes and blow shit up.

    The depiction of Fury here does seem to grasp all that in a very authentic way. I could imagine someone like him in real life.

    And like the combat there's also the Realpolitik vibe that again is very accurate. Funnily enough it has a bit of Tom Clancy feel about it. There's a character in those novels called John Clark who's very similar to how Fury is dealt with here.

    You get the feeling that someone who's really lived this life could read this without rolling their eyes. It's not insulting in the way so many attempts to do this sort of thing are. Often it falls between pure fantasy like the A Team or sergeant rock and respectful portrayals like the first Rambo film. Either of those is fine if you stick to one or the other. It's when you compromise it falls apart. Glad to see here Ennis had the courage in his convictions to tell the story he wanted to without having to dilute things to make them acceptable to the wider mainstream audience of the usual Nick Fury as supercool Sam Jackson fodder.

  6. Garth Ennis is really most at home writing war stories, I've already noted the sly way he'll manage to insert one into a series he's writing, even if it's a war in hell between angels and demons! I always trust him to have done his homework and he makes sure the artists do as well. There are some extras in the trade which show how Goran Parlov has to redraw all the planes in the Cuban chapter as the nose cones and propellers weren't right.

    I've know two soldiers in my life, an male ex British army suffering severe PTSD from his period as a military policeman in Northen Ireland. And of course the US airforce gal I had a tempestuous relationship with. It was interesting and somewhat sad seeing how they coped in civilian situations. PTSD guy spiralled down into alchoholism and ended up homeless after my landlord told me he couldn't live with me anymore. US airforce gal I met just before 9/11 so after that she was always stressed visiting me in Rusholme even though she was under no threat. When we went out for meals she always picked a seat facing the front door so she had an escape route in her vision.

  7. I think I've mentioned that my army mate and I are directors of a housing association that assists ex service personnel. (My construction industry clients have to do 'social housing' as a condition of building their posh developments. So I set this up as it was mutually beneficial. They get their planning permission and we get a load of free houses). Homelessness is a big problem of ex service, as is mental illness, (contrary to popular belief ex mil are more law abiding and less violent than the gen pop, but they are higher frequency for mental illness and PTSD) so this is a nice solution. But my mate is very associated with veterans' affairs and you hear some right horror stories. I've ended up rowing with the MOD on more a few occasions for people (in fairness the MOD to try to help, but people fall through the cracks).

    So that's why I'm tantalised by what you've suggested is coming up with Frank Castle. Be curious to see a comic address the unique problems veterans face in a realistic and hopefully respectful way. Of course there is the issue that Frank maybe adds to the 'trained killer' stereotype with the Punisher stuff. But then again from what little I've seen (couple of guilty pleasure movies and your blog) I'm not necessarily unsympathetic to his actions. I have a lot of views on that actually but I'll save them until Frank makes his appearance.

    My favourite 'vigilante' ex vet is a lass called Kinessa Johnson. She's involved in a charity where ex mil types train anti poaching squads in Africa. A lot of the stuff written about her is hype. All "Soldier girl hunts down poachers!". As she'd be the first to tell you, she was a diesel mechanic and the 'hunting' is bog standard field craft so they can track down poachers and arrest them (admittedly there have been a few 'accidents' where poachers have found themselves shot). Kinessa does look a bit like a comic character though. She must also be the highest recipient of "I'm not a lesbian but..."comments that I know. Even my Kinsey Zero future ex wife describes her as her 'girl crush'. It's funny cos there are also a lot of ex mil (especially SEALs) associated with Sea Shepherds. Amazing how many stereotypically macho peeps are completely soppy when it comes to animals. But of course we're back to our original myth busting point. Soldiers have empathy and consciences as much as everyone else, in fact one could argue more-so.

    Heh, you can see why I love this story. So many of my pet topics I can ramble about. :-)

  8. Well Frank in this series is very much the beginning of The Punisher. If we look at Ennis's work on him it goes Fury MAX (works with Fury gets promoted), Punisher BORN (is the sole survivor of a Viet Cong attack on the base he is stationed at, makes deal with devil to wage eternal war. Loses family because of it) and finally him as an old man in Punisher MAX forced to face up to what his crusade has done to him and finding no other option but to carry on.

    When the war in Iraq started I had some very angry arguments with people in my family about them. While I didn't support the war, I found that people were too ready to demonise the soldiers not the politicians, especially the "bloody Americans". So I was in the weird position of being a life long pacifist defending soldiers because I knew they were as you say human beings with empathy and consciences as much as anyone.

    Training anti-poaching squads is super-cool. I used to read the Willard Price books about a pair of brothers who travelled the world catching animals for their zoo (they were written in the 60's and 70's). Now I realise that has it's own ethical concerns, but one book always stuck with me and its the one where they go to Africa. The entire book is one long angry, passionate anti-poaching screed there is only a bare bones plot it's draped around. It really stuck with me since I was a kid, so great she's doing such cool stuff.

  9. There was a great Onion editorial that flipped that sentiment: "I support the war; but I don't support our troops"

    I knew a few people who were involved in the gulf war planning. Through that Society of English and American Lawyers thing. We had some interesting discussions in the run up. My claim to fame is I came up with that "18th Resolution" thing. That was an accident though; I was just being my usual pedantic nerdy self. The lass who was chair of that society ended up getting the gig as deputy Secretary of State though.

    Pacifism and realpolitik is a fascinating topic. That's why I'm enjoying this story so much. Few things are black and white. I'm a subscriber to the 'cock-up rather than conspiracy' view of history so it's very appealing to me that this tale delves into how the U.S. gets itself embroiled in such affairs. There's also the thing about soldiers and duty. Obviously soldiers have to take responsibility for their own personal actions. It's an interesting debate though about obeying orders in a general sense. Are they under a moral obligation to refuse to serve if they think a war is wrong in principle? I would say 'no'. Of course if they have any moral dilemmas then they should be free to resign. But as to picking and choosing to take part in individual conflicts, that's much more tricky. Personally I think of an individual soldier or even the armed forces as a whole chooses what wars to take part in as opposed to letting the elected government decide (however wrong that government decision may seem) then you're in the realms of military dictatorship .

    (Oops, work intrudes, more to follow)

  10. I actually knew about the invasion Iraq round about the start of 2002 because they'd shipped off my GF who was in communications to start laying the communication infrastructure in advance. Heh. Probably she shouldn't have told me, but I kept schtumm when all the political crap was flying around about it all the while thinking "this won't change things, it has already been decided."

    What's always troubled me about the military both US and UK is how difficult they do make it to leave. My PTSD friend had gone AWOL. My US girl had her five year tour extended indefinitely post-9/11 (it was pretty much that which broke us up) and of course I could add in she came from a very impoverished background, (one half native american) and the military was the only way she'd been able to afford do a college degree. I've been watching a lot of web video this past week and the UK military ads are one heavy rotation and basically remind me of that Monty Python sketch where the soldier says he wants to leave the army because they kill people and he just joined for the water skiiing and the fishing. I see more guns in video game ads than those for the Armed Forces. I dunno, makes me uncomfortable is all.

  11. I have mixed feelings about zoos. Some of them do remarkable conservation work, and I know the keepers genuinely care for their charges. And there are some animals that probably thrive in zoos and are perfectly happy there. On balance though I think they're an outdated concept. Certainly no place for larger animals used to having lots of room. It's heartbreaking to see how they succumb to mental breakdowns. It's great to try to educate kids. But kids manage to learn everything about dinosaurs and love them without having seen them in zoos. I'm sure that's applicable to any animal. And a David Attenborough documentary actually shows the animals behaving in a real environment rather than an artificial enclosure. I'm totally against animals as entertainment though. Hate seaworld and the like with a vengeance.

    As for poaching, there's an interesting essay by Paul Watson, the founder of sea shepherds. He correctly points out the double standard that black poachers in Africa get shot but rich white trophy hunters just get fines or dodgy Yelp reviews. Of course you can guess our preferred solution to redressing that imbalance.

    It's funny, to keep on the original topic, as you know, I'm not a pacifist. But I'm very placid about it. I can understand the need for force at times, but there's no animosity there. It's like a necessary evil but no ill will to the other side. If we could find a non violent solution I'd be happy with that. I can quite often see the other guys point of view and is probably be happy to have a beer with them if circumstances were different.

    That goes right out of the window though with people like trophy hunters. Totally ok with the idea of 'ironic punishments' for them. I think it's hilarious on those rare occasions the animals get their own back. I'd happily hunt them down myself. See how they like it.

  12. Retention is a big problem for the services. I can see the argument about the cost and investment in training. It's not that long ago that you had to 'buy yourself out'. But it's unfair to keep people indefinitely against their will. It's also counter productive. In actuality the forces would prefer not to. It's all part of the preference now for a keen wholly volunteer service. But it's the bean counters driving policy.

    There's also the issue of the target demographic for recruitment. It is disproportionately people with the fewest opportunities who make up the numbers. Now often of course they make the best recruits. They're more driven and willing to grasp opportunities than those from more pampered backgrounds. And I know a lot of people who genuinely love that the forces gave them an alternative. But the forces should show a little consideration in return. Again I think that's more down to the politicians than the brass themselves.

    It's an old story though. You ever read Kiplings poem "Tommy"? As pertinent today as it was in the 19th century.

  13. I could never find it in myself to be a soldier, but if a situation like WW2 arose again (not likely I know) I'd probably volunteer to do something. If I was younger I'd happily run out and cart people off the battlefield. But age and infirmity would most likely see me doing nefarious computery things instead. I had one grandad who served in the merchant navy during WW2 although amusingly he said the worst attack he ever suffered through came via the friendly fire and the US. Whoops. My other grandad (who died long before I was born) had horrible eye-sight so did mysterious things for the government in Blighty. My grandma, his wife, had some interesting tales on living in London during WW2. She told me that while there might have been a ration of one egg a week, but she didn't see one for six months once. I think this explained her somewhat extravagant sweet tooth and fear that if we weren't eating pretty much once a hour we'd starve and die. Still she made it to 93 so it worked for her!

    I too have gained mixed feelings about zoos, I do like that more and more zoos like Paignton are not going to replace the elephant when if finally dies, as well as shedding more of the larger animals through natural death and working more on conservation (actually said Willard Price books, despite the "hook" that they went round the world collecting for a zoo got less and less like that and more and more into conservation and working with the locals to protect species from poachers and preserve at risk habitats, they were pretty ahead of their time come to think).

    But yeah, trophy hunters, I do abhor such needless, neglectful cruelty. I remember seeing a CSI about a man who was killed on a "canned hunt" by a bear who hadn't been drugged properly. No one investigating his death seemed very sad about it, although I was completely appalled that canned hunts were even a thing!

  14. I suppose I got a bit of a negative view of the whole retention issue because I had one friend who just bailed because he was not being helped to deal with his demons and another who was a lesbian in a force that dangled the huge black mark of "dishonorable discharge" over outed gay servicemen and women. From what she said, get one of those on your record and you can kiss any kind of decent career outside of the military goodbye. I haven't read that poem. I shall rectify that in a sec :)

  15. There was a popular saying amongst German troops towards the end of WW2

    "When the British are flying we duck. When the Luftwaffe are flying nobody ducks. When the Americans are flying everybody ducks."

    I have great admiration for conscientious objectors who acted as medical orderlies and stretcher bearers. All the bravery but still getting stick from civvies and REMFs.

    But yeah, you'll probably end up at Bletchley (or Cheltenham as it is now). It's practically 'Heaven' there now though (in the nightclub sense). You'll probably love it!

    "The war's been over for two months now, go home"

    "No, I'm fine"

    Canned hunting makes my blood boil. It combines my three main red lines. Animal cruelty, bullying, and cowardice.

    My friends and I were celebratng recently because a canned hunter fell off a cliff. I like to imagine a lion pushed him.

  16. Hah, great saying!

    I don't know how much you know about the Doctor Who EU, but you may know "Human Nature/Family Of Blood" was adpated from a New Adventures novel called "Human Nature". The boy at the end becomes a concientious objector instead of a soldier and goes into battle stretchering people off the frontlines and when they visit him in the present he is wearing a white poppy at the memorial not a red one. It's interesting that they chose to change that aspects of the story but I rationalise it that while TV kid thought some wars were worth fighting after picking up Time War era Doctor's soul, the book kid bonded with the pre-Time War Doctor who always found another way. There's probably a better analysis than that out there but I'll admit seeing the old man in the TV show as one of the last veterans of WW1 tugged a tear or two from my eyes (you should see me trying to get through "Oh What A Lovely War" without inelegant blubbering).

    Heh I like the sound of Bletchly, bet we'd find time to set up a LAN deathmatch or two in the name of um.. research. *coff* Actually I don't much care for shooters based on real conflicts, it just rubs me up the wrong way for reasons I can't adequately explain. But sci-fi shooters are much more my cup of Lapsang. Also they give you assault rifles with chainsaws attached to them. All the better for splatting alien ass.

    I have to admit, while my spiritual side tells me I shouldn't celebrate or wish for the death of anyone, it tends to get shouted down by my rabid animal loving side in these situations, so lol.

  17. I don't know a lot about the Dr Who EU, but ironically that is one story I do know about. At the time of the TV adaptation the author made the book available for free on the Web. It was interesting to compare and contrast. Must confess I, just, preferred the TV version. But I think the amazing acting was what swung it. Funnily enough I think the little kid going "Coward every time sir" encapsulated all the equivalent theme in the book very movingly, and possibly more effectively.

    Of course the pacifism in Dr "a quick genocide should sort it" Who is a discussion that could fill volumes.

    As for WW1 I still don't think the ending of Blackadder can be beat for blub inducement.

    Cheltenham has five acres of server farm in the basement. I'm sure you could have fun with that.

    Someone in Mammoth did a lovely quote about "people who are fanatically liberal generally but would suspend habeas corpus because someone looked at a dog funny". That's so Becki. She used to work for Reprieve, the anti death penalty charity and even now she's a fanatical defence lawyer. But her dream job is strangling hunters. So that's one thing we very much agree on. Unlike just about everything else.

  18. I'm a big Paul Cornell fan, wish he'd write more episodes of Who than the three he did which are faves of mine. Oddly though I'm not a fan of his comics work, I've only covered his work on Demon Knights which was a series full of possibility that was never properly capitalised on (I have done all three volumes if you are bored and want to chart my growing disillusinism with them). I have his Captain Britain run too and it's very flawed to, rife with classism (probably unconciously so, but it's there all the same) and again a great cast completely wasted. Still I find his best work to be all the reviews he did in the fanzines that riled up the anti-JNT brigades. He was trolling before the internet was a proper thing :D

    I'm with you and your friend Becki. Cruelty to dogs especially really hits me hard. Cats generally find a way to fuck the hell off if they are being mistreated and find a new home elsewhere (we gave a home to a tatty, starving, very pregnant cat who had obviously run away from her previous home. We got a sweet little cat and lots of lovely kittens). But dogs are so loyal and trusting, EUGH so mad, mind you now I have a little nephew and another on the way, stories of child abuse hit my beserk button hard as well.

  19. I'll check out those reviews. Sounds intriguing. Cornell is one of those names I'm sort of vaguely familiar with but don't know a lot about. Wasn't he part of that Moffat, Miles etc drinking group during the Dr Who interregnum?

    The most heart rending thing about abuse is when the victims still crave, and offer, affection because they don’t have the understanding that it's not their fault. So that's especially the case with animals and kids. And that's why the perpetrators are particularly despicable. It's also why my 'Dulcinea Affect' kicks in. I'm always wary of people who get angry on other people's behalf. I think sometimes it's just making themselves the centre of things. Like those people who bang on prison vans in high profile cases. But I'm also a big fan of helping the genuinely helpless. So that ties in nicely with the frank castle thing. Vigilantism is a complex topic. I'm generally one to leave things to the proper authorities. Rule of law is an important bastion against anarchy. But the price of that order is that sometimes victims are sacrificed. On a utilitarian basis that's the price to be paid. But I can't blame people for not wanting to be the sacrifice. And when such people are powerless then there can be a moral justification, if not an obligation, to step in. Weirdly though I'm sympathetic to the punisher but I can't stand Batman. Wonder what's behind that?

  20. Checked out your Dream Knights reviews. See what you mean. I did wonder if my view was skewed by your thoughts, but having examined closely its objectively 'meh'. Shame really, so much you can do with the Arthur mythology and all the rest of the dark ages stuff. That 'they wasted a good..." thing continues with the characters. Funny thing is, I didn't realise it ticked so many 'diversity' boxes until you pointed it out. That's a testiment to the point you make about them not being very developed in the writing. Now sometimes it can be a good thing if you don't go down the obvious route when promoting minority characters. One of the things I live about Crocodile Dundee is that it both celebrates and subverts all. The aboriginal cliches.

    "He just *thinks* is way in the dark"


    But there does seem to be a lot of wasted opportunities here. It was a very eclectic bunch and he could have done a lot with it. I have a bit of a thing about Islamic science of the period for instance. I'm bound to love a culture that prefaces everything with "Al". So we could have had so much about optics or chemistry or medicine etc. but nope. He's just "our Muslim friend". Yeah, great that your're so inclusive. Now what? Or a bit of comparative theology maybe between the various beliefs represented. But no. Even the horsewoman was disappointing. It's bad enough in superhero genre when technology eliminates the disability so as to make it pointless, but magic saddles?! It's also a bit tat steels to have a disabled character who can miraculously make it go away. Like "hey kids, here's a new black superhero. His super power is passing as white!"

    (Hmm, note to self: pitch idea off Melonin-Management-Man)

    So anyway, just my 1.4 pence. Roll on more Fury and Castle.

  21. Oh wow, in yet another synchronicity (lot of that lately) the Krav federation I started out with have just released a commemorative t-shirt. I don't normally wear stuff with logos on, but might make an exception for this. Perfect for my vigilante moonlighting.

  22. OK, that is one awesome shirt, want!

    It's interesting looking at Batman versus The Punisher, I think when both are written for by top notch writers they both work well (and to be honest I read some pretty damn dreadful treatments of old Frank Castle). But for me I think I've said it before I've become less interested in Batman (well I still love LEGO Batman) but love the Bat-verse very much: Gotham By Midnight, Gotham Central, Gotham Academy, all great series that barely feature Batman except as the vague almost urban superstition he models himself as. Actually my favourite Batman is what I labelled "DickBats" in my tags, that was the period of a year or so when Bruce Wayne was thought dead (actually he'd been thrown back in time) and Dick Grayson took over as Batman and Damian Wayne was his Robin. It was so refreshing to have a Batman that smiled and had dealt with his angst properly, there are three volumes and I need to schedule books two and three at some point this year. Grant Morrison is definitely the best writer of Batman because he gave us Bat-Cow. Really need I say more? :D Also he doesn't treat Batman as God Mode Mary Sue like many writers seem to.

    Demon Knights, yeah. You said it all. The diversity did feel like and exercise in box ticking and then expecting us to do the work rather than really explore how that team would be treated during that time period. And what a waste of the only transmen I have seen in comics. Feh. Rule of thumb with my posts if I start inserting gifs and lolcats I'm not very happy with what I am reading.

  23. It is rather isn't it? I like how they've worked the official logo in.

    There's an interesting Batman fan film. It's set as if it's just the 'normal' world. So the Joker is just a drug dealer and how he sort of develops into a purple coat wearing make up guy is very plausible. The other villains are also in there and they're also normal but also have the relevant characteristics and visuals. I'll try and find it for you. The only bit that doesn't really work is Batman himself. The style of the film shows how daft an idea he is. But they seem to have realised that as he's only in it for a brief moment and practically in the background.

    I have read a few Batman things that I liked. I know it's a bit obvious but the stuff when he was very in vogue. Dark Knight, killing joke, Arkham Asylum etc. Not brilliant, and maybe it was just being caught in the zeitgeist, but entertaining enough.

    Still prefer though, albeit on relatively slender examples, the punisher. Might be a Sturgeon's Law thing and it's skewed because you're reviewing the good stuff. But it's interesting to contrast two scenes.

    There's a Batman one where he does something like "I know 7 technique. 3 kill, 3 permanently injure, but this one hurts"

    Then theres that bit where frank throws the woman at the window

    Now the first one is a bit eye roll for me. It just seems gratuitous. Part of that forced but faux edginess that I'm not fond of.

    The punisher scene though, although pretty visceral, doesn't seem exploitative. Now it's interesting cos I have a real inhibition about violence against women. To be honest that's probably unreformed gender stereotyping. The idea that M-F violence is just intrinsically wrong in a way F-M violence isn'. I could though give a feminism compatible explanation based on context and how inter gender violence is currently so stacked against women that it goes beyond the individual act. Personal is political sort of thing. (I'd be bluffing though, it's the first one). I do make an exception where it's an equal situation and it's sort of consensual. So a scrap with red sonja would be fine.

    But back on point. Frank's actions may or may not be justifiable, but they are understandable. In both a Doyle and Watson sense.

    Anyway, really enjoying this. Looking forward to the next installment. Now just need to get that t shirt. :-)

  24. Yeah it's awful scene when Frank smashes that woman into a window again and again. It works for me because a) she's a human trafficker and that volume is one of the best treatments I have seen anywhere. I think Ennis was genuinely furious when he wrote it. And b) it works in a wider sense because even Frank in the next books realises he'd been pushed to the edge and tries to step back a little from the extreme darkness he embraced then. My favourite volume of Punsiher Max is no.9 where he has to rescue his kid and has to confront just how empty and meaningless his life has become. It's so sad when he gets to spend one happy and peaceful day with her then hands her back to her aunt saying she must never know who he is. *inelegant blubbering commences*

  25. Ah that's interesting that it has ongoing repercussions. I sort of got that vibe from the story. That's what I think I was trying to get across as to how it felt different from the batman example. It's like the punisher story addressed context and consequences that the batman story didn't. And to harp on a out the Doyle/Watson thing, it may well be that Ennis's genuine repulsion came out in the story so it felt more real. The batman writer probably has no actual aspirations or views to drop criminals of fire escapes (be slightly concerning if they did).

    I do really feel the point you make about the 'stay away from me, I'm a monster' bit too. I'm very wary about commenting on mammoth these days but I did have to, very gently, object to someone's characterisation of the military as churning out mindless killers. It's back to my thing about how it's an unjust, and possible dangerous, stereotype. However it's often one ex mil buy into themselves, especially if they've had to do questionable deeds. So the second you describe is both authentic and sad.

    *plays end music from Hulk TV series*

  26. Yeah unfortunately I wrote about that volume out of sequence from the rest because for some reason volumes 5 and 6 were going for stupid amounts of cash online but I wanted to cover the series. Now it's being reprinted I was able to get ahold of volume five after I had wrapped up the series as a whole and still need to get a hold of volume six.

    I must have missed that comment, because I'd have objected as well and probably not very gently either. I much rather have someone who was in the military as a mate or partner than someone who dscribes themselves as an MRA, MGTOW or (bleaurgh) and Incel.

  27. By that I mean there are far more destructive philosophies one can adhere too than being a soldier. And how the hell would that work in places like Israel or South Korea who have mandatory national service? A whole country of trained, mindless killers?! Ridiculous.

  28. Also I have to wonder if the "realness" of Ennis's take on the Punisher and Nick Fury somehow allows for more serious treatments of torture, violence and soforth. Like we know because they are flawed, broken characters the story doesn't feel like a ZOMG Torture is so KEWL!!1 Once the pure-hearted likes of Batman and Spider-Man for example start doing it well, it becomes harder to justify. I present a post you might be interested in from a blogger who helped inspire me, with his take down of Spider-Man indulging in a spot of "Acid-boarding" of the Sandman. Be interested in what your thoughts are:

  29. Wow, I loved that article (and the comments)

    Soooo much to say about it. In regards to both how the subject is handled in comics and also the real world implications. But it very much tallies with my thesis about how we'll condone and even find heroic behaviour in fiction that we'd abhor (or would we?, that's part of the debate) in real life.

    I'll start collating my thoughts. In the interim though I've sent you an email. Hopefully you'll still be speaking to me after you've read it!

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Consider Jack Bauer and the subset of people who are cheering him on.

    There's the 'designated hero' aspect. But there will also be people who make a considered decision to root for them.

    Some people will appreciate its just fiction and therefore they can 'suspend morality'. we might find the classic nazi villainess sexy but in real life we'd want her facing Nuremberg.

    there may also be a subconscious/open belief that such heroes are in fact acting admirably and in a way we'd like to see things go down in real life. There is a debate to be had about whether that's pandering to an existing viewpoint or converting people to that view. Zero Dark Thirty was a good example there. So,e people saw it as pro torture propaganda, but arguably by showing the brutality of what it entails it may have moved people the other way.

    The usual arguments against torture are:

    1. It's illegal
    2. It's immoral
    3. It's not efficacious

    There's another reason that isn't oft considered but is a big talking point in the interrogation community.

    4. It's an insult to professionalism

    In other words it's the implication that people who use standard interrogation techniques can't do their job.

    Someone put it like this "imagine telling special forces that some terrorists wee holed up in a building. But then adding that you were calling in an air strike because it was the only way of dealing with them. Special forces would just tell you to fuck off and point out that they successfully arrest/shoot terrorists in that situation every day"

    Torture is a tricky subject because, whist people may abhor it on a general level, people can often be pushed to concider exceptions in very particular circumstances. It's like how people may be opposed to the death penalty but would want to kill someone who harmed a loved one. That's only natural. But of course that's why we have the rule of law. That though can often leave a victim or their family with an unresolved grievance. They have to have their feelings sacrificed for the grater good (order and stability) but it's undertstandabel if they can't stomach that (and that of course ties I. To the vigilante thing)

    There's a famous case of a German police officer who tortured a paedophiles to find out where he'd left a child to die. Now that worked. They found her in time. But what do we do in that situation? Is he a villain who should be sacked and prosecuted? Is he a hero who should be lauded? In scenario one you're effectively saying to parents 'your child's horrible death would have been a price worth paying'. In scenario two you're effector saying, it's ok to torture if the circumstances demand it. But then you've got a general blanket approval for torture.

    Fiction really addresses those nuances though. Like the article says, all the necessary boxes are ticked: heroes are correct, there's a proverbial 'ticking bomb', there's no other way, the end result justifies the means. Those boxes are less certain in real life. There's also I suppose the factor that 'non human' characters are treated differently

    So the subject is tricky enough in real life. Fiction though needs an arc, a narrative and a satisfying and definite climax, so things are more certain.

    But in fiction we all enjoy an asshole victim meeting a suitably gruesome and karmic end so it's no surprise that we skip over torture and the like. It's pretty standard for gene the most beneficent of heroes to lean on people. It can even be comic. How many times have we laughed when the threatened bad guy started to sweat and rub his collar when the hero makes some implication that something nasty might occur if he doesn't cooperate. We don't mind that even if the bad guy isn't actually bad and just sake third party who could assist. I sure you can think of plenty of examples if you out your mind to it.

  32. Phew, I wrote an even lengthier polemic than what's above. But I hit the character limit and have spent an hour brutally chopping to get it to fit. Grrr. So sorry if its a bit disjointed. I'm sure you can fill in the gaps.

    I also had to delete all my brilliant examples and arguments that showed I'm right on every point. So you'll just have to assume that,

  33. You do make interesting points, the insult to professionalism isn't an argument I had heard before. Have to remember that.

    For me I have a real aversion to torture because I find it speaks to a darkness in my soul I have to exercise iron will over. It's the only thing I have lingering nightmares over. Not being tortured, but being the torturer. There's is actually an interesting case of a mission in Grand Theft Auto 5. You have to torture someone for information, and you can pick the tools, and you do find yourself both appalled at what your doing and simultaneiously thinking "now should I pull a tooth out or break his kneecap next, decisions, decisions..." Which feels like the game is satarising not the characters but you the player, it's a fascinating exercise in meta-commentary on videogame violence. And also like I said speaks to the darkness inside.

    It's interesting that Marvel, at least pre- Secret Wars 2015 had made most heroes part of the military to stop accusations of vigilantism. I was never sure if I liked that, I kind of prefered the DCU where heroes were heroic and that was good enough to trust them. I guess in the real world it would end more-or-less like it did for costumed heroes in Watchmen, banned by the government with ones who had genuine powers co-opted into secret research projects and so on.