web stats

CSBG Archive

Committed: Marshal Law – The Most Underrated Book in Comics

041410_marshallawIn the 80’s a small handful of books changed comics. Marshal Law was one of them. It hasn’t been widely hailed as the seminal work of ground-breaking anti-superhero fiction, or a classic tale of the dangers of unquestioningly pandering to popular opinion, but this is exactly what it is.

Set in an entirely destroyed and debauched San Francisco of the distant future. This is the story of an ex-soldier, genetically altered to be stronger and feel no pain, hired by the government to be their high-profile, sanctioned “hero-hunter”. He operates his own renegade “police station” from a disused BART station, working with a sparse team to detect and hunt down those with superpowers who would break the law.

When Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s Marshal Law came out, it was part of a smattering of books that questioned the previously invulnerable superhero image. Books like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are now bywords for the genre, ground-breaking seminal stories which forever changed the way American comic books would be perceived and regarded. But Marshal Law did this too, and in many ways, far better. V for Vendetta (another well-known classic of the same era) similarly described a brutal dystopian future, using the trappings of futuristic comic book heroism to criticize the right wing government and the people who’d voted it in. It was a damning comment on the current values being espoused, and the ultimate outcome of those kind of politics. Marshal Law also did this, in more detail, with more vitriol, and with absolutely no fanfare.

Top Shelf Productions have announced plans to release a 512 page omnibus of Marshal Law and now is the time to order it. This is a book that deserves a place on every shelf… if you can handle it.

Why is it that Marshal Law has never been lauded in the way that it’s peers have been? I believe that the reasons are twofold. First of all, it’s goes further (on many levels), and secondly, the story continued, rather than simply being a one-shot book.

041410_marshal_law_15Marshal Law is quite a bit more extreme than the books of a similar ilk and a similar era. It’s just that little bit more acerbic and challenging, (increasingly so, over the run), which can take some of the joy out of it, and force it’s audience to think about the world in a way that might not be too comfortable. After all, when V for Vendetta painted a portrait of London plastered with spy cameras and the population willingly duped by politicians, it was easier for American’s to enjoy it as fiction (even if is all coming to pass now) because it was a story about a foreign country. Similarly, reading about the dysfunctional society of a geriatric Batman in the Dark Knight Returns was that much easier in an overtly fictional future, replete with comically wacky punks and a culture with values ostensibly far outside our own. Even the sad, introspective superheroes of Watchmen have nothing on the deeply dysfunctional mental-patients of Marshal Law. Marshal Law is bitingly funny, brutally vitriolic, and deeply sarcastic. It’s the difference between a bit of a heated discussion with a friend, and deciding to pick up a shotgun and just blow the bastard away… which is one reason why Marshal Law isn’t lauded as one of the greats. It’s just too much for a lot of people.

Using the actual language of contemporary (at the time) social politics to talk about the superheroes and the world they inhabit, not metaphors or synonyms, the actual language that politician were using to describe the horrors of a world gone fatally wrong. Taking the world to it’s most extreme, negative, logical conclusion makes this a thought-provoking work, even in the times when it isn’t too pretty. Politically, sexually, and emotionally it’s a brutal book, no punches are pulled and it works well that way… It demands a level of immersion that many comics happily waive. There is little joy, (apart from the darkly comedic undertones), no classic feel-good payoff for Marshal Law or the reader. There is glee in the achievement of goals, but those goals are violent and more to do with prevention and death than any cultivation, renewal or culmination of happiness. No, the reader must be satisfied with a grim and desperate desire to see those who would perpetrate evil destroyed. There is no other hope, and no more power than this destructive one, and for Marshal Law this is enough.

Story continues below

041410_marshal_law_11At the end of the first volume (“Fear and Loathing” reprinting the original issues 1-6 of Marshal Law) a villain of the piece presciently talks of the staying power of the great ones, those who die at the height of their popularity. “He’ll be a legend then… like Lennon… or Monroe.. or Martin Luther King… You know, heroes are really a lot less trouble when they’re dead.” Like the heroes who’s beauty and talent is unmarred by their continued growth, the books most highly regarded are those that had the good grace to piss off and stop asking the difficult questions. Unlike those limited series, after Marshal Law’s iconic first storyline, wherein terrible, wild ideas are presented, mocked, and dispensed, Marshal Law must inevitably continue the fight against wrong. This is right and appropriate, since the story is that of a warrior who will never rest until he has finished his unpalatable work. As in life, there is no happy ending, no neat wrapping up of loose ends. Instead there is only the unending spawn of a broken society producing sick so-called superheroes, and Marshal Law is there to fight them. It is this evolution of the story, this need to keep picking at the scab that makes it difficult for some to pick up and adore. It isn’t simply one cute little story, it’s an entire rethinking of the superhero mythology and popular opinion. There is no end.

Right from the beginning, Marshal Law took a different approach from everyone else, as it says “Out Rambo-ing Rambo.” It was kicking huge amounts of ass before Kick-Ass ever was. It was exploring the idea of death-inducing super-sex before The Boys ever thought to. It was bitter and critical before Transmetropolitan ever thought to dissect the populist futuristic urban nightmare. You name a good comic, rich with impact and bite, and you’ll see the many ways in which Marshal Law was it’s precursor. The benchmark of a great work is not simply the sum of it’s parts, but also the ways in which it affected the genre. The ripples of Marshal Law can be seen in many of the more intense comic book tropes that are so familiar now. What is essential to remember is that, like Watchmen, the Dark Knight Returns, and V for Vendetta, no one was doing this yet. At the time, this was relatively new territory. It was challenging, confrontational, intense comic book writing and it wasn’t even clear if this kind of thing had an audience. The bravery of this kind of comic book creation has to be balanced by a profound desire to tell such a story, otherwise Mills and O’Neill would surely have taken an easier route. We can be bloody grateful that they didn’t, and that we can soon purchase this edition of this epic time-capsule to finally set in it’s proper place in comic book history.

NB: Many thanks to James for thinking to ask the very simple and obvious question: “What would you consider to be the most underrated book in comics?” You can probably pre-order the Marshal Law Omnibus from your local comic store.


The reason it’s underrated is its availability. This was serialized in 2000AD, right? The trades aren’t readily available, are they? The books you mention (DKR, Watchmen, V) were either published by DC or collected in trade by DC. And even though Miracleman (or Marvelman, if you prefer) has been tough to find due to the legal stuff, it has a good reputation because of Alan Moore. Pat Mills never became a big star in comics, and Kevin O’Neill, while more well known, isn’t a huge star either. I’ve never read Marshal Law because I wouldn’t know where to start. Is “Fear and Loathing” still in print? I have no idea if it’s “too much” for readers, because of the lack of reading, but I know that far fewer people have read this because of its availability than anything else. That’s good news about the Top Shelf book – I’ll definitely pick it up, because I have heard good things about Marshal Law for years.

I really think you’re overlooking the obvious by not pointing out that O’Neils art is not to everyones liking, more ofan aquired taste, and the series suffered for it. Most Underrated books: Slaine the Horned God, Buddha, Hard Boiled, Brute and Babe, The Untold Legend of Batman!

Satire’s law of diminishing returns has also impacted Marshal Law‘s place in the canon, so to speak.

Blood Sword Dynasty, Orange

Greg — The series started with Marvel’s Epic Comics, moved to Apocalypse Comics, and, then, to Dark Horse with a return to Epic in there. Titan published some trades a few years back, but, yeah, not exactly an easy-to-find series. Sadly.

Marshal Law was never a 2000AD title — in fact, part of its problem is that it’s jumped from publisher to publisher rather than having the sort of secure berth a title like 2000AD would have provided.

If you think O’Neill’s art looks inaccessible here, you should see his work on Nemesis the Warlock. It’s somewhere between amazing and eye-jangling.

O’Neill’s artwork definitely isn’t for everybody. I was surpised when I read recently at Steve Bissette’s website that it wasn’t even for the Comic Code Authority, who informed DC in 1986 that his entire STYLE wasn’t appropriate for comics. Not the content, not something specific that he drew, but that they found his entire STYLE offensive. Check the link below, it’s about 1/3 of the way down the page, just past the Mandrake Batman cover…


As for Marshall Law itself, I remember seeing it pushed in retailer catalogs like those of New England Comics and American Entertainment back in the late 80’s/early 90’s but to this day, have still never read it. Wasn’t there going to be a re-release of it a few years ago…?

Savage Dragon, Nexus, Wednesday Comics

@Andrew Collins: Thanks for the link!

Welcome! The whole series from Bissette about the aborted attempt at DC in the late 80’s to start labeling all their comics and the fallout from that decision makes for fascinating reading. Especially since the effects of it are still being felt today in some areas…

I wonder how much the series’ reputation was hurt at the time due to lateness. Last time I read the series I took a look at the copyright information and found that it took around a year and a half to put out six issues. That’s not shocking by today’s standards but I imagine it would be harder to follow the erratic release schedule at the time.

The Top Shelf Omnibus was scheduled to come out last month but then was rescheduled for 2011. Let’s hope it actually does come out.

Cool article! I hadn’t heard of this series before; I think I’ll pick up that Omnibus when it comes out.

Interesting. I don’t know if I’ll like it, based on the art. It seems…off to me. :/

Also, who is Daniel K? And am I going to have to start putting an initial after my name too?

That’d be me. Curse of a common name, I know.

Peter Woodhouse

April 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm

O’Neill’s artwork on Nemesis to this 9-year-old in 2000AD’s heyday in the 80s was awesome. Although you could say it was ‘weird,/adult/offputting/offensive’ I thought it’s very grotesque quality is actually what kids tend to like (well, some anyway!). To me the art evoked, I dunno, sort of slime, bogeys, goblins, etc. I adored it!

The story about O’Neill, the Comic Code Authority & DC in 1986 is widely spread on the net – I think Brian’s covered it in Legends Revealed. Yep here it is, No. 39:

I always thought MARSHALL LAW was a lot like THE BOYS, but done right.

Pat Mills is every bit as critical of superheroes as Garth Ennis, but he seems far more knowledgeable on the subject. I always liked it MARSHALL LAW, while THE BOYS mostly makes me dislike Ennis’s smugness. As if Ennis were attacking strawmen, while Pat Mills knew what was going on.

Indeed, O’Neill’s hand in creating the unfettered madness of Termight and the alien worlds of Nemesis was beyond brilliant. Just take a look at the first couple of books (in the old TItan numbering) to see the sheer lunacy of the universe he brought to life (with Pat Mills, of course). Even though I love Bryan Talbot’s work, it was so disappointing when he took over as Kev was just a handful of issues into the Goth Empire arc, with its brilliantly realised steampunk British Empire. The easter eggs and background gags quickly fell away as Nemesis became more, well, conventional, at least in its look. It wasn’t until the late John Hicklenton took over a number of years later that the madness bounded back onto the page. Very different from O’Neill’s world, but nonetheless inspired.

And Marshall Law never did anything for me. Even when I read it about 15+ years ago. Maybe I should give it another look.

Sonia I remember you lauded Marshal Law once before. I do think it has its merits but it has always been more of a cult classic in my experience. I’m not sure that enough people have read it for it to really have been as influential or groundbreaking as you describe it. I do remember getting issue 1 and my 12 year old mind being blown away, but 3-4 months between issues to a young lad was an eternity, and I largely lost interest in it for that reason.

I agree with the comments the satire was a bit over the top (and does not age well), but really that seemed to be the goal of the book then didn’t it?. The other aspect of that -it was disturbing! It was like taking the realism of Watchmen and edge Dark Knight and really turning it up beyond 11. The leather and zippers look, the mutant with the tail, Sleepman gouging the Celeste lookalike, it all had a very dirty S&M feel. All these elements would slowly seep into mainstream entertainment in the mid to late 90’s to the point of becoming passe.

In one regard the Epic series was ahead of its time in the medium. But I would also argue many of its elements were predated by the cyberpunk style of Neuromancer (1984) for example,which then by 1987 was turning up in Blockbuster movies like Robocop.

The one-shot special with the JSA parody characters was so freaking hilarious.

..and one final thought. There really is a sense of shock for shock’s sake to the Epic series, which to me is always a bit of a cop out, and not nearly the bold artistic display it is often characterized as.

That’s my anonymous comment above, if anyone cares :-)

Hate the O’Neil artwork and that’s one reason that this book is not more popular. It is just too ugly. Also, long term dystopia gets so discouraging after a while that no one wants to participate in it anymore & most give up & go to something less dreary.
Also, some people don’t like all the criticalness.
Count me out on Marshall Law.

I haven’t had a chance to read the piece yet, but I’m already putting in my order just from looking at those page samples.

People that don’t like the art are dumb and I hate them.

Well, count me in on the Marshal Law love. I initially picked it up because of the eyecatching covers on display at the LCS, and Fear and Loathing is still an exceptionally sharp satire of not just superheroes but of the political undercurrents. Heavy-handed and extreme yes, but has aged considerably better than Miller’s attempts at satire in DKR.

Later Marshal Law tends to be less intellectually dense and more interested in Law taking down many of the other popular superhero franchises in much the same way as Millar did with the Avengers in Authority and Ennis has basically done through out The Boys, even then Marshal Law not only did it first, but did it better. Law’s casual dismissal of th X-Men stand-ins by pointing out that posing as unloved freaks is adolescent posturing to over up their beliefs in genentic superiority is again proff that Mills’ really seems to have a real understanding of the superhero genre in a way that Ennis (and Ellis and Millar for that matter) does not.

(I actually like the Boys, but more as a character driven story in of itself, instead of the more thematically rich material of Marshal Law)

Surprisingly though, the best post-Fear and Loathing story is actually the Marshal Law/Hellraiser crossover, that I expected to be more of the same splatter comedy that Law had turned into, but instead Mills uses it as a lengthy conversation between Law & Pinhead about War, Patriotism Courage and the like that again showed off how damn good Mills can be.

I also quite like O’Neill’s art. I realize why many people here have problems iwth it, but I’ve always preferred artists with more individualistc styles; I remember even at 8 years old being knocked out by what Sienkiewicz was doing on New Mutants, so I guess it depends on what one was exposed to earlier on to see if that makes you like artists like O’Neill.

I never read it.

My comic book budget was limited and I could never get past the horrible covers.

and it’s funny I spent much of my morning scanning Marshall Law pics for my new video and then I get home and read this article. Ironic.

GREAT MOMENTS in Comic Books Part 18 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soYysWz1mFw

One of my 3 favorite american comics (yes I know the creators aren’t but originally it came from Marvel, so).
The next chapters were also great (well, I didn’t liked the Hellblazer story as much as the others) and I’ve never fail to buy anything from the series (except the prose novel), maybe they charged too much in the parody of existent heroes (Punisher, Batman, JSA, Legion of SH, …) or team-ups (Hellblazer, the Mask, Savage Dragon), but it ‘s always been evolving and the character will never be the same with each passing chapter.
I’d like to see again a plot as dense and elaborated as the one of the first series. Maybe the problem is that there’s not enough fanbase to support anything but limited series of 2-3 issues.

What happened with the idea of a Marshal Law movie? At the day they talked about Henry Rollins (from The Rollins Band) to play the role.

It was serialised in Marvel UKs “Strip” which I still have.
I thought the original run was great. He had a life beyond work and the background jokes were not too invasive.
kingdom of the blind was pretty good too, but by the time we got to zombies ( in UKs “Toxic”) and crossovers I gave up. The colouring lost if after F&L too.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 15, 2010 at 5:27 am

This is where Kevin O’Neill got his American exposure before A League of Extraordinary Gentelmen propelled him to fame.

A classic anti-superhero series.

I do wonder if Garth Ennis was influenced by this series for The Boys.

To me, Henry Rollins will always be Henry Rollins of Black Flag. “Drink, drink, drink, don’t think, drink, drive, kill…”

on some level, i really think watchmen has to be the most underrated comic. the fact that so many people doubt it’s greatness and this era’s apparent backlash against its place in history means it’s not very properly rated by many (most?) people.

as for works fitting the more traditional definition of underrated, 4 stand out in my mind: squadron supreme, supreme- story of the year, chris claremont’s 1982-1986 output, and the first year or so of the valiant universe.

with squadron supreme, you had probably the first self contained work about heroes trying to affect the world, which has arguably become the dominant theme of the marvel universe over the last decade. i was blown away that this didn’t make the top 100 comic stories this site did a few months back. like marshall law, it suffers from creators with no name recognition, it has characters no one has heard of, and marvel prices the trade too highly to be a book that many casual fans will take a chance on.

supreme: story of the year, looking back, seems to be one of the most influential works of the 90’s, in terms of the way it uses retcons, flashbacks, manufactured nostalgia, and circular story-telling. while many of these story-telling devices have been justifiably lambasted by fans for their overuse, this is one of the stories where they work perfectly. like squadron supreme, this seems to be one of those works that virtually every important creator has read and lifted things from, by very few fans have ever seen. they’re sort of like the velvet underground of super-hero comics.

everyone always talks up the claremont/byrne run as being the x-men’s best, but the more apt title would be “most classic,” as in, “these are the stories that laid the groundwork.” the byrne run is what set the tone for the x-men, and it introduced most of the story ideas that the franchise would continually come back to, but in the late 70’s, claremont was just another hack marvel super-hero writer who found the perfect storm of right collaborator/right characters. 1982, almost two years after byrne left, is when claremont got REALLY good. beginning with the brood saga (x-men 162-167), claremont ran off a four year run of working with the greatest talents in comics on some of the most groundbreaking stories, capping off with the mutant massacre (x-men 210-213), which began the true franchising of the x-men and thus was the end of an era of sorts. the key was that this is when claremont became hugely influenced by alan moore’s writing style and frank miller’s pacing style, both of which he incorporated into his projects. consider what claremont did from 82-86: a year-run with paul smith that finished the brood saga, introduced the morlocks and new mutants, had rogue join the team, and documented the weddings of wolverine & cyclops; the wolverine mini-series with frank miller, which remains the greatest and most important wolverine story ever written; the god loves/man kills graphic novel with brent anderson, which many call the greatest x-men story, and which helped create the graphic novel boom of the 80’s; a year long new mutants run with bill sienkiewicz that may be the most visually influential comics work of the 1980’s not by frank miller, and which helped usher “alternative” art into mainstream comics; a 3 year run with john romita, jr. that was almost more a series of character sketches than it was a team book; a series of special issues, annuals, and one-offs with barry windsor-smith, art adams, and alan davis that remain some of the most fondly remembered stories of their era. had claremont left the series with byrne in 1980, their run would be well remembered and esteemed, but the title might have died shortly afterwards. claremont’s 82-86 run is what truly turned the x-men into the most loved characters in comics and where claremont’s true legacy as a writer should lay.

no one under the age of 25 has even heard of the valiant universe, which is a real shame, because for a brief 2 years, it really felt like a 3rd dominant company was there to stay. i truly believe the tight continuity and inter-relatedness of the ultimate universe was completely structured off and influenced by the valiant universe. i recently reread the first few years of the company, and it holds up surprisingly well, even though most of the art is average. harbinger stands out as being a bit juvenile (but in hindsight makes the runaways feel like a rip-off), and shadowman & x-o lack much depth, but rai is great and solar & magnus are masterpieces. it really makes you wonder what could have happened if shooter had never been fired, and the fate of the company is the ultimate “don’t bite the hand that feeds” cautionary tale.

so those are my underrated picks, sorry it was so long for anyone still actually reading.

I wonder if the trade will include the story line from Toxic magazine?

Third Man,
I don’t think that Watchmen is underrated because “so many people doubt it’s greatness”. Well, maybe people think so because they don’t know what was the industry tendence when it first came out, and all that that day seemed new, today has been rewritten to saciety (but if we talk about bold approach in the mainstream USA, I think Watchmen would be not so groundbreaking if you’ve read before Squadron Supreme and the works of Moore on Warrior).
In fact I’m one of those who thinks Watchmen is quite overrated, yes it has a great technique, construction, art and literature, but I didn’t like the story a lot and it hasn’t half the originality people use to think. The same way I think of Dark Knight, having read Ronin before (with all their flaws Squadorn Supreme and Ronin showed a lot of the tendences comics were going to take), a project much more ambitious.

About Valiant, maybe it’s been underrated, but Shooter planted the seed of all that work when he was doing StarBrand, another series, along the 2 early mentioned and others, whose faults seems to have eclipsed the good ideas that laid underneath.

I have never read Supreme, but, with the great things I’ve heard about it, I doubt that it were underrated (unless it is the greatest comic in history, and I doubt it).

About that last point and the use of the term underrated:
There are a lot of little gems that never have had the recognition of the masses they deserve, maybe Marshal Law is the first among them (right now, I’m thinking in Black Hole, but there’re hundreds of them), but that doesn’t mean they’re underrated. I doubt that anybody hadn’t read more than 2 bad critiques about those comics, if any; they’re hold on very high regard, it’s only that they haven’t sold as many issues as we think they deserve.
IMO, underrated were those comics labeled “for children” only because they displayed guys with capes, or the funny looking of the cartoons. i.e.: For me TODAY, Segar’s Popeye is the most underrated comic by the common comic book reader, probably influenced by the TV show.

@ The Mutt:

You must feel awful! Adam K doesn’t like you!

Perhaps you and i could get together and have a support group about our need to love and be loved [by Marshall Law fans that is]


My local library had the trades. Really enjoyed them.

I remember at the time thinking “How has Pat Mills got away with this?” (Because he mercilessly extracted the urine from a range of DC and Marvel characters. Incidentally his treatment of the Legion of Super Heroes was masterly…. I doubt if even Garth Ennis will be able to match it in his latest Boys arc, “The Innocents”.)

Watchmen is SO overrated it’s fucking silly. I’m going on record as saying it is the MOST OVERRATED SERIES EVER!

Adam K. apparently doesn’t know his asshole from a foxhole. Douche.

Squadron Supreme
D.P. 7
El Diablo
Sisterhood of Steel
Atari Force
Iron Fist
Infinity Inc.
American Flagg!

I trust Brian will cover all these in his Cool Comics series eventually.

Now that you’ve mentioned Atari Force, another good series from the same people comes to my mind:
– Cinder and Ashe.

Another good read that I’ve always thought that it never received all the praises it deserves is You Are Here by Kyle Baker, one of his best works.

Great piece. 100% agreed.

“Pat Mills never became a big star in comics”

There’s a word missing here, and that word is “American”. Pat Mills is probably second only to Moore in Britain. He founded 2000AD, after all. I was in Paris in March, and stopped in at an entertainment megastore, and as I walked in there was a great big display of newly released “hot” stuff- new DVDs of blockbuster movies, trendy new albums etc- facing the door, so everyone would see it as they came in. And front and centre was the latest volume (vol 9) of Requiem: Vampire Knight… written by Pat Mills. So I think it’s fair to say he must be a pretty big star in France too.

Marshall Law’s influence is undeniable. Ennis, Ellis, Millar, Morrison, and all the other British writers who’ve had such a massive influence on American comics over the last few decades all grew up reading 2000AD (which has always had a pretty big chunk of given over to material by Mills), and Law was a huge deal here when I was young. In the last 20 years, there’s only ever been one serious contender for 2000AD’s crown, a weekly anthology in a similar style (and featuring many of the same creators) called Toxic.

Toxic’s lead feature? Marshall Law.

The *readers* of American comics may not be familiar with Marshall Law, but trust me, the creators- at least those from this side of the pond, which is most of the more influential writers- DEFINITELY are.

Totally agree with David Wynne.

There has always been a belief that unless a comic creator makes it big in America, he/she has never really found success. And Pat Mills is indeed a superstar here in Europe (as is John Wagner – another great writer!)

“In the 80’s a small handful of books changed comics. Marshal Law was one of them” : that’s exactly what happened to me in the late 80’s, where in France, a small editor decided to published back to back Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Marshal Law in graphic novel form (deluxe giant size and hardcover books).
So great post! But I think Marshal Law is not to be solely confused with a brutal satire of the superhero genre, even if it contains a lot of humor and DC/Marvel Comics references (for instance Pat Mills is a loather of super heroes). Its often primarily a political comic, and, as to quote Pat Mills himself, its main purpose is to be a manifesto to answer the question “what is a hero?”.

I have every one ever came out fear and loathing all the way to the hell razer tie in.

Fyi he has found one true hero.. kiloton

I have collected all Marshal Law comics as well,and I can say I see brutality hitting the streets and spilling out into suburbia with the brewing race/political/food wars going on over the last few years. Marshal Law was brilliantly conceived in “over the top” antics and melancholy morality that spoke to the youth of the 80’s. It was a possible preview of a warped, corrupt, and ironic justice that speaks in volumes of the socialist Orwellian future we currently head towards and how the powerful exploit the weak for whatever reason. Some coveted technology, some were mutants, and others were not quite machine or human. The human race became a cesspool of genetic modification and exploitation by the powerful. Marshal Law was like a ranger from the old west sent to put anyone and anything that was out of control out of misery. He did his job well, and the sacrifice he paid to be the best at what he did left us yearning for more ass-kicking and more savoring of what little dialog some graphic novels actually held. So, when are they making the cartoon?

I actually found a copy of the first volume “Fear and Loathing” at Ollies Bargain basement for $3.99 the other day. Had never heard of Marshall Law before then, but I picked it up and loved it.

All I know is that I picked up the comic book at my local shop the year it came out, when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I had read Dark Knight and a few issues of Watchmen along with all the other mass-market comics at this point. But there was something about the cover, and knowing Epic Comics’ reputation for weird and different works on the shelf…I think I had to hide the comic book at the bottom of my comic book collection, in a far off part of my closet, I was so shocked by the work inside. This was maybe 1987, I think. I fell hard to O’Neil and Mills’ weird, twisted, and totally boundary-pushing work, humor, and questioning of the status quo. Thank god for them – it gave me a different way to think, and a different way to look at visual art / comic book stories. Marshal Law is up there in my book.

Really enjoyed this article and the attached comments. I’d have to agree that Marshal Law was way, way ahead of its time, and with all the whisperings of “superhero fatigue” at the cinema I can’t believe that no one’s made a concerted effort to bring it to the big screen. As a film, it would be difficult to do right without watering it down, but in the right hands Marshal Law would make for a groundbreaking movie.

Anyone else remember a comic from the same period called “The One”? I believe Rick Veitch (who worked with Moore on Swamp Thing) was the artist. He might have been the writer as well. In my opinion, another overlooked classic.

Got to disagree with one of the guys above. Byrne and Claremont’s run on X-men? Boring, boring, boring and just a couple of steps removed from a daytime soap opera. I will agree that Claremont did more with female characters than most other comic book writers, but I found his run on X-men to be unbearably dull.

Absolutely loved Marshal Law. Just picked up all 6 issues of the Epic series,bagged and boarded in minty condition at a barter shop for $10. They were hidden amongst a thoroughly picked through stack of mostly marvel and dc comics from ’85-’87. Issue one even had an unused ML S.F. P. D. sticker in the bag. I couldn’t believe what I had just found. I still haven’t pulled them out of their bags to reread them. They are in just too fine of shape. I know they are not very valuable but to me they are priceless. Guess I’m going to pay more for an omnibus than the original in order to reread this uniquely imaginative story. I for one love Kev O’Neill’s style. It was a perfect fit for Mill’s story, just as it was with Nemesis. I’m a fan of anything original that goes against the grain and and challenges the status quo as long as it’s well done. Well Marshal Law did exactly that long before it was cool and commonplace and much better than those it inspired.

Hopefully everyone knows by now that the omnibus DID come out, though sans the Pinhead, Savage Dragon and Mask crossovers, sadly. ( Note that bucking the trend of crossovers as non-canon throwaways, they are actually important to the Law saga, actual story points and character development takes place in them! You ARE actually missing out.)

For those who are put off by the art sample: I love everything Marshal law, but even so, I find the original miniseries to be artistically drab, lifeless and uninteresting compared with everything that came after. …Takes Manhattan was an improvement (though the coloring was worse), and then everything after that has just been better and better.

Something I’ve realized… maybe it’s just me, but I get this weird feeling that The Venture Brothers was influenced in both style and tone by The Secret Tribunal…

Best comic character and series ever! Nuff said.

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives