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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dollar Comic Review: Terror 101

I mentioned a couple days ago that when I saw the cover for December's Marvel Team-Up, I got pretty excited. The fact that not two, but eight third-string Marvel characters are going to get together for a throwdown makes me happy in ways that I can't really express on the printed page. The only thing it's lacking is the new Scorpion, a character that I inexplicably have a lot of affection for.

I was so excited about this issue that I decided to find out all I could about the only character on the cover I didn't recognize--The Terror. You might be tempted to do the same, but for the love of God, don't. I've spent my entire day reading all thirteen issues of Terror, Inc and it almost killed me. So why did I do it?

So you don't have to.

Welcome to 1992, readers.  Hope you survive the experience.

Terror, Inc. 1-13
Writer: DG Chichester
Pencillers: Jorge Zaffino (1-7) and Richard Pace (9-13)

The Basics:

Remember when you were in the third grade, and you made up a super-hero in the back of your notebook when you were supposed to be learning about fractions? Well say hello, because he's back, and this time DG Chichester's at the helm.

The Terror, our protagonist, is an amoral hitman whose superpowers go out of their way to not make sense, which isn't helped by the fact that their mechanics aren't explained at all until he fights Wolverine in the basement of a funeral home, and y that time we're six months into this trainwreck. Essentially, he can rip someone's limbs off and attatch them to his own body, thereby gaining the skills associated with that appendage that the person has. In the series, I've seen him use a gymnast's legs for acrobatics, a sorceror's arm to do some conjuring, and a marksman's eye to assassinate a gangster. He has access to a surprising array of specialized body parts, which is explained away by his goth-girl corpse supplier Boneyard, who speaks with some sort of accent.

In sitcom terms, she's the "wacky neighbor" of the series, and considering that the Terror himself is verbose to the point of ridiculousness, it's an easy metaphor to make. Rounding out the cast is the Terror's personal assistant, whose name is (I swear to you) Alexis Primo. Her function is to make sure that the Terror--a consummate businessman in his own right--collects his fees on time, and she also makes a lot of uncomfortable innuendo about Luke Cage in #11.

The Rundown:

The series starts off with the Terror doing his darndest to kill this arms dealer, but the guy's made a deal with Satan to make him immortal, and you know how tricky those can be. Fortunately, this is the same Satan that has a son, Damion Hellstrom, running around. But don't get excited just yet, Hellstrom fans. Even more fortuitous, he has another son, one Mikal Drakonmegas--the names alone are like a brick to the skull with every new character--a noted occultists who has a lot of questions about his father.

I can't believe I'm typing this, but the Terror deals with the whole situation by ripping an evil soul out of a snake worshipped by an Eastern death cult and putting Drakonmegas's dead mother's eye into his head to find out how Satan does so well with the ladies. Along the way, he stops off at Alcatraz to utterly ruin Drakonmegas's life by giving him the Darksoul (?!) and turning him into a guy called Hellfire, then drags him down to hell to confront his pop and thus find a way to whack the gun runner.

It's a process that takes five issues.

And then the Punisher shows up.

Somehow, the box missed this oneI hate to say it, but there's not a whole lot to talk about for the next four issues. The Punisher stuff goes about like you'd expect--Frank shows up with a mad-on to kill Piranha, some metal-toothed legitimate businessman, but oh no, the Terror's been hired to ice the same guy! Throw in a henchman named Cockroach, whose name nobody can remember despite the fact that he's dressed like Huggy Bear and covered in cockroaches, and a twist ending that it's actually the gangster himself who hired the Terror, and you've got yourself two issues.

There's also a scene where the Terror, finding out Piranha's plan, agrees to kill him in exchange for one dollar for himself and an exorbitant sum to be given to charity. I imagine it's supposed to show us that the Terror actually does have feelings, but being that it comes about twenty pages after the Terror rips a librarian's eyes out to make searching newspapers on Microfiche easier, it rings a bit hollow.

9 and 10 have Wolverine, and are probably the best issues of the run, even though they still don't make a whole lot of sense. The biggest bright spot is a scene where the Terror tells Wolverine: "I'm the best there is at what I do. And what I do makes even your routine look nice." Come on, that's pretty good.

By the time 11 and 12 roll around, though, you're wondering why they're even bothering. I mean, when you end up in a six-part crossover event with Silver Sable and Luke Cage, it's probably time to hang up your hat and get out of the whole mercenary game. Especially when you're teaming up to fight Priapus, a Greek god known primarily for having a gigantic wang.

I swear I'm not making that up.

The litany of guest stars continues to #13, where Ghost Rider shows up to shed some light on the Terror's mysterious past. I read the page three times, and I'm still not sure what his deal is, but when he starts tying back his little spike-whiskers in a little ribbon, it's hard not to think he's adorable. Rotting green face aside, I mean.

Also in the final issue, he takes on a cultist who threatens him with "Infernal Magicks," to which the Terror responds by asking if that's "magic with a K," then opening up with a submachine gun, screaming: "I hate archaic spellings!"

You know what? Screw it, that makes this my favorite book ever.

Discussion Questions:

1. DG Chichester wrote the "Fall From Grace" story arc in Daredevil. Did you enjoy that? Was it good enough to warrant over a year of Terror, Inc? Why or why not?

2. Luke Cage is ridiculed for having an "exaggerated physique" by Silver Sable. Explain how this represents irony.

3. In 1992, if the Punisher and Wolverine couldn't bring sales up, did they really think Cage and Silver Sable were going to do it? I mean, honestly.

8 Comments:

Blogger Don Porges said...

The series starts off with the Terror doing his darndest to kill this arms dealer

As this followed shortly after your description of his powers, I misunderstood it really, really badly.

9/25/2005 11:49 PM

 
Blogger Greg said...

Chichester wrote Daredevil in the 290s, some really great stories. After #300, he lost his mind on that title (including Fall From Grace, which made no sense whatsoever). What happened to him?

9/26/2005 7:12 PM

 
Blogger J. Kern said...

i used to love Terror, Inc.

That being said, i bought a lot of shiddy comicks in my day including, i'm happy to report, many issues of Silver Sable. i guess i'm just a merck at hart.

On a field of sable, the letter A gules.

9/27/2005 5:06 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey man, I had a friend recommend your blog and I've been reading it for a week now and going through old posts to catch up. The thing about Terror is he is actually a Shadowline character named Shreck who is supposed to have somehow jumped dimensions.

If you want to further deepen your knowledge you should go to this website: http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/terrorsh.htm

and it'll flesh it out for you.

5/24/2006 8:02 PM

 
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I love Terror; one of my favorite bits of the 90's. The Zaffino art was gorgeous and bizarre.

You left out #8, the best issue of the run; a touching Christmas story where Terror dresses like Santa.

8/06/2006 4:51 PM

 
Anonymous shikomekidomi said...

I have to ask, what was the problem again? Because this thing sounds like a laugh riot. I'm pretty sure the writer cannot be taking themselves seriously. As you've pointed out there's the Luke Cage/Silver Sable Irony,the main character killing some guy for using "magick" rather than "magic", the Terror/Santa thing (which is in another of your articles), it's almost certainly a big joke. Of course, not having seen the Terror outside the Legion Of Losers, it could be an enormously unfunny joke. But you sure make it sound great.

5/21/2007 7:12 PM

 
Anonymous jim said...

The terror series is my favourite (although very short-lived), it's another one of those mental characters that doesn't take itself too seriously, its got a twisted sense of humour; (granted it's not for everyone), but it's a great read and sort of a satire of the mechanics of comics and some of the wacky storylines you get. Great character, it's being relaunched in a 5-part mini-series this summer, should be cool.

7/11/2007 3:22 PM

 
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12/12/2008 9:39 AM

 

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