Sunday, 13 February 2011

Remembering Marvel UK: Motormouth and Kill-Power


The Preamble
I've spoken before about my fondness for the old Marvel UK characters, I know they aren't the best examples of the medium of sequential art, but I have a lot of love for them nonetheless. It is a love/hate relationship though, as on the whole the concepts are a lot better than the execution, and the art is extremely hit and miss (mostly miss). I read a fair bit of their output as a child in the early 90s through the magazine Overkill, which was Marvel UK's attempt at a 2000AD-esque Science Fiction anthology, they chopped up the 22 page US versions into short chunks and printed about four stories per fortnightly issue. I think my love of some of these characters is less about actual quality storytelling and more a mixture of nostalgia and partly because it was such a brazen attempt to do these cyberpunky dystopian Sci-Fi tales, that wouldn't look out of place sitting between Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog, but set them all on the periphery of the Marvel Universe. Motormouth and Kill Power rubbing shoulders with Nick Fury and The Punisher, Death's Head II and Tuck scrapping with the X-Men, it's sort of like Tyranny Rex turning up in the Avengers or Judge Dredd in the Justice League. It shouldn't work, but every now and then it really does. So, on the whole I like the books, with caveats, but every now and then they have an outright hit, which brings me to Motormouth and Kill Power.

The Shop
I picked up the entire 12 issue US run (annoyingly sans #2 & 5) of Motormouth and Killpower (nee The Indescribable Motormouth) last week for a song from The Mighty World of Comicana II, a well stocked, dusty, decidedly old school comic book shop on Shaftsbury Avenue which sadly is not long for this world and well worth a visit before it closes its doors for good in the coming months. Seriously, go now, it's shutting down soon. The member of staff (I've only ever seen the one chap in the 15 or so years I've been going there) is friendly and the shop is full of gems from yesteryear, which for the most part are very affordable. I spent about a tenner in their 25p bin alone, before picking up this series and plugging a few of my ROM: Spaceknight gaps. Many thanks to Ian at Dead Universe Comics for promising to hook me up with the missing Motormouth & Killpower issues.

The Characters
Motormouth is Harley Davis (I see what they did there) a 90s street punk who happens upon some fancy new sneakers that imbue her with the power to jump between different dimensions, but make her the focus of attention for all manner of shady cloak and dagger types. Along the way she is introduced to Killpower, a heavily armed, grotesquely over-muscled ubermench type with an obscene amount of high tech weaponry at his disposal. The thing is, Killpower is not quite right in the head, he's the mind of a child trapped in a 170% 90s comic book shell. He's been raised by the shady agency that created him to become the perfect killer, but in actuality he's just an amiable little kid who's been raised for his moral compass to point in the wrong direction. Initially sent to kill Harley, they develop a friendship of sorts, her rankled sarcastic nature rubbing against his bizarrely skewed childlike innocence, creating a rather fun dynamic duo. The Riot Grrl and the 90s comic book anti-hero parody. Once they hook up they hop from plane to plane with all due ensuing hijinx. Fantastically named adventures they are too; "Electro Vampires in the 21st Century!", "Off to Kill A Wizard!". This series also treats us to a scene I honestly never thought I'd see, Nick Fury and The Punisher gate crashing a warehouse rave in Islington. I shit ye not!

The Rest
OK, so the art is not amazing, but it's not bad either, it's just quite of its time. Motormouth's design is great and actually not something that would look out of place in Camden nowadays, and Kill Power is such an over the top parody character that the artists can just go nuts with him with impunity. It's also interesting to see early work from people like Gary Frank, who grows up to become one of the best "acting" and facial expression artists in the business. I really would love to see someone pick up these characters again, and it was great to see some of them make cameos in Paul Cornell's Captain Britain and MI:13 not that long ago. I really feel that there’s tons of mileage in this set up. I can imagine a place for the punky hipster with the foul mouth and the dimension hopping trainers getting into all kinds of transdimentional, cross-time hijinks in today's Marvel Universe. I'm thinking Van Lente or Peter Milligan writing with someone like Stuart Immonen, or Jamie McKelvie or Mike Allred making with the pretty pictures; It could be like Exiles but more British and actually good. Let’s start a petition I say! Who's with me?


Oh, sod you then.

***Incidentally on my search of the web for Marvel UK info, I happened upon this blog. which is a great place for fans of the imprint.***