The Transparent Fox:
Characters Appearing: Algernon Crowe, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Captain America, Captain Britain, Oonagh Mullarkey, Ormond Wychwood, Silver Surfer
Issue(s): Plasmer #1, Plasmer #2, Plasmer #3, Plasmer #4
We also, when we first started out, were sued by Marvel Comics. When we announced Plasm, they claimed they had a character that that infringed upon. What they actually had was a name registered in the U.K. trademark with intent to use. They ended up suing us. We ended up fighting that out in court. It cost us over $300,000 in court. We won, hands down. The judge scolded them... because he knew they were just using it as a business weapon. Trying to use the court to squelch a competitor.
It's hard to have any good feelings about this series after that story. And there was no way that this series was going to make it big enough that Marvel had any reasonable reason to be worried that another series (which was published first!) would be trying to glom off of its success. Like most Marvel UK books published at this time, it was clearly destined to be published for 4 issues before fading into obscurity. And the use of lawsuits like this to attack smaller competitors is pretty evil. So go ahead and hate this series. Grrrrrrrrr!!
Independent from all of that, though, i was approaching this series with a balance of interest and trepidation. Trepidation because it's clearly a goof, as you can tell from the first cover. But interest because the main character is Oonagh Mullarkey.
Mullarkey is a pretty minor character in absolute terms. First of all, being a Marvel UK character makes you a minor character by default. But Mullarkey is unique in being a Mys-Tech villain without being one of the Mys-Tech board members (i.e., she's not one of the techno-wizards that sold their souls to Mephisto). She's just a scientist that works at Mys-Tech. But she's the most prominent repeating Mys-Tech character aside from the board, and she's actually been developed better than the board. She created Killpower, and she also created Genetix, and she appears regularly in both their respective series. So she's pretty integral to the Marvel UK universe (again, to the degree that that's not an oxymoron). She makes for a good villainous support character, and i could easily see her making the transfer to the larger Marvel universe, maybe becoming a top level AIM scientist or something like that. What happens in this series is something else entirely, but it still wouldn't have precluded her taking on a larger role elsewhere in the future.
This series is also the debut of Pascual Ferry. I'm not a huge fan of Ferry's cartoony style, but he'll become a relatively popular artist and it's nice to see where he started. His art here is understandably rough. But his style fits the tone of this series quite well, since it's an unabashed comedy. And, surprisingly, a genuinely funny one.
The story starts with Mullarkey being charged by Mys-Tech to extract secrets from a World War I era British super-spy named Jack Smithers ("the oldest man in England"). But she's not making much headway, and she's also tired of getting bossed around by Mys-Tech. So she performs a ritual that she secretly observed from Mys-Tech board member Ormond Wychwood, and it splits her into good and evil halves. The evil half continues on essentially as before, although she's more unrestrained than ever in her methods and attitude.
The good half, Plasmer, turns out to be a shape-shifter. She spends a while getting acclimated.
Things start to get funny when Plasmer splits herself in half to save time searching the Mys-Tech base, and realizes that doing so also halves her intelligence. But as she gets dumber it gets harder to stop each piece from splitting up further, until there are dozens of tiny silly versions of her.
They then merge and take the form seen on the cover of issue #1.
But despite being on the cover and also being the subject of one of the trading cards included in the polybag, this form is just temporary.
Meanwhile, another World War I era codger shows up at the "Closed University". A robot tries to give him the brush-off...
...but he turns out to be Gulliver Jones, a minor super-hero called Captain Kerosene, whose greatest accomplishments were subbing for the Golden Age Human Torch a couple of times. (The name "Gulliver Jones" seemed familiar to me, but it's possibly only because Marvel did an adaptation of Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars in the 1970s, and this doesn't have anything to do with that.)
Kerosene forces his way into the university...
..where it turns out that a secret government spy agency called DUCK (Department for Unknown and Covert Knowledge) is operating. DUCK has replaced STRIKE, which was a legit UK organization seen in the original Captain Britain books. Kerosene tells the director, Pritchard, about Jack Smithers' capture. Pritchard therefore activates an agent known as the Ambassador.
By this point the evil Mullarkey has managed to break Smithers. She's gotten information from him regarding a Sleeper robot that the UK government established during World War I in case they lost that war and were conquered. The Sleeper is called the "first" Sleeper, which to a Marvel reading audience would bring to mind the Red Skull's Sleepers, but these are unrelated. The fact that it's the "first" is a hint of more trouble to come.
Plasmer subsequently locates and rescues Smithers. It's at this point that she takes on the Plasmer identity, along with an absolutely ridiculous costume.
Plasmer then locates the Sleeper, which Mys-Tech has just activated.
The Sleeper, code-named Tommy, is powered by a form of super-advanced technology known as Freestate, which is actually what Mys-Tech are after. Mys-Tech are also aware of what Mullarkey has done to herself, even though she isn't. This is a hilarious exchange:
Plasmer is joined in the fight by Captain Britain...
...and the Black Knight is also in town.
Plasmer (or Plasmer Woman, as Captain Britain calls her) and the Black Knight have a brief Misunderstanding Fight.
And before they rejoin the fight against Tommy, they're met by the Ambassador.
Pretty funny stuff.
Meanwhile, Mullarkey decides to get hands on in getting Tommy back to Mys-Tech, so she activates a group of genetically engineered Mothmen, wondering why she never thought to use them before.
And then she realizes it's because they fly up to any light source and burn themselves to death.
Completely stupid, but hilarious! Up until this point i wasn't entirely sure what i was dealing with, but it's now clear that we're in a Damage Control level comedy (except i actually find it funnier). And if that wasn't a clear enough indication, there's Plasmer getting stuck while transformed as a giant fist.
Pritchard shows up and breaks up the fight between the Ambassador and the other heroes, and Captain Kerosene joins as well.
Plasmer transforms into a bunch of disparate molecules, and she enters Tommy at the same time that Captain Kerosene blasts it. That seemingly destroys Tommy and also kills Kerosene. But Kerosene wakes up in an ashy state.
And it turns out that Tommy isn't destroyed. He's just rebooted to his original programming.
But the defeat of Tommy awakens the second Sleeper. When it initially wakes up, it is not under the control of Mys-Tech. But it gets the mistaken impression that England has been conquered by America.
So, probably not the best time for Captain America to show up.
And, eh, why not throw in the Silver Surfer as well.
With the Surfer's help, the second Sleeper isn't too hard to defeat. But then there's a third Sleeper, aka Aftermath. For what it's worth, the first Sleeper was created during WWI, the second during WWII, and the third during the Gulf War. So the third, the most recently created, is also the most powerful. It's able to use the Freestate technology to commandeer the Surfer's cosmic power.
The motley group of heroes fighting Aftermath are joined by Tommy, who has taken inspiration from the Black Knight (i have to admit i kind of liked his "Pip pip, cheerio!" persona better, though).
The Ambassador's armor gets taken over by Mys-Tech, and he's forced to grab (seemingly) Tommy and bring him to them so they can access the Freestate tech. It turns out, though, that he's actually grabbed a shape-shifted Plasmer.
And that results in the two halves of Mullarkey confronting each other.
Plasmer takes the form of a warrior that the Warheads learned about to fight her way out of Mys-Tech. This got a trading card too.
In addition to the Sleepers, there is also a kind of hologram tutorial called Doorman, whose purpose is to guide users of Freestate.
And it turns out that he is programmed with the personality of the scientist that created Freestate. And he's decided that he doesn't like the way it's being used. So he helps Plasmer destroy the final Sleeper. In doing so, however, Plasmer is changed, preventing her from ever getting re-merged with Mullarkey.
Note: Plasmer will not be back, next year or any other.
There are a number of reasons why i shouldn't like this, but the humor won me over. It's funny for Marvel universe fans (e.g. the Surfer's melodramatic lament at the museum) and more generally.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The main consideration is the appearance of Captain Britain, who at publication time was trapped in the timestream and when he finally comes out he'll have a different identity. So this has to take place before Excalibur #66-67, and therefore really before Excalibur #61. Since this therefore has to get pushed back in publication time, it's serendipitous that when Plasmer briefly turns into Dark Angel, she's wearing an out-of-date version of her costume.
This story ends with Oonagh Mullarkey still split from her "good" self, but since Mullarkey is typically evil anyway it probably doesn't need to have any effect on her appearances. The Black Knight, Captain America, and Silver Surfer appearances are context free and just need to fit into breaks in their schedules.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Marvel put Defiant out of business for a complete piece of crap Marvel UK comic? I think I'm gonna throw up.
Posted by: Mquinn1976 | March 7, 2017 4:46 PM
Never heard of this & I had a fundamental antipathy to the 90s Marvel UK comics, but I have to admit it kind of won me over by the end of the review. Some dumb but fun jokes, & some sly ones too. I might check these issues out further.
I vaguely recall Marvel may have previously had an issue with Shooter's X-O Manowar infringing on their X-Men line, which is at least understandable as one of Marvel's most successful trademarks. Plasmer, not so much.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | March 7, 2017 6:46 PM
The merits of this miniseries aside, I agree that it was really unfortunate that Defiant was hit with a frivolous lawsuit by Marvel. I'm certainly not Jim Shooter's biggest fan, but I think Defiant had some real potential, with a number of talented creators (David Lapham, D.G. Chichester, Alan Weiss, Dave Cockrum, Jim Fern) working on their books, and it's a shame that the already-difficult task of making an impact in the glut of mid-1990s comic books was made so much so much more difficult by a good chunk of their finances getting eaten up by legal bills.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 9, 2017 10:49 AM
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