The fourth and final part of this month’s sci-fi July has us suggesting our recommended comics. So, let’s get on with it!
What happens when two of the darkest and most cynical British comic creators take on the American superhero genre? A gun-toting super-cop in a sadomasochistic outfit hunting gangs of depraved, super-powered lunatics in a dystopian urban wasteland – that’s what happens. Welcome to the world of Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.
Marshal Law is San Futuro’s finest on the frontline against super-powered criminals. He hates superheroes. He particularly hates superheroes who think they can get away with rape and murder. He’s after one masked culprit in particular, and he’s got a hunch it has something to do with San Futuro’s adored super-patriot – Mills and O’Neill’s answer to Superman.
Grim, gross and full of satire on American culture, Marshal Law is a brilliant blend of Mills’ love of unstoppable authority-figures and O’Neill’s unsettling, detailed art; exposing the seedy realism of the superhero genre in an unforgiving science fiction world that’s adorned everywhere with hilarious slogans commenting on the action. You won’t know whether to laugh… or just feel a little bit repulsed. In my experience, you’ll do both, and that’s why I love this comic.
The solar system of the future is a bustling place, with colonies on virtually every planet (and we’re made assured, Pluto became designated a planet again) – each with their own connected histories. It’s a good thing that you’re slowly lowered into this situation rather than dropped in at the deep end – it feels like it’s a story where we find out about its universe at the same time as finding out about the kidnapping.
The story seems fairly standard – the main character, Federal Security Office Talmage is a wise-cracking, well connected guy who is investigating the kidnapping of an Ambassador’s daughter. Meanwhile, the backdrop is of an unstable system that feels like a house of cards that could topple at any moment.
What’s apparent is that this could be a really good comic series – it’s got an entire solar system to play with and a few hundred years of history to uncover. While I’m not the biggest fan of noire type stories, I really dig the setting. It’s something I could imagine coming to cinemas in a few years.
Star Lord is banned from Earth after his tyrant father decrees it untouchable by all. Peter breaks the new rules by battling invading aliens over London. The Guardians of the Galaxy (and visiting member Tony Stark) are imprisoned for breaking the new rules and have to fight their way out to resume their duties.
My first outing with the Guardians was brilliant – it’s fascinating to see superheroes in space. I flew through it and thought the characters and artwork were magnificent.
Quite possibly one of the most sci-fi of Marvel comics, I loved the different aliens and intergalactic locations. Each character’s ‘recruitment’ story is drawn in a different style which I found very interesting.
There’s some hilarious bits between Stark and Quill and I think it’s help me to get even more excited about the mad-cap movie and I can’t wait to explore more of this universe with the Guardians.
This might be a little controversial, but I’ve always been a little weary of Mark Miller comics. I’ve read bits and pieces of Wanted and Kick-Ass, and (despite quite liking the film adaptions of both) neither one really grabbed my interest. Perhaps most controversial of all though, is that I wasn’t really a fan of The Ultimates. Sure, it had its moments, but overall, I thought it was trying too hard to be ‘dark and edgy’, and the result was a bit of a hot mess.
Despite all that though, the concept for Superman: Red Son, which asked “What if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?” sounded so intriguing, that I just had to pick it up. And I was glad I did. Red Son is one of the best “What if?” (or “Elseworlds”, as DC insists on calling them) comics I have ever read, cleverly subverting all the familiar beats of Superman’s story and altering the course of a number of other DC favourites as well. The parallel universe story is always an interesting one, and has always dominated the sci-fi genre, because people are always interested to see what would have changed if one important variable had turned out differently.
What is so impressive about Red Son though, are the things that Miller doesn’t change, and that is the characters. All he changes are their situations. Superman, despite being a totalitarian dictator, is still recognisably Superman; Lex Luthor, undoubtedly the hero of this piece, is still unequivocally the Lex Luthor we already know and love (to hate). The way that Miller uses Red Son to highlight what a blank slate of a character Superman is and that the only reason Superman has the values he does is because of Ma and Pa Kent, is brilliantly done.
Personally I think the ending of Red Son is a bit fudged, a bit too “science fiction”, but it’s not enough to undo the perfectly crafted story that the rest of the comic is. And ever since reading it, I’ve been willing to give Mark Miller comics the benefit of the doubt.
Okay, I’ll admit it, up to the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline, Marvel’s Iron Man comics are pretty dry, but they pick-up from that point. (Except for the early 1990s, where writers and editors thought it was okay to make “Hammertime” jokes just because Justin Hammer was a bad guy.) Iron Man/Tony Stark just breathes science fiction wherever he goes.
Or, y’know, implants it into his body. Seriously, if you thought the whole magnet/Arc Reactor in the centre of the chest deal was a bit tame, then you obviously haven’t read the original “Extremis” storyline by Warren Ellis. Stark comes up with a very imaginative way to interface and put on most of the Iron Man suit in this arc… yeah… put on.
It may not all be set in space and feature great big spaceships (some of the Iron Man comics do), but during the past twenty years the comics have begun entering the more Star Trek end of depicting technology and science. The ways in which Tony invents and uses tech are often very fantastical, but the comics were looking at issues surrounding telecommunications and big data before the mainstream did.
And the persistence of a suit that enhances physical and mental characteristics? That’s something the world’s militaries and arms developers have been working on for quite some time.