Captain America may be the most famous of Marvel Comics' World War II era superheroes, but he wasn't the only one. While the Sentinel of Liberty and fellow heroes like the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner fought the Axis Powers on the frontlines, Kevin "Keen" Marlow, AKA The Destroyer, attacked the Nazi menace from behind enemy lines. This September, writer Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker reintroduce the character to the world in the pages of a five issue "Destroyer MAX" mini-series from Marvel Comics' MAX imprint.
"Destroyer MAX" came about because Editor Aubrey Sitterson wanted to provide Kirkman with the opportunity to cut loose and tell a story with the same amount of graphic violence and mature content featured in Kirkman's creator-owned Image titles like "Brit" and "The Walking Dead." "Aubrey noticed that I hadn't yet been given the chance to do that kind of stuff at Marvel. So they came up with the idea of me doing a MAX book, which I thought was kind of cool, since I love doing crazy stuff in comics," Kirkman told CBR News. "Then Aubrey brought up doing some stuff with the Destroyer, who I was fairly unfamiliar with. He's touted as being Stan Lee's first comic creation, so I thought that aspect was very cool."
While many comics starring World War II heroes take place during the mid-20th Century conflict, Kirkman is going a different route with "Destroyer MAX." "It's a MAX book so it takes place out of continuity but I'm not scrapping everything that came before," Kirkman said. "I'm coming at this series with the assumption that the book started in the 40's and has been published semi regularly for the last sixty some years. So the issues I'm writing would be like 'Destroyer' #764-768. I'm just assuming all those comics that don't exist actually do and we're picking up from there. There will be a sense of how these characters changed and evolved over time."
Kirkman plans to use the Destroyer's imaginary continuity as a way to engage readers in a mystery that spans the entire mini-series. "When you read the first issue there are six to seven things vaguely hinted at, and had this been a series that had actually been running the entire time you'd know what was going on. So over the course of the mini-series you'll pick up little pieces to help you figure out what's going on and what the characters are talking about," Kirkman remarked. "By the end of the five issues you'll see all the different layers that have gone into this. It's probably the most well thought out project I've ever done. I usually like to fly by the seat of my pants, sometimes too much."
"Destroyer MAX" takes place entirely in modern times and stars Keen Marlow, who was the Destroyer back in the 40's. The series finds Marlow, now in his 80's, in the last days of his life and haunted by past mistakes. "In this series he finds out his heart is about to give out and he's only got a small amount of time left. So he's forced to look back on his life and he realizes he's only got a small amount of time to fix the many things he's done wrong," Kirkman explained. "He's basically trying to correct things and prepare the world for his eventual demise. Because this is a world that's not really heavy in heroes and a lot of his villains are still out there running amok. He's basically going to spend the five issues trying to hunt them down and kill them so they can't cause any trouble after he's dead."
Readers familiar with the Destroyer's history may recognize some of the names but not the faces of the villains that the character confronts in the series. Kirkman plans on keeping some of the monikers of the Destroyer's old villains, but the characters will be completely redesigned with a new continuity.
In "Destroyer MAX," Keen Marlow may be focusing on some of his past mistakes and the villains that got away, but the hero has had the opportunity to live a happy and full life. His job as a government agent and his secret identity has allowed him to raise a family, who will be part of the series' supporting cast. "There's Keen's wife, Harriet and they've got a daughter Felicia," Kirkman said. "And Felicia is married to a man named Darius and they've given the Destroyer a granddaughter."
Marlow's family is very important to him, so "Destroyer MAX" will be an equal mix of family bonding and ultra violence. "It's a MAX book so we're laying it on pretty thick with the violence and gore, because I like that stuff," Kirkman stated. "But at the same time we'll have moments with Keen at his granddaughter's birthday party. So there's a lot of heartwarming family stuff juxtaposed against eyeballs being pushed through people's heads."
Kirkman wants the violence in "Destroyer MAX" to be over the top, but the writer took special care to make sure it wasn't gratuitous. "The very first page in the book is the Destroyer putting his fist through some guys face, so right off the bat there's going to some nasty stuff, but it's all logically done," Kirkman remarked. "We're not going for shock value here."
The chance to cut loose and do some over the top violence was just one of the reasons why Kirkman took the "Destroyer MAX" assignment. The other reason was the project reunited him with friend and "Invincible" co-creator, Cory Walker. "Cory is one of my most favorite artists to work with," Kirkman said. "With Cory, when I get back a page 99% of the time it's exactly the way I wanted it to look. Any time I get to work with Cory I get very excited."
Kirkman hopes fans enjoy reading "Destroyer MAX" just as much as he's enjoyed writing it. "It's my favorite thing that I've done at Marvel and I've only written one script so far," he remarked. "I'm really thrilled with this series."
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