Or – “Part Four Is Always The Red-Headed Stepchild…”


When the limited series format kicked off twenty-odd years ago, you mostly saw four issue stories.  #1 sets up the plot, #2 makes it complicated, #3 leaves us at our lowest point, and #4 resolves things.  It’s a pretty familiar breakdown for anyone who watches television, and leaves each issue with a relatively natural breaking point.  These days, though, we see five, six and eight issue limiteds, which throws wrenches in my expectations, and causes additional pitfalls to the month-by-month format…

De1.jpgPreviously, on Destroyer:  Keen Marlowe, the Golden Age superhero known as the Destroyer (not to be confused with Brian Falsworth, Roger Aubrey, Buck Franklin, Alex Power, the incarnation of Shiva, the enemy of Thor, or even Atlas Comics Destructor) has discovered that his heart has finally begun to give out after 7 decades of superhuman activities.  Knowing that he’s about to die, Keen decides that he needs to clean up all the loose ends of his life in a PERMANENT way, taking down old foes and underground conspiracies that might threaten his family.  When his most persistent menace, the wicked mutant menace called Scar, captures his daughter, Destroyer and his partner Turret engage the villain, and Marlowe beats his old enemy to death, practically liquefying his opponent’s head.  With his daughter injured, and his rage peaking, the Destroyer just keels over, without even calling for Elizabeth or clearly identifying this as “The Big One.” 

We open in a hospital, with Marlowe’s daughter floating a la Luke Skywalker in a healing tube of some sort, while her family anxiously waits for word.  Down the hall in his own medical suite, Destroyer awakens to hear two bits of good news:  His daughter will be okay, and they’ve identified where the secret underground terrorist army known as Horde has been hiding.  Leaping from the bed, Keene insists that he’s going to lead the mission to take them down once and for all.  His wife tries to stop him, but Keene explains the reality of his situation: “Horde has agents EVERYWHERE, dear.  They get word that we know where they are and they’ll be ready for us.  If this is gonna work, I’ve gotta take ’em down now… TONIGHT.”  She grudgingly agrees to let him go…  On the flying not-a-helicarrier of not-SHIELD, Destroyer is handing a weapon that will give him a little bit of an edge in the coming battle.  “[It] is only SLIGHTLY more of a gun than the atomic bomb was,” explains the techie in charge, and Destroyer agrees to break his rules and carry a weapon this once.

Dropped into the middle of the Horde base, Destroyer leaps into action, cutting through enemy cannon fodder like a rocket-propelled cougar out of a cellophane telephone booth when he’s suddenly joined by Turret (who is also his daughter’s husband.)  Destroyer urges him to go back and stay by her side, but Turret tells the old man that he needs the help, and is quickly prove right wne a multi-legged Dragon creature bursts out of the ground and cries “Who dares oppose meeee?”  “That’d be us,” deadpans Destroyer in a very John Wayne kinda fashionand they quickly attack the beast from two sides.  Destroyer is taken out of action by a good solid strike, but Turret scores a kill strike, ripping through the monster’s eye and into his brain.  “That was easy,” he remarks after the beast collapses.  Having taken down his greatest foe, you’d think that Destroyer would finally be happy, but (of course) he’s not.  Instead, he finds himself saddened that he made Turret retire to guarantee his daughter’s happiness, and now believes that he may have cost the world a great protector in so doing…  “That boy was my greatest achievement, and I turned him into my biggest mistake.”

It’s an oddly introspective issue-ender for a character that seems to be all about two-fisted attitude, doesn’t it?  This series has a lot going for it, not the least of which is the breakneck action movie pacing (something Kirkmand and Walker have down to a science by now) and the complicated family subplots  but it suffers from the same failings that cripple a lot of limited, and especially a lot of Marvel’s limiteds:  Odds are that it will all be forgotten in six months.  Indeed, this seems to take place in a corner of Marvel continuity that doesn’t even feel like the Marvel U, and no matter how much fun it is, it comes across as a cotton candy trifle, entertaining while the sugar buzz is on, but hardly nutritious enough to live off of.  Cory Walker’s art is quite fun, and the design of the monstrous KRAKOOM (is that a shout-out?) is creative and disturbing, and Kirkman does good things with the family dialogues throughout the issue.  And yet… there’s a nagging sense that someone will come along and retcon it in another four months because they found another good story hook to base a six issue arc on.  I don’t know if it’s just me, or if the current “write for the inevitable trade, and don’t worry about how it all fits together” thought process has led to this miniseries cul de sac.  Either way, this issue is fun, friendly, with some exciting battle sequences, but it never quite reaches the heights of excellent.  Destroyer #4 earns a strangely muted 2.5 out of 5 stars, more due to the limitations of the form then due to any real lack of quality.  It’s a well-crafted piece of summer blockbuster ephemera…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Gaumer
    July 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm — Reply

    Fantastic review.

    I like that you point out Marvel’s trouble with making stuff like this work, and how you elude to Marvel books outside the Marvel U don’t quite make it to the quality they should.

    Why is that? This book is pretty good but it seems like it would be better told somewhere else. Is the Marvel U hurting its own growth?

  2. July 22, 2009 at 10:17 pm — Reply

    Honestly? It’s a double edged sword.

    Destroyer as a MAX series with a possible Marvel connection would probably sell better than Destroyer as a stand-alone series, or even creator-owned series.

    Marvel’s current publishing strategies always seem to involve the same kind of thinking that we see in movie trailers, i.e. “This book is like Cocoon meets Die-Hard meets Unbreakable.” The hook here is that we’re seeing an octogenarian hero in a story told as if his adventures have been printed continously since the forties. And in that context, it works… But if (for example) Joe Casey decides in three years that he’s going to use the Roger Aubrey Destroyer in (for example) the Hulk, then this miniseries (no matter how fully formed it may have been) will become grist for the “new and different” mill.

    Another thought that occurs to me after writing the review is the fact that this series and others like it (The Twelve, The Marvels Project, the upcoming return of the original Human Torch and even Bucky’s run as Captain America) have the effect of helping to justify the rationalization behind the “Marvel 70th Anniversary” prevarication. Just as Captain America #600 is NOT Captain America #600, Marvel Comics is NOT 70 years old. Neither here nor there, simply a rogue synapse…

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