The world that Marshal Law inhabits is a Red Scare era, but Twenty Minutes Into the Future. Having learned from Vietnam, when Joe Red shows up in South America, the American Government turns to Former-Nazi Mad Scientist Doctor Shocc, who creates an army of Super Soldiers through genetic engineering. The war in South America becomes known as the Zone, and its found that Shocc's process to create super-strong and pain-resistant soldiers is more Psycho Serum than Super Serum. Despite the Super Human soldiers pumped into the Zone, the war still ends in stalemate and the super soldiers are sent home... but a lot of the returning soldiers suffer psychosis of varying degrees, causing them to run wild and riot, killing and maiming as they please.
Marshal Law - formerly Joe Gilmore and a member of the Super Human squad the Screaming Eagles - is having none of it, however. Having seen the war crimes committed by the so-called-Super Heroes, he became a cop to combat the gangs of Surps (Surplus Superheroes) in the San Futuro area. Not only does he fight the nearby gangs like Gangreen from his secret police headquarters, but he also fights Super Heroes like Public Spirit and Private Eye. (Superheroes in Marshall Law's world fall into two categories: dangerous, or pathetic and delusional. The categories frequently overlap.)
To help give you an idea of the kind of minds that created Marshal Law, creator Pat Mills also wrote a lot for Judge Dredd, and artist Kevin O'Neill went on to draw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
And with DC Comics having sour grapes over unwittingly giving away its Spiritual Successor The Boys off to an indie company, they're in talks to license and release this series out to the US.
Also, whatever you do, do not mistake this character as the resident Bruce Lee Clone of Tekken Marshall Law. Or mistake this series for the late-nineties TV series Martial Law. Or, of course, the governing tactic for which he's likely named.
- Abusive Parents: Private Eye's parents.
- Anti-Hero: Marshal Law himself.
- Badass Normal: Law himself. He thinks that heroes with actual powers are phonies because they're never in any real danger.
- Well, he's more Badass Abnormal, as he was subjected to the same Super Serum treatment that produced all supers, and just failed to draw the best ticket at the Superpower Lottery. Law came out of the procedure with moderately superhuman strength, speed & durability as well as a low level Healing Factor. Due to his opinion on supers, he's not big on bragging about it... but it is mentioned in his narration.
- Beware the Superman: Almost every 'superhero' in the series is shown to be dangerous, unhinged and more than willing to abuse their powers on the public at large.
- Body Horror: At virtually every opportunity.
- The Big Guy: Kiloton.
- Captain Ersatz: Public Spirit (Superman), Private Eye (Batman) and The Persecutor (The Punisher) all appear, but in a twisted fashion, emphasizing the sadistic or tragic aspects of the characters.
- Later we are introduced to the Golden Age Jesus Society of America (JSA), the predecessor to the Jesus League of America, featuring: Public Spirit (here being more like Captain America (comics)), Private Dick (Bucky/Robin), Miss Victory (Wonder Woman), Tomcat (Wildcat), the Blue Battery (Green Lantern), the Lightning Streaker (The Flash), Hyperman (Hourman), G-Man (Starman), and a bunch of other nameless ones. And where the more modern heroes are Darker and Edgier, these guys are incompetent, condescending, and anything but heroic.
- Similarly, the League of Heroes (The Legion of Super Heroes).
- Catch Phrase: "I'm a Hero Hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven't found any yet."
- Character Filibuster: The excerpt from Lynn's thesis on the evil of her universe's "heroes", which is also a metafictional denunciation of the superhero genre, laid in as text boxes over the climactic fight between Law and the Public Spirit at the end of the original "Fear and Loathing" story.
- Crossover: Marshal Law has had a couple of these, mainly with Savage Dragon. He has also met The Mask and the main Cenobite from Hellraiser.
- Dead Baby Comedy
- Deconstruction: More like outright demolition.
- Golden age heroes: Homophobic, sexist, glory-seeking assholes, who don't deserve any of the fame they get, and their example only leads those who look up to them to ruin their lives. However, they're also tortured over the fact that they must always be perfect, an image which is impossible to keep up for any human.
- Dark age heroes: Violent, brutal, and psyotic murderers who aren't that different from the villains they fight. Also, their violent ways even serve to inspire more villains. However, they're acknowledged as psychologically scarred humans, and they and their victims are even portrayed as sympathetic. It's even pointed out that Marhsal Law's barbed wire can be seen as a symbol of penance for his actions.
- During the War
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
- "Growing Muscles" Sequence: Some superheroes are shown "pumping ions" to gain bulk.
- I Can Live With That:
Marshal Law: A lot of people say I'm a uniformed thug, no better than the scum I hunt down...a fascist cop...a glorified Nazi...a legalized vigilante, handing out his own highly suspect street "justice"... someone with a pathological hatred of superheroes, reveling at the chance to beat the hell out of them. That sounds fair. I can live with that.
- Knight Templar: Marshal Law himself, and as the above quote shows, he's perfectly fine with being labeled as such, implied to be due to his own self-loathing.
- Hollywood California: Subverted, as sometime prior to the story's setting, San Francisco has been hit by a huge earthquake which largely destroyed the city, leaving miles of it still in ruins for years afterward.
- Legacy Character: The American Spirit has Golden Age, modern, and outer space incarnations that have all run afoul of Marshall Law.
- Satire, Parody, Pastiche: Marshall Law combines attributes of all three.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Marshal Law himself, and in The Eighties no less. Wearing full bondage gear with actual barbed wire along his arm...
- Also the Secret Tribunal, which is a parody of the X-Men.
- Once an Episode: At least once an issue, Marshal Law says his catchphrase.
- Putting on the Reich: As the Golden Age heroes note, Marshall Law's costume resembles that of a Super-Nazi.
- Subverted Catchphrase: At the end of "Kingdom of the Blind", after Kiloton's Heroic Sacrifice:
Marshal Law: I'm a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. I guess maybe I found one.
- Super Serum / Psycho Serum: Hyperman, a parody of Hourman (who used pills to get his powers), snuffs a mysterious powder and injects a dodgy liquid into his arm to get his. There's also the serum used by Doctor Shocc to create most of the heroes to begin with, which also drove them into murderous insanity.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Played with by Private Eye, a Batman expy. He absolutely forbids killing his enemies. He states he will "main, mutiliate, electrocute, gas, or burn them." But he'll never kill them.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: A recent gravestone says it's 2020, and America is still fighting off the Soviet Threat, nearly 30 years after it ended in Real Life.
- Unbuilt Trope: Of the Nineties Anti-Hero and the Deconstruction of superheroes that would be common in comics in the late 1980s-1990s. It's worth noting that while the series takes a dim look at super "heroes", anti-heroes of Marshal Law's ilk don't exactly escape condemnation either.