Well, this was unexpected.
“The Destroyer” is one of those last couple of Marvel projects (along with Rob Liefeld’s “Killraven”) that was already scripted before Robert Kirkman manifesto-ed his way to his new full-time position at Image. Drawn by Cory Walker (the co-creator, with Kirkman, of the long-running — and quite good — “Invincible” series), “The Destroyer” imagines a world in which Golden Age character Keen Marlow never gave up his superhero lifestyle, never drifted into comic book obscurity. Marlow, as the Destroyer, may have traded his striped slacks for cargo pants, but his widow’s peak-sportin’, blue-faced, and yellow-eyed mask looks like the one he wore back in the old days. It’s the same Destroyer that first appeared in Timely’s “Mystic Comics” #6 from way back in 1941.
Kirkman’s conceit in this series is that the Destroyer has been having adventures ever since, even if, in real Timely/Marvel continuity, he’s been replaced by other characters (Drax the Destroyer’s original costume shares more than a bit of similarity with the one Marlow used to sport, and the current Union Jack used to sport the mantle of the Destroyer as well). And because this is a Marvel MAX series, his adventures are nothing if not bloody.
This comic is drenched in blood, and if Val Staples had to hand-paint this issue he would have had to prepare buckets of the red stuff. Yet it’s Cory Walker doing the drawing, so the extreme gore takes on a delightful absurdity. This isn’t a gruesome, stomach-churning story even if blood drips from its pages. It’s a ridiculous, over-the-top, post-“Nextwave” comic full of ultra-violence and explosive action. But since this comic stars a geriatric hero facing the end of his life, the extreme visual bombast contrasts sharply with Marlow’s underlying sadness. He’s a larger-than-life action hero, but even he doesn’t have the courage to tell the ones he loves that he’s been given a death sentence by his physician.
“The Destroyer” doesn’t have a lot of plot in this first issue, but it has a few fantastic set-pieces that unleash the kind of extreme violence that befits a MAX title and a few small scenes that provide the kind of emotional underpinning that made Kirkman and Walker’s “Invincible” such a compelling read.
In a week filled with superior releases like a new “Seaguy” comic and another installment of “Scalped,” “The Destroyer” holds its own. It’s a comic that hasn’t been promoted much at all, but it’s surprisingly good.