All illustrations are © Kevin O'Neill, Pat Mills
Comics format with softcover and landscape orientation. It is a 90 pages illustrated novella, draw, inked and coloured by Kevin O'Neill. It was released in 2004 by Titan Book, after a previous online publication on the late site Cool Beans World. There is 3 bonus pages with illustrations by Kevin O'Neill.
In 2008, Titan Books has reissued the story in its "Marshal Law: Origins" paperback (along with "Cloak of Evil"), in B&W with a standard small book format. The 14 illustrations are also troncated (see below), and the bonus pages are absent.
Marshal Law is following the trail of an ex Screaming Eagle (a super soldier genetically freed from pain), vet from the zone, and former unit fellow of Joe Gilmore. It’s an opportunity for the latter to confront himself with a moment of his past, the tragic "Day of the Dead", when he became the sinister hero hunter.
If one could smell a post war perfume to that story, it’s because Pat Mills inspiration came from a trip to Sarajevo in 2000, when the city was still recovering from the ravages of war.
Take the beginning of chapter two for instance, and you can replace Joe Gilmore, going through an after quake San Futuro in a cab from the airport, by the author doing the same in ex Yugoslavia.
So, of course, one of the main themes developed in this book will be the consequences of war traumas on the psyche of his main protagonists (Marshal Law, Dough Face).
Difficult to move on after the nihilistic end of the previous The Mask/Marshal Law.
Besides, it would be tricky to find the right place to this story, in the chronological continuity followed so far. For example, there is no mention of what became of Gale Force, destined for replacing Marshal Law. Yet, in the beginning of the story, we see Joe Gilmore in the same previous state of mind which is the sincere will to take his retreat.
The split personalities of the hero has reached the stage of complete separation: « But now Joe had nothing more to do with Marshal Law. They were separate beings. ».page 22. The authors push the idea at the point where Joe Gilmore and Marshal Law are dating two different girls in the same party.
The last chapter, “Law Unmasked” is entirely dedicated on this theme, but Joe Gilmore and Marshal Law have kind of reached the point of a mutual acceptance. No more early retreat, the mission/job of Marshal Law has to be brought to its conclusion without further obstruction.
If explicit references to Marvel and DC superheroes settled initially the main background of the stories, it’s no longer the case for the latter. Authors seem to try building further their universe with their own creations (which names or powers are instantly illustrative of their function in the story). However, one’s can find superheroes allusion in some of Kevin O’Neill illustrations (page 37 and 79 for example), already referenced for the most part in previous articles.
Hellfire Club : the origin of this secret society is detailed here. This reference could be even more suitable for the faction constituted by the 13 Secret Chiefs of the following story ("Cloak of Evil"). We are here in the heart of Pat Mills centres of interest, in particular, the links between ancient paganism and Aleister Crowley’s satanism practised by occult secret British societies. Many references about this topic could be find in his French series « Requiem, Vampire Knight », which book five is entitled “Hellfire Club”.
Page 18 : « War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing » is the Chorus of the song « War » (1984), by British pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Page 19 : John Paul Jones aircraft carrier run aground San Futuro’s debris (illustrated [here]), is logically a reference to the first hero navy officer of the war for independence. It’s also the full name of Led Zeppelin bass player.
Page 21 : « The day of the dead », is a Mexican Holyday (Dia de los muertos) of pre-Columbian origin. It’s a much festive celebration than the All Saints Christian day. Ceremony includes leading the departed to their former home through a flower path, which is adorned with iconic Death representations (Marshal Law’s mask being one of them).
Page 85 : it’s very personal impression, but this illustration makes me think about the confrontation between Batman and the Joker at the end of Frank Miller’s book 3 of The Dark Knight’s Return (during the funfair).
Page 38 : « My gun fires six different shades shit. What’s your favourite colour, punk ?
Yeah. Yellow. Figures. »
Page 66: « I’m a super hero hunter. I hunt super heroes… because I hate them. »