In my review of issue #1, I called Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker’s “Destroyer,” “surprisingly good.” For a series that I’d heard practically nothing about, the debut issue was powerful, compelling, and not a little bit viscerally shocking. So now the question is: Now that the first issue has set the bar so high, and I now expect this series to be good, how does the second issue rate?
This one’s just as good as the first.
While not nearly as drenched in blood and guts as the last issue, “Destroyer” #2 continues to deepen the relationship between Keen Marlow and the supporting cast while providing the type of grumpy-old-man superhero revenge fantasy that made the first issue stand out among its peers on the Marvel shelf. Yes, this is a MAX book, and it can stand out on the basis of its nudity/violence/cursing, but what Kirkman has done here is to take a classic story and inject it into Marvel’s superhero universe. The grumpy-old-man revenge fantasy genre may be a rarity in the days of turning-back-the-clock youthful celebration (how old does Spider-Man seem these days? 24? Maybe even younger? And mainstream comics are just following the trends of television and movies in which the protagonists seem younger and younger each year. See “Trek, Star” for a recent cinematic example), but the grumpy-old-man revenge fantasy formed the basis of everything from Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” to Siegel’s “Charley Varrick” to the Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas vehicle “Tough Guys.” The genre could be played for sociological depth, or action, or comedy, but it was always about old men from a generation when men were men and punching someone in the face was the fairest way to settle a debate.
Kirkman’s Keen Marlow, the Golden Age Destroyer, is just such a man, albeit one in the garb of a superhero, and one who is still regarded as an essential operative by the government agency who signs his paychecks. But now he’s dying, and he wants to take out all of his enemies before he goes. The biggest enemy, the one mentioned in whispers by everyone else, is Scar, a nazi scientist who may or may not still be active.
Marlow doesn’t care whether or not Scar is still active, he just wants to find his old nemesis and eliminate him, but Scar (or someone working for him) seems to have other plans. Marlow’s friends and family begin to pay the price in issue #2.
The fun of this series is seeing such an unrepentant, old-fashioned badass tear into the monster-laden, high-tech world as illustrated by Cory Walker. Walker’s clean-line style, gorgeously aided by Val Staples bold colors, add a crispness to what could have been a musty old story about an over-the-hill superhero. In Walker’s hands, it’s vibrant and alive.
In this relatively spare narrative, Kirkman’s dialogue is as streamlined as Walker’s visuals, but there’s no shortage of humor. This isn’t a tongue-in-cheek story of an elderly costumed character. It’s a sarcastic sucker-punch of a little story about the last days of a great man, a great man who has plowed through life by unleashing death and destruction on the enemies of democracy. It’s not an emotionally complex melodrama, but there’s a subtext here that’s as thick as you want it to be.
This may be Kirkman’s last Marvel superhero series for a long, long time (maybe ever), and it’s a good one.