Saturday, 27 December 2014

Cradlegrave (2000AD #1633-1644)

"Welcome back to the real world" - Narration

Let me start this review thing with a short digression, which will become relevant I promise.  Well, a bit relevant. Slightly relevant anyway.  Between 1998 and 2004 I lived in what could be charitably described as a "right shithole".  But I lived happily in that shithole because it was the only way I could afford the rent to live in the area of Manchester I wanted to, which was Rusholme.  I may not have had hot running water for six years but I lived between two parks at the top end of the curry mile, and I was made up.  And the reason I felt good about that was because I could see what life was like in the area next-door to Rusholme.  Oh, I know some of you are nodding now and saying "ah yes, I have heard of Moss Side, it sounds bad."  Fuck no.  Moss Side is postively gentrified now compared to where I actually mean, that forsaken place being Longsight.  And I am happy to name it, because no one in Longsight will be reading this.  No one in Longsight can afford a computer.  The best way to sum up Longsight was one day when me and a friend were driving back to my place.  He took a short-cut through Longsight even though I advised against it.  At one set of traffic lights he suddenly said to me, very quietly - "roll your window up, lock your door and brace yourself, because when the lights change I am flooring this motherfucker."  A gang of youths bearing down on you with hoods up and armed with baseball bats will scare even an ex-army bloke into running away.
One panel sets the scene well.
The reason for that digression is to let you know that when I discuss the setting of John Smith's 2000AD series Cradlegrave, I'm know what he's talking about.  Now Longsight isn't quite the same as the estate in the series in that Longsight is more inner city than sink estate on the outskirts.  But I know the feeling of hopelessness that hangs over places like that, where the poorest in society are trapped literally from cradle to grave.  I never spent time in Longsight unless I absolutely had to (I had a course of therapy on my back at a medical centre there, where the windows where heavily barred, you were buzzed in through a metal detector and the receptionists sat behind bullet proof glass), and everytime I left the place it was like a pall lifted from me.  Cradlegrave activated a sort of Proustian sense memory in me, the stale smell of poverty and misery immediately came back to me after a decade of last experiencing it.  A definite achievement of the book, if not an altogether pleasant one.
Shane returns to the estate
When I reviewed John Smith's first comicbook work The New Statesmen for CRISIS in 1988 I was reminded of the quote by William Faulkner - “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”  The New Statemen simply had too many ideas and things Smith obviously wanted to say crammed into too small a page count to do them justice.  I still found much to praise it for, mainly it being unafraid to be highly political, something which can also be seen in the depiction of life as a member of the underclass on the Ravenglade estate somewhere in Lancashire.  The art by Edmund Bagwell is also praise worthy in this respect too.  It's heavily photo-referenced, but unlike say Greg "I trace from porn" Land's emotionless manniken people, here it helps add to the documentary style realism that makes it all the more shocking when horror intrudes upon the carefully depicted life of the main character Shane, a young offender back from eight months in a youth remand centre for arson.

The estate he returns to is suffering in the middle of a long, hot summer from a refuse collectors strike. He has dinner with his Mum who wonders where his brother has got to. She asks Shane if the place he was in did him any good.  He says it feels weird being out like he doesn't belong here now. His Mum says this is where he's staying and sends him out for some celebratory booze.
Shane's mate Callum
Outside the off-licence an old man called Ted is upbrading some younger teens for smoking.  They call him a perv, then Shane appears and greets him warmly.  Ted says he would invite Shane round to his house, but his wife Mary took a tumble and won't go to hospital.  He then leaves and Shane's supposed "bezzy mate" Callum appears.  He hands some booze he bought for the kids over to them then he chats with Shane. He asks him if he wants to "get monged out your case" round at Tozzer's.  But Shane says he just wants to go home and get his head down.

Back home, later that night Shane sits in his room and contemplates things:

Narration: "His room was the same. It was him who had changed. That's what being inside did to you. It shrank your horizons but opened you eyes to a different world."
Shane's sleep is troubled...
He tries to sleep but is interrupted by his brother Craig climbing in through his window, very drunk.  Shane hustles him out and goes back to sleep, having a nightmare about being burned alive in a coffin.

The next day he goes out, a young girl is selling stuff buy the roadside.  He buys some war comics off her.  He goes to Ted's house, smelling a horrible smell as he gets closer - "stale piss and something as sickly sweet as pear drops."  He finds Ted in the garden round the back and they chat for a bit then Shane leaves.  We get out first inkling of the horror to come when Mary says through the window:

Mary: "W-Will you hurry up Ted? Only it's foraging again... It's f-foraging for food."
Shane and Ted chat.
Back at Shane's house his pregnant dog, Lucky, is on the verge of giving birth.  His Mum and brother both upbrade him for not getting her fixed. Then Callum appears.  Chatting and sharing a spliff in Shane's room he invites him to a party round at his place that night as his dad with be away.  So Shane attends and takes a couple of E's while there is much drinking and spliff smoking going on there.  Then Callum's dad appears earlier than he should have, very drunk and says:

Callum's Dad: "S'look at the bloody lodya. All Cradlegrave's scallies unner one roof. One bomb an' we could wipe out crime in one go."

Callum tells his sister Donna to deal with him.  Then he grabs some car keys he found and he and Shane steal a car to go get more booze.  On the way though they hit the young girl who had been selling stuff by the road. In a panic, Shane and Callum go to Ted's house saying a rival gang is after them.  Ted goes to tend to Mary while Shane and Callum discuss how they wiped their prints off the car and disposed of it.  Shane gets a call that Lucky is giving birth so he leaves Callum at Ted's for now.
The accident that injures Kiera
The sickly sweet smell is becoming overpowering and Callum takes a peek into Mary's room.  Off panel she says to him:

"Shut the door behind you.  There's a good lad. It's time for your feed."

The next day, Craig heavily implies that he knows Shane as party to the theft of Tozzer's car and the accident with the girl.  Then the police come round to interview Shane.  Callum wakes vomiting, still at Ted's house.  He doesn't remember what happened that night but feels like crap:

Ted: "Mary, my Mary.  She's taken a liking to you son.  She'll have you eating out of her hand if you're not careful."

He returns home and his Dad says the police have been looking for him in connection with the hit and run.  They pull up at the house before Callum can go get his head down.  No one on the estate will tell the police anything - "Cradlegrave code" - but Callum says they need an alibi and brings Shane and Craig to Ted and Mary's house.
Meet  Mary.
We finally see what Mary looks like, a horrific, lumpen, mess of a mutant. Ted says it's just cancer, but Shane says no way cancer does that.  But the smell is making it hard to think.  Callum pushes him closer to her and she takes a hold of him.  But then Shane panics and tries to escape.  The door is locked so he puts his hand through the window, slicing him arm up badly.  The amubulance arrive and take him away, while he is still freaking out.  Craig tells Callum that "you ran over Skully's kid.  You're in shit already."  Then he asks Callum to show him what he does round Ted and Mary's place.

Shane is in hospital for three days and Skully gets out and finds out who ran down his daughter using torture invloving superglue on Tozzer. Meanwhile Callum is suffering from withdrawals from something... he helps Ted home with his groceries and goes inside.  Then six more hooded figures appear outside Ted's house.  The next day sees Cal in his boxers, covered in sores, coming down from some unspeakable high.

Shane returns home, but his dog Lucky snarls and snaps at him and the pups are gone.  Thinking Craig might have something to do with their disappearance, he goes round to Ted and Mary's place to look for him.  He finds Ted's dead body, a bag over his head and pills in his hands.  He goes into Mary's room and is greeted by the grotesque sight of several youths suckling from her.  They are drinking her "black milk".
There's something about Mary..... *retch*
Craig: "You don't know the buzz bruv. It's better than drugs.  It's like shagging on 'E' only your whole bloody body's rushing with it."

Finally Shane gives in and drinks as well. The next day at breakfast his Mum tried gently, then bluntly to tell him his dog Lucky probably ate her pups after having so many litters. Shane is suffering withdrawals so goes round to Tozzer's to get some weed and finds Skully there, the drug supplier for the estate and man whose daughter they ran down.  He and Cal try to say they had nothing to do with it, but Skully threatens to torture them.  He say's it was fortunate it was only Keira they hit, as he isn't sure she's his and she's weird. But he still wants them to deal for him to make things up to him.
Poor Ted, fed to his own wife.
Later Callum and Shane wonder what to do with Ted's body, while Mary remembers her childhood, "her memories are like leaves in fast water she cannot quite catch."  Craig arrives at Mary's house with some food for her.  Then later recounts to some friends that he thinks he did a terrible thing that he can't remember.  We see him do it though, he cuts up Ted and feeds part of him to Mary.  All he knows is his hands are covered in blood he can't wash off.

In the evening Callum and Shane go out with the heroin Skully wants them to deal. The estate is going crazy. Cars on fire, fights, wheelie bins being thrown around.  Shane says he wishes he'd never come back to the estate and that he's not being Skully's bitch either.

Back with Mary, she rips apart at the "stomach" and starts giving birth to something.  Craig and two friends arrive to see her and find lots of little tumour like baby things on the floor round her. Meanwhile Callum and Shane are buying kebabs, there is a mob outside the takeaway.  Donna arrives and tells them the electicity has gone off in their street.
Chaos on the streets and an angry Skully bagging drugs
Skully is trying to track Cal and Shane down because they haven't done the job for him yet.  He is in the same room as Keira who wasn't killed in the hit and run, and she freaks him out with her staring.  Shane returns home and is attacked by his dog, he has to use a weight to bash in her brains in self defence.

Shane decides it's time to end all the bullshit.  We are shown more chaos on the estate, a murder, a possible gang rape, a cat being put in a microwave, a skewer of kebab meat bleeding and a gang of hooded youths taking away the tumour babies from Mary's house under their jackets.  Shane walks through the chaos of the estate armed with a molotov cocktail. He lights it and hurls it into Mary's house.
Shane deals with Mary the only way he can.
Narration: "He couldn't give a shit who was inside. They were part of the problem too. Part of the rot.  It's time to finish this."

Mary bursts out of the flaming house and when the estate denizens see her, they immediately attack and kill her, as she dies she remembers her childhood in Belfast.  Then for Mary it's all over.  But at Skully's place he opens the door to a gang of youths holding the toothy, tumour babies.  They set them upon him saying there's "a new gang in town" and Skully is eaten in front of Keira.
Skully is about to get horribly killed...
The story ends with Shane saying goodbye to his Mum and leaving the estate.

"She feels a swell of pride as he leaves.  Her boy heading out into the big, wide world. It's all she ever wanted for him.  Shane didn't have the words, in the end. He'd never been good with either. But that was alright.  He was out. He was going to stay that way."

Cradlegrave is an immensely powerful piece of work.  It doesn't demonise the underclass, it has a quiet, controlled fury about the people society has failed running through it though it doesn't overwhelm the narrative and become overly polemical.  The horror aspects are handled extremely well, it's perverse and sickening and as a metaphor for heavy addiction works extremely well. I'm a horror fiend, I love films, books and comics about horror and this made even a hardened horror nut like myself feel queasy, so good job! The lives of the people on the estate are shown with compassion and in a non-exploitative fashion with Edmund Bagwell's art giving it the verisimillitude I spoke of in the introduction.

Shane departs for a better life. Hopefully.
A place like the Ravenglade estate traps young and old in it's cycle of poverty and yet that becomes such a way of life that it's hard to take the step Shane does at the end and leave for good and it's fascinating that it was time spent in an institution that helped him make the decision.  Rarely are prisons seen as the forces for rehabilitation they aim to be both in real life and in fiction.  But there is no triumph in his departure, he's left an estate even worse off than when he arrived at the start, with the weird community that has sprung up around Mary's "babies" set to cause more hardship and horror.  The former top dog Skully may be dead, but what's going to replace him looks so much worse.... This was the first "recent" (published in 2011) 2000AD story I had read since I quit the comic in 1994 and I was amazed at how edgy it was, in content, storyline and dialogue.  It's made me want to start checking out more recent 2000AD collections to see what I have been missing.  And that's got to be an achievement of sorts too.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Miracleman: Book 1 - A Dream Of Flying (#1-4) PART TWO

"Out of the dark he is coming..." - Narration

The story so far:  It's the early 80's, shabby middle aged bloke Mike Moran has been haunted by dreams of flying towards a grey shape that explodes and consumes him in fire.  After being taken hostage by terrorists while covering a protest at a nuclear plant he sees the word "Atomic" backwards through a window.  He says the word "Kimota" and turns into the superhuman Miracleman.  He returns to his/Mikes wife Liz and after filling her in on his rather silly history they sleep together. Next day he is called up by Johnny Bates who was Kid Miracleman, now the owner of a large multinational company. Back as Mike, he and Liz go to meet Johnny.  Turns out Johnny hasn't lost his powers and is also completely corrupted and evil.  He and Miracleman fight, but Johnny is stronger, before he can finish Miracleman off, he accidentally says Miracleman's name, which is the magic word that triggers his transformation.  He turns back into sixteen year old Johnny Bates and seems to have lost his power to return back into his superpowered self.  Miracleman and Liz leave him virtually catatonic, while elsehwere in London, the authorities have unleashed the ultimate sanction to deal with Miracleman, a black man with sapphires for teeth called Evelyn Cream.  And now, back to the story.

We next find Mike and Liz out on an excursion to the moors to do some tests on his powers.  It seems Liz initiated this idea making her an early example of one of Moore's proactive females.  Mike seems a little uncertain about all this but changes into Miracleman nontheless. It seems two months have passed since his battle with Kid Miracleman, his face is still burned but has healed substantionally. Liz grabs some comics from the car boot.

Miracleman: "Comics?"

Liz: "Mmm, Amercian comics.  I thought if we wer going to investigate your power, I'd better do some research work."
She lists off some of the powers she's compiled.  Flight, super-strength and near invulnerability get an affirmative.  When she starts listing things like superbreath though, Miracleman looks adorably confused.
Kid Miracleman trapped in Johnny's head
Back with Johnny Bates, he's in some sort of fugue state being examined by doctors and inside his head he's being yelled at by Kid Miracleman, who swears revenge on Miracleman.

Kid Miracleman: "He just better hope I never get out of here.  He better hope I stay in here forever."

Liz and Miracleman are still on the moors. Miracleman picks up  huge boulder and lets it smash down onto his head.  Liz posits the idea that he has a forcefield that stops him being driven into the ground by the weight.  She thinks his power might be all in his mind.

We then move onto Evelyn Cream and I am not going to lie, I do find him a somewhat worrying character.  Not because he is black, but because he is black and so comprehensively "othered" by his sapphire teeth, white suit and dark glasses.  It feels like making him black as well was to increase his "exoticism" and that makes me uncomfortable.  But also, he is kind of a bad ass character too.  He's charming, intelligent and fiercely cultured, he quickly discovers Mike is Miracleman.  He has him at his mercy but decides to betray his governmental masters to help Miracleman find out the secrets of his past.  So he's a fascinating character even as he is also an contradictory one.
Evelyn Cream
Anyway, he's already narrowed down the list of possible Miracleman suspects to pressmen at the Larksmere terrorist incident.  He visits the hospital where one of the terrorists is being treated after mulling over the fact that the transformation might be accompanied by extreme heat and light.  So as only one of the terrorists had burns, he's the one to go and interview.  Once inside the hospital he shows fake ID and goes to see him.

Back with Mike and Liz, Liz thinks Mike and Miracleman are two different people.  The switch takes place when the magic word is said, which is why Miracleman didn't age and Kid Miracleman did.  Mike isn't sure as they share the same mind, although Miracleman is cleverer than him.  As they drive off, Liz drops a bombshell.
Mike's inferiority complex on display
Liz: "I've missed my last two periods and I'm going to have a baby and it isn't yours, it's Miracleman's."

Mike: ".............what did you just say?"

Poor Mike, this really starts the beginning of his disillusionment with how his "normal" self can't measure up to Miracleman's perfection.  Miracleman being so potent he got Liz pregnant after one night together, when he's never been able to give Liz kids.

Back with Cream, he is in with Steve, who is still deafened so Cream interviews him via written questions on a pad.  Steve describes Mike and Cream marks him on his list of possible suspects then he shows Steve the following message:

Cream's Pad: "Oh.. and remember how I promised not to kill you?"

Steve: "Yeah?"

Cream's Pad: "I was lying Steve."

It's an Arnie quip, before Arnie quipped it!  Anyway, Cream suffocates Steve and then leaves.
Alas poor Steve...
We return to the Moran's house over breakfast after Miracleman has been out enjoying the freedom of flight.  Mike is sulky and uncommunicative and has been since Liz told him about the baby two months ago (which does beg the question what Cream has been up to in the four months he was called in as the "ultimate sanction"). He apologises saying Miracleman is just so much better than he is.

Mike: "His emotions are so pure. When he loves you it's so gigantic. His love is so strong and direct and clean."

He apologises to Liz saying he'll sort it out then heads to the paper he works freelance for to try and hustle up some work.  His editor is complaining that the government has slapped a "D-Notice" (a gagging order) on stories about the battle between Miracleman and Johnny back in february. The editor then says he has no work for Mike and a somewhat sad Mike leaves the office.

In the lift he gets in is a woman with a baby and Cream hid behind a newspaper.  The woman hands Mike her baby while she gets something out of her bag, then Cream whispers in his ear:

Cream: "How are you going to change to Miracleman without roasting that innocent little baby the way you roasted that terrorist."

His trap sprung, Cream shoots Mike at point blank range and everything for Mike goes dark.
Cream takes down Mike with ease.
The next chapter has an interesting structure.  Each page has a strip running across the middle in with silhouetted figures talking about current events, this being the government "Spookshow" behind Miracleman's creation. The chapter begins with Miracleman transformed and being attacked ineffectively by soldiers, then flashes back to Mike and Cream. So I'll discuss that bit first.

Cream has Mike tied up and gagged.  He only shot him with tranquiliser bullets.  Cream then lays some facts upon him.  First that he was created in 1954 as part of a project  called Zarathustra, carried out by the Spookshow.  In 1963 they decided to terminate the experminent with an A-bomb and they have also hired Cream to kill him.  Mike thinks it can't be true about his origins, but doubt starts to creep into his mind.  Cream says they should work together so that Mike can find the truth and Cream can gain some valuable information.  He unties Mike and removes his gag.  Mike transforms and Cream can only say "remarkable."
Keeps his cool in the presence of an angel.
The Spookshow realise that Cream has sold them out, "he must know what the Zarathustra secret is worth".  One man wonders why the Zarathustra bunker is still operational.  Dennis Archer admits he kept the project open, hoping to recoup some of the massive cost. He also  admits that the last line of defence protecting the bunker is another super-powered individual.

Finally the chapter shows Miracleman walking slowly and deliberately towards the bunker's front door, swatting away every attempt to stop him like you would swat a fly.  He finally makes it to the entrance only to be confronted with a muscular man in a tight suit and tie, wearing a bowler hat and wielding an umbrella.  He calls Miracleman "a bolshevik blighter" and in voice over Sir Dennis Archer says his name is "Big Ben".
The somewhat lame, Big Ben
The next chapter starts with Evelyn Cream talking to himself, he has a lot to say so here is a truncated quote that gives you a flavour of what he's driving at:

Cream: "Educated at Rugby, trained at Sandhurst.  You read the untranslated novels of Colette and own an original Hockney. Good God sir you are practically white.... and yet you follow this white Loa.  This Miracleman who leaves a trail of dead and fish-eyed fellows in his wake. Can it be that you have gone native Cream? Mr. Cream do you at last believe in Ju-ju? Great Grandfather, pass me down the gris-gris and the pointing bone, for I have at this late stage opted to become another crazy n*****"

Now I can tell you that final word was not censored in the original comics, and while I understand Marvel's reasons for doing so it's still a shame.  Miracleman is so heavenly and Godlike that even a man as cultured as Cream feels primitive by comparison.  His self lacerating monologue speaks to a man who fears that under the surface of his "practically white" identity lurks a confused idea of a tribal past that Miracleman is forcing him to confront by his very perfection.  The use of the word "nigger" at the end is like a verbal gunshot, pulling us up short and making realise just how disconcerting being around Miracleman can be if it can reduce a proud black man to someone who'll use racial epithets about himself.

Back to Big Ben, and I do believe he was another Warrior character whose use in Miracleman was forced on Moore by the editor.  Which probably explains why he is so laughable and pathetic.  To Moore's credit he ties him into Project Zarathustra seamlessly so you'd never know he was an unwanted element.  He attacks Miracleman over and over, under the mental impression Miracleman is a Russian agent, while Miracleman just stands there.

Miracleman: "I wish I knew who he was.  I wish he'd stop hitting me."
"Foolish human."
Finally Miracleman gets bored and with a contemptous slap sends Big Ben crashing through the trees into the ground.  Evelyn Cream then puts some dynamite on the door to blow it open, but, in a gorgeously drawn panel, Miracleman looks at him with a mixture of amusement and pity and rips the door right off with one hand.  They enter the bunker.

The penultimate chapter - "Zarathustra" - is absolutely jammed packed with text so some serious summarising is going on here.  In another interesting structural move, this chapter is mostly narrated after the fact by Sir Dennis Archer.  He found the carnage outside the bunker "horrifying" and that Big Ben was still alive though somewhat frozen up.

Digital recorders showed that Miracleman and Cream entered the bunker and looked around, where they would have noticed the skeletons of the "superhuman" (it's two skeletons fused together, obviously Young Miracleman) and the "visitor" which is a non-human skeleton, as well as part of the Visitor's ship.  They then started studying the tapes and spent forty-five minutes watching them until at 03:56 Miraclemen went suddenly berserk.
Miracleman SMASH!
The tapes show doctors using information gleaned from the Visitor's ship to create a superhuman from a single cell.  Two identical "infra-spatial" trigger devices are implanted so that when the "replicate" is displaced into "infra-space" it remains connected to the human subject.  When the trigger is activated the human and the replicate switch places, the trigger being a keyword.

The tape goes onto say that the superhumans were the UK's attempt to make nuclear bombs obsolete and it shows Kid Miracleman performing some feats of power and speed. The three test subjects were chosen because they were children of deceased airforce personel.  Dennis then reports that they overwound the tape and came onto the creation of Big Ben. He was not as powerful as the Miraclemen as Project Zarathustra's originator had disappeared taking his findings with him, so they were working with incomplete data.  Hence Big Ben's instability which came about due to their limited understanding of the para-reality programming.
The Miraclemen's REAL origins.
Miracleman and Cream then rewound the tape to the section all about para-reality programming. The Miraclemen were fed their Silver Age adventures via a virtual reality style computer set-up.

Tape: "...and the creatures have lain dreaming for the past eight years.  Their entire existence a computer designed fantasy.  In order to explain the finer details of this all-important mind programming, here is the controller and originator of the Zarathustra Project Doctor Emil Gargunza."

Gargunza: "... we have completely programmed the minds of these near-divine creatures. Providing them in the process with an utterly manufactured identity which is ours to manipulate at will. To whit:  the identity of a children's comic book character."
This revelation does not go down well.
It was at this point that Miracleman went berserk, Gargunza being his repeated nemesis in the the adventures he had that he thought were for real. It seems Cream managed to calm him down and they both left, leaving a clean-up crew to move in.  This includes to psychiatrists who gently take away Big Ben who has had a complete breakdown and is lost in his fantasy world. The story ends with the same lines it started with about some trucks being empty and some not.

There is a short epilogue chapter which shows two working class men cleaning up in the bunker.  I believe there has been some censorship here as well, when they put a tape on originally it showed an insulting Chinese "Fu Manchu" sterotype, but has been changed to show Steed of the Avengers and the word balloon altered accordingly.  Again I understand why it was done, it's just I believe work that was of it's time should be presented warts and all.  There is also a short story which shows Miracleman in the future working with Warpsmith an alien who was given a couple of stories in Warrior also included in this book but never caught on by himself.  He goes on to play a much bigger role in Book 3 though.  I assume "The Yesterday Gambit" as it's called is non-canon now as I think it contradicts the later Miracleman strips, but I could be wrong.
Warpsmith and Miracleman.
The main event of this book though are the ten chapters from the first - "A Dream Of Flying" to the last "Zarathustra".  It's no exaggeration to say they went off in the comic culture like a bomb.  Warrior had a pretty small circulation, I believe roughly twenty-thousand copies on average were sold per issue, with a quarter of that in the USA.  In the same way that it was said only one hundred people saw The Velvet Underground live but they all went on to form bands, so too did it seem Marvelman as it was then known had an influence that far outstripped the low sales of the comic it was in.  Realistic treatments of "silly" superheroes became fashionable, and in a more direct sense, Marvelman led to Swamp Thing which led to Watchmen which of course was even more influential. Book One ends with the character and his history revamped and totally deconstructed.  What was now interesting would be how Moore would go about reconstructing the character he'd so lovingly pulled apart...

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Miracleman: Book 1 - A Dream Of Flying (#1-4) PART ONE

"Eighteen years.  Eighteen years trapped in that old, tired body." - Miracleman

Miracleman, Marvelman, Marvelman, Miracleman.  A few years ago I would have classed this as an Alan Moore Obscurity, because although this collection does not bear his name, the Northamptonshire Eeyore is "The Original Writer" of credit.  A couple of decades of rights hell had rendered his famous updating of the Silver Age UK creation "Marvelman" difficult to find and expensive to collect.  Even during it's original publication, first as an eight page black and white strip in early 80's UK comic Warrior, to it's continuation as a full length colour comic published by Eclipse in the late 80's, it had become in the words of second artist on the strip Alan Davis "a snake pit of egos".  It's ironic that Marvel is responsible for the recent reprints once a deal with Moore had been finally hammered out with Moore (and all the other people who felt they owned a stake in the character over the years), as threatened legal action from them in the 80's over the original name "Marvelman" (even though Marvelman predated the name Marvel being taken on as a corporate identity) forced a change to Miracleman, and it was fallout from this that led to Moore blocking reprints of his Captain Britain work for so long and likely one of the main reasons he has refused to allow this reprint material to go out with his name on, also meaning Marvel can't exploit his name for publicity.  Considering the shabby treatment Moore had suffered in the early part of his career from Marvel, it's a decision I am totally in his corner for, while being glad that he agreed to allow his most famous unread work back into mainstream circulation, just not credited "officially" to him.
Unused Warrior cover art.
Before I look at the actual Moore penned Miracleman story, let's look at this package as a whole.  A very nice package it is too. I was a little wary when I saw that it was going to be recoloured, I'd seen the somewhat haphazard recolouring of the Eclipse reprints in excerpts online and not been too impressed.  But this colouring job is beautiful, the original artists Garry Leach and Alan Davis couldn't have asked for better.  Because "Book One" of Miracleman only filled the equivalent of four normal length US comics when collected, this volume has been bulked out with some great extras. 

There is the non-canon special story Moore penned early on that was designed to give first artist Garry Leach more time to finish his episodes, and three "Warpsmith" stories that flesh out the titular alien race. One of whom appears in the non-canon special, but who goes on to have a greater role in later books.  There are also a covers gallery and pages from Leach's design notebooks, all very welcome and lovely to look at.  And then there is the story that kicks off the collection, a reprint of an old Marvelman story from the fifties.


For the two people who might not be aware of the fact, Marvelman was created in the fifties when the US series Captain Marvel fell into publishing limbo.  The characters are virtually identical.  Everyday human says a magic word (in Marvelman's case it's "Kimota!" - Atomik backwards) and transforms into a being with the power of Superman.  As well as Marvelman himself, there was Young Marvelman and Kid Marvelman and together they fought monsters and colourful villians and so on.  Now perhaps part of my issue with starting the book with this "flashback" is my real problem with Silver Age comic book stuff.
Silver Age Miracleman, Young Miracleman and Kid Miracleman.
Oh, I love the concepts, the characters, the inspiration the ideas have given to writers and artists who came later... but in practice, time and again I am repelled by the art and writing (what can I say?  I'm a child of the Bronze and Dark Ages).  So while I'll enjoy Neo-Silver Age stuff like Grant Morrison's All Star Superman or deconstructions of it, like, well Alan Moore's Miracleman, I'll leave the rest of it in the past.  It's not for me.  That said, it does at least show quite spectacularly just how much Alan Moore pulled the concept to pieces before rebuilding it in quite a different way.

As the Alan Moore storyline gets underway you'll notice two things.  Firstly the artwork is astounding.  Garry Leach's work is almost photorealistic and sadly couldn't last as it was taking him all month simply to pencil and ink one six to eight page strip.  Alan Davis takes over about halfway through, with Leach inking Davis on two chapters to smooth the transition.  Davis is a fine replacement, but the art gets noticably more cartoony as a trade-off.  The other thing you'll notice is how ridiculously cramped the narration and speech bubbles are.  Moore was at his most verbose during this period, and it's not helped by the fact that  the page size has been reduced from the "2000AD sized" original Warrior comics to the standard US comic size.  Break out your magnifying glasses people, but at least you feel like you've got your money's worth of plot and dialogue compared to todays decompressed age.

Narration: "In the sodium lit hours before dawn, the great trucks roll north. Some carry breakfast cereal, and some carry ball bearings. Some are empty.  And some are not."

Immediately grounding the story in the real world, we are introduced to a couple of domestic terrorists planning to steal some plutonium, before cutting to our main protagonist Mike Moran who is having a familiar dream.  He dreams he is flying with two other people towards "a vast grey ship".  The "sky catches fire" and he briefly sees one of his friends "flickering like a doppler image" before he is consumed by light and thunder.
Mike and Liz Moran.
He wakes screaming, waking his wife Liz as well.  He groans that he has a migraine and Liz offers to call his work at get him out of the Larksmere assignment.  He grouchily says they need the money from his journalism and he doesn't like his wife being the main breadwinner, showing how emasculated he feels.  He catches the train to Larksmere nuclear power station to cover a protest.  Once there though the terrorists appear and herd the journalists inside to record their advertisement for people who will want to buy plutonium off them. 

Mike's migraine gets worse, he is almost crippled by pain.  One of the terrorists takes him away down a corridor.  Mike sees the word "atomic" reflected backwards through a window.  He mumbles the suddenly familiar word "Kimota". And...

Narration: "The whisper is drowned by thunder. The screams of the man called Steve are lost in the sudden flood of light.  His face is scarred and blistered, his eardrums have burst.  His eyes have seen glory."

The other terrorists appear and shoot at Miracleman, but the bullets bounce off him.  He claps his hands together and disables them before flying out of the building and into space where he punches the air in a meta moment shouting "I'm Miracleman. I'm back!!"
A hero returns.
Later Miracleman goes and sees Liz.  At first she doesn't recognise him, but then she does and hugs him tight.

Narration: "He holds her and his touch is as frictionless as mercury. The restrained power in his arms makes her feel like glass."

Miracleman: "Sit down.  I'll make some coffee".

Narration: "'I'll make some coffee'.  The words sound so mundane...  Yet he looks like a god."

Over coffee he begins to tell her his story.  He was a copy boy for a newspaper called the Daily Bugle.  One day he was granted power by an astro-physicist called Guntag Borghelm. He gives him the word "Kimota" the "keyword of the universe" which allows his transformation into Miracleman.  He realises Liz is laughing:

Liz: "I'm sorry Mike, but that's such a bloody stupid story."
Miracleman's origin.
Miracleman uncertainly goes on, saying he was joined by a man called Dicky Dauntless (much to Liz's further merriment) who became Young Miracleman.  Then in 1956 they were joined by Johnny Bates who bccame Kid Miracleman, who changed whenever he said "Miracleman". They fought villains like Firebug, Young Nastyman and a freakish, dwarf genius called  Doctor Gargunza.  They thwarted his plans time and again, but it he never did anything really evil.  It was like they were "playing some a game."

Liz is still amused by all this.  She asked why she never heard of their exploits and Miracleman says it might have been covered up after what happened in 1963.

Liz: "Don't tell me. A couple more Miraclemen turned up and you formed a football team"

Miracleman: "Dammit Liz, you're laughing at my life!!"

And he clenches his fist, crushing the wood underneath it.  Anyway in 1963 he and the other two Miraclemen were blown up by a bomb.  He was found in the Suffolk marshes, badly burned with most of his bones broken.  He had forgotten his life as Miracleman until today. The action then cuts to a new character watching the news footage of Miracleman flying out of the powerplant.  He smashes his desk yelling "Miracleman. He's back. Back to spoil everything!"
The morning after...
The next day Liz awakes next to a sleeping Miracleman, she is naked and the implication is she slept with Miracleman not Mike.  She wanders round the room, touching things, trying to reconnect with normality.  Then the phone rings.  It's for Mike, so Miracleman changes back into him and takes the call.  It's Johnny Bates, Kid Miracleman, the desk smasher of the previous chapter.  He wants to meet up, so Mike and Liz go to his place of work, which is a company called Sunburst Cybernetics that Johnny owns.

They chat and Johnny says when they found the bomb, he flew as high as he could to outrun the blast and was caught on the edge of it.  He awoke in hospital and although he could remember his life as Kid Miracleman, he had lost his powers.

Johnny: "For seven years I had been something more than human. Then all of a sudden the magic went away."
Mike and Johnny reunited.
After chatting some more about how Johnny built his company up from scratch, he and Mike go out onto the balcony to talk privately.  Mike says he wanted to believe Johnny he really did but couldn't help but think, what if he hadn't lost his powers?

Mike: "I tried to think what it would be like to be sixteen years old and the most powerful creature on the face of the planet, and be answerable to no one.  You could do anything.  You'd never have to change into dull, weak, human Johnny Bates again".

Johnny tells him he is being paranoid.  Mike then realises Johnny is trying to do something to his mind. When Liz comes out on to the the balcony to tell them they have to go, Mike pushes Johnny off it.  And Johnny just hangs in the air, grinning, light crackling off him.
Yep, he's a psycho, proto-yuppie, Thatcherite scumbag.
Mike tells Liz to run, Johnny says he kill her after he kills her husband. His secretary arrives with more coffee and Johnny brutally murders her.

Narration: "Her name is Stephanie. She likes Adam and the Ants. Her boyfriend's name is Brian.  She collects Wedgewood.  Her insides have turned to water.  She is only human."

Cleverly, Alan Moore humanises Johnny's first victim with a thumbail sketch of her life, making his actions even more horrifying. Mike asks why he did that, Johnny answers that he enjoyed it.  Sadly Mike says "Kimota".  The pair of them go flying out into the street battling each other.  A small child comes up to Johnny calling him Superman.  Johnny asks if he would like to fly like Superman and picks up and hurls the child.  Miracleman manages to catch him, though the kid breaks a couple of ribs due to how fast he was going.  His mother snatches him back calling Miracleman a "bloody monster".
It's like the third Matrix film's climax, only good.
Johnny then smashes Miracleman high into the sky.  As he flies upwards, Miracleman wonders how Johnny got so strong, and why he aged as Kid Miracleman while Miracleman didn't.  Johnny builds a thunderbolt and blasts him with it, then smashes Miracleman into the ground causing a huge crater.  He thinks Miracleman dead;

Narration: "After a while he turns away to look at the city spread behind him. London huddled against the stinging rain.  He wonders what to do next."

He finds Liz and tells her he's quite relieved now he's out in the open, that it was "degrading" pretending to be human.  He crunches her car into a ball and goes to kill her when Miracleman appears and attacks him. They begin an epic beatdown on each other, with Johnny getting the upper hand quickly.  The narration describes them as having an almost "sexual hatred" for each other.
The authorities respond.
While their fight goes on we are shown various members of the authorities on the phone about them.  One is called Sir Dennis Archer, who goes "Oh God... the monsters are back."  The final person in the chain says he wants the "ultimate sanction. I want you to send for Mr. Cream".  Meanwhile Johnny has beaten Miracleman into near unconciousness.  Over Miracleman's prone body he throws his hands up in triumph:

Johnny: "I beat him!! ...And now I'm going to finish him off! Me!  His adoring junior protege! Me, Kid"

He has time for one look of horror at his mistake in saying "Miracleman" the word that changes him, before he turns back into sixteen year old Johnny Bates. Miracleman goes to kill him, but can't bring himself to do it.  Johnny stutters that it wasn't his fault.  He says Miracleman again, but doesn't change.  Miracleman theorises that the battle burnt his powers out somehow, and he and Liz leave Johnny Bates snivelling in the wreckage and fly away.
Poor pathetic Johnny Bates.
We are then introduced to a "black man, in a white suit" called Evelyn Cream, who has sapphires for teeth.  Later we also meet Sir Dennis Archer who reflects that he never should have let that "treacherous little freak build his monsters." He remembers back to when he oversaw the use of an atom bomb to take out the Miraclemen in 1963, then he thinks:

Narration: "Evelyn Cream will sanction the monster.  The dragon will be dealt with."
Introducing Evelyn Cream.
And that marks the halfway point of Book One.  So much crammed into so few chapters.  It's interesting that Moore places what would in other stories be the climatic battle against a super-powered nemesis in the middle of the story rather than the end.  With Johnny/Kid Miracleman out of the way, and having demonstrated the rather dysfunctional relationship the Miraclemen share with their human sides, while also grounding the story fully in the real world of early 80's Britain, the story is free to get on with the business of deconstructing the character in earnest in the second half of the story which I'll be looking at in a couple of days time.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Marshal Law: Fear And Loathing (#1-6)

"I'm a hero hunter.  I hunt heroes.  Haven't found any yet" - Marshal Law

A slight cheat here, although the creative team on this book is British, the comic was actually published by Marvel's Epic imprint, an attempt to do a more mature and creator's rights friendly publishing arm.  But while it's American in that way and indeed set in the USA and about the very US concept of the superhero, the way it approaches that concept is very British. Something I've touched on a few times when dealing with superheroes as written by British writers is how suspicious those writers tend to be of the superheroic archetype. The most famous example of course is Alan Moore deconstructing it in works such as Miracleman and Watchmen.  But he was comparatively gentle compared to fellow countrymen like Garth Ennis who has no time for any superhero apart from Superman. Or Warren Ellis versus The Fantastic Four. Or here with the first 1989 miniseries Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing, the 2000AD writer and editor Pat Mill's along with artist Kevin O'Neil at his most "ugly" aiming a double-barrelled shotgun at the superhero concept and letting fly with their story of manufactured "superheroes" who are pawns of the military-industrial complex, in a dystopic San Francisco of the near future, being hunted and controlled by the hate-motivated, S&M leather clad Marshal Law himself.

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.
Confession time.  I was fifteen when Marshal Law: Fear And Loathing was collected in the trade paperback I still own.  I was (and still am) a hardcore lefty myself and loved Marshal Law so much I painted him on a T-shirt I also still own when none seemed forthcoming officially.  Yet while I see Marshal Law as the extreme end-point for superhero satire and one that ran out of steam when mere hate couldn't sustain it past a few more miniseries and one-shots, I find I can still love both it and it's complete ideological (Morrison-penned) opposite, All Star Superman. 

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
The background to the story is that artificially created superheroes like the Superman analogue "Public Spirit" inspired many young men to join the army in exchange for superpowers, they then found themselves taking part in a Vietnam-like mess of a war in South America resulting in hundreds of traumatised superhuman war vets coming back home to the rubble of earthquake devastated "San Futuro".  This betrayal as he sees it, by  the glamorous superstar heroes is what fuels Marshal Law's hatred of them in his new career as a policeman and as he begins an investigation into the anonymous superbeing called "Sleepman" who has been raping and killing women dressed as the Public Spirit's girlfriend, the "Siren" named Celeste.
Sleepman's twisted credo.
The story begins with Marshal flashing back to when he was a kid and felt the magic of superheroes.  The JLA - Jesus League of America led by the public Spirit inspired him to join the army in exchange for superstrength and resilience and found himself in a world of hell called "The Zone".  While this was going on, Public Spirit went on a mission to the stars, which due to relativity took two years for him and twenty-five years passed on Earth.  Now his return has coincided with the Sleepman's attacks on prostitutes and strippergrams dressed as Celeste and he is Marshal Law's number one suspect.

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 picks up some groceries before returning to his secret base.  We meet Father O'Brian and Mrs. Mallon who runs the shop.  Then in the underground base we meet the wheelchair bound Danny, who is Mrs. Mallon's son who is his computer whiz.  Marshal is told that his request for the Public Spirits DNA has been rejected.  Then an alert sounds that Gangreen's forces are attacking.  Marshal Law decides against wiping them out and just blocks off the tunnel.  He says killing them would just inititate a huge gang war and anyway:

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".
She says she and some college friends are going to the Superdome the next day, dressed up as heroes to mock them.  We then cut to the following day at the Superdome which is like a superhero theme park.  The Public Spirit is giving an appearance, so Marshal, Danny and Mrs. Mallon are all attending.  Mrs. Mallon is highly critical of Celeste, while Danny says she is beautiful.  We are then told that Danny hacked the SHOCC computer and discovered that Public Spirit had a previous Siren girlfriend called Virago before he left on his star mission.  She died mysteriously out to see one day when she and the Public Spirit were out training though her body was never found.

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...
This cause something of a commotion, meanwhile Lynn dressed as Celeste is in serious trouble.  The Sleepman appears and grabs her.  She pleads with him to at least take his mask off, which he does, revealing a horrifically lumpy face.  Then he graphically rapes and kills her realising that Marshal law will kill him for this and it would be what he deserves.

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.
Back in his civilian identity, Marshal mourns Lynn.   How she helped open his eyes to what he did in the military.  He thinks about meeting her parents to tell them the bad news and how they really didn't get their daughter. He looks at a photo of her.

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.
Bad Ass.
The next chapter starts with the Public Spirit sat on a toilet, shooting up anabolic steroids.  Celeste ponders this as she doesn't want to use them herself.  She works out with She-Beast who is hugely muscled and sees nothing wrong with artificially enhancing their powers.  Then Celeste sings her Siren Song to the Public Spirit and they engage in a bit of flying sex.

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.
Virago revealed.
The next chapter is entirely narrated by Danny, now revealed as the Sleepman. He flashes back to his childhood and how whenever he flew his mother would beat him and call him a "dirty boy".  He's waiting by the seashore saying he saw him at the wedding where he was hoping to see him kill the Public Spirit.  Public Spirit and Virago flew off and are arguning close by to Danny.  When Marshal Law got into his helicopter to begin looking for them Danny appeared to lead him to them.

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".
Uh oh.
After some background into the creation of Virago and the Public Spirit, we are told about how South America started experimenting with superheroes before turning to Marxism to solve their problems.  So of course the US invaded and thousands of young men were given superpowers to fight in The Zone.

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.
Virago commands Danny to kill Public Spirit, but Danny holds back as a raging Public Spirit finally kills Virago for good.  Then Marshal Law arrives.  Danny expected there would be quite a showdown between them, and removes his lumpy mask.  But Marshal Law merely says "bacteria" and shoots Danny in the heart.  Danny falls into the water and sinks to the bottom thinking:

Danny: " 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."
Danny "dies".
The final chapter begins with Marshal hunting the Public Spirit, he finds a lookalike sent to confuse him and menaces him into telling him where the Public Spirit is fleeing to. The police try to arrest the Public Spirit at the airport but he bulks up and punches right through them.  He then goes on the rampage, while Marshal Law arrives to take him down.  Marshal flashes back to something Lynne told him. About the symbolism of the Public Spirit.

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.
Back with Marshal and Public Spirit, Public Spirit attacks Marshal Law calling him a "faggot" and a "leather clad tinkerbell".  Before he can kill Marshall, he gets a faceful of fear gas which makes him confront his biggest fear, that of failing.  Which he had.  He slumps back down to normal size and Marshal Law beats him up.

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.
Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing is still a remarkable book.  It hasn't dated in the slightest.  The main unfortunate aspect of it is that it preceeded a whole host of grim and gritty psychopathic heroes created during the nineties that kept all the violence but had none of the smarts Pat Mills wrote into it.  Even later Marshal Law series fell into that trap, but this first series is fantastic.  It's probably my favourite example of Kevin O'Neil's artwork as well, his distortions of the human body and physical exaggerations are still grounded in a full understanding of anatomy and perspective. Marshal Law is a compelling character, a man of two parts driven by hatred and later sorrow to war on his own kind, yet could still pass for "normal" when living with his girlfriend.  The Public Spirit is an incarnation of how no one could live up to the expectations placed upon them as the worlds greatest hero and how Superman feels unreal by comparison.  It's a deeply cynical view, and not one I share, but it's typical of Pat Mill's fierce dislike of the superhero concept.  This edition is long out of print, but luckily all Marshal's adventures have been collected in a swish hardback and it's definitely worth checking out if you enjoy a more complex look at superheroes and the kind of world that would create them.