Graphic Novel Review: Revolutionary War
16:50 24 July 2014
The return of the long-lost heroes of Marvel UK...
A brief history lesson…
At the height of the comic speculation craze of the mid-1990s, Marvel UK editor-in-chief Paul Neary decided to get a share of the action by launching a dedicated imprint for original comics, produced by homegrown creators but pitched at the lucrative US market.
Titles like Knights of Pendragon, Motormouth & Killpower, Warheads and Death’s Head II kicked off the range in various American-style comic books, with UK audience’s getting a “best of” package in the form of fortnightly anthology Overkill, which collected various strips in a larger, 2000AD-style publication aimed at British newsagents.
The clever trick was that the US-format books featured guest stars from major Marvel titles, but only on 11 pages, which could be cut from the main story without affecting the narrative, the remaining half of the book reprinted in Overkill. Unfortunately although many of the American editors took a cursory interest in what their characters were doing across the pond, they made no effort to incorporate Marvel UK heroes and villains into their own books, leaving the imprint somewhat adrift in a continuity boat of its own.
That said, they still attracted a great deal of interest from US readers, who lapped up an impressive line-up of creators including Bryan Hitch, Carlos Pacheco, Liam Sharp, Salvador Larroca and Dan Abnett.
In titles which mainly focused on sci-fi and magic rather than traditional superheroics, the protagonists of the Marvel UK-niverse tended to do battle with the organisation Mys-Tech, a covert group of magicians who had sold their souls to the demon Mephisto in exchange for power they hoped would help them conquer the Earth.
But as more and more titles were added to the range, saturation point was inevitable, and eventually the speculator market burst, resulting in comic sales across the ball plummeting on both sides of the Atlantic, and the eventual cancellation of our poor little homegrown imprint. For years, British comic shops would try to shift boxes of random Marvel UK series from the range at discount prices in a bid to make up some of the costs they had incurred from investing in the books.
Heroes like Albion, Death’s Head II, Dark Angel and Motormouth vanished into limbo for the best part of 20 years, until now, thanks largely to the influence of some now high-profile creators who had cut their cloth at Marvel UK.
Picking up years after the apparently final defeat of Mys-Tech, in which the organisation attempted to send the entire British Isles to hell to pay off their Faustian debts, the nation’s forgotten heroes find themselves targeted by a resurrected cabal intent on wreaking their revenge…
In a series of linked one-shots focusing on different characters from the old Marvel UK days, Revolutionary War attempts not only to wrap up outstanding elements from the old continuity, but also reposition these heroes as viable options for revival in contemporary Marvel titles. Hence the recent appearances of Dark Angel and Death’s Head II in issues of Iron Man.
More than just an exercise in nostalgia, this is a celebration of some truly great British heroes, who deserved much more than the ignoble fate that bestowed them as a result of external market forces. Marvel UK may have long since disappeared, but its legacy lives on!