Terror Inc. #1-5
Issue(s): Terror Inc. #1, Terror Inc. #2, Terror Inc. #3, Terror Inc. #4, Terror Inc. #5
I haven't read the original stories that he appeared in, so i don't know how closely "Shreck" matches Terror, or if any of his supporting characters, like Alexis Primo, also appeared there. It doesn't seem like it, though. At the time (according to Wikipedia), editor Marc McLaurin insisted that Shreck and Terror were two different characters, but a later Handbook determined that they were the same being, with Shreck somehow having made his way over to the Marvel universe. So it seems like even if i did have the original stories, i wouldn't be including them in this project. They take place in an alternate part of the "omniverse". The Marvel Appendix has a rundown of his Shadowline appearances.
Terror's series is pretty short lived - only 13 issues - but in that short period of time he appears across the Marvel universe. That is almost entirely thanks to D.G. Chichester's enthusiasm (and/or lack of shame); Chichester includes him in a Wolverine fill-in, and in a prestige format Punisher/Captain America mini-series, and in his Daredevil run. The character also has a crossover with Cage, which not coincidentally is written by this book's editor. This series has a high number of guest stars, and Terror will also appear in Nick Fury's book and in Infinity Crusade. So he got around.
I don't blame Chichester for trying to make Terror "happen". He's an interesting character with some unique attributes. He's certainly a character of his time, a total mercenary in a way that recalls Death's Head and Silver Sable, who are both nominally part of the Big Guns line. But he's also an actual monster, and he could have fit in pretty well in the Ghost Rider family (and might have done better saleswise if that had happened). This first storyline, in a nutshell, has Terror getting hired to kill an arms dealer who it turns out has a contract with the devil that makes him immortal, so Terror goes and finds Damion Hellstrom's forgotten half-brother (!), infuses him with Hellstrom's darksoul, and takes him to hell to force the devil to give up the arms dealer's contract. That's a pretty outrageous plot, and it's played fairly tongue-in-cheek with humor thanks to Terror's personality and his "power", which is the ability to wear other people's body parts and use the associated skills and learn their memories. It might have found a more sympathetic audience as a DC Vertigo book.
On the other hand, the book may just not have been very accessible. I generally find D.G. Chichester's writing to be somewhere between complex in a sophisticated way and unnecessarily convoluted, and this veers towards the latter, especially when we get into the details of Damion Hellstrom's half-brother Hellfire. Jorge Zaffino's art style makes a lot of sense for a character that was originally created with input from Klaus Janson, but it's definitely on the abstract side of things.
Terror shares some visual similarities with both The Mask (a Dark Horse comic that saw a resurgence in 1991) and Clive Barker's Pinhead (Chichester did do work on Clive Barker's Marvel comics, for what it's worth).
In the scene above he's watching the arms dealer, Roger Barbatos, fail to die due to his contract with the devil. Terror has been hired by some countries harmed by Barbatos' weapons.
Terror has to escape Barbatos' men by jumping out a window, which smashes up his legs and one of his arms. So Terror has to wait for Barbatos' goons to come to him so he can acquire some new parts.
Terror also keeps spare parts with him for just-in-cases.
In these issues, we don't learn much about Terror's backstory, including anything about his one metal arm.
Later, he makes it back to his partner? assistant? Alexis Primo.
Sampling the body parts that he took from Barbatos' goons is how he learns that Barbatos made a pact with the devil. The devil in question looks like Toho's King Caesar to me...
...but the devil will be named Beelzeboul (and see the Considerations).
Meanwhile, we're introduced to a Mikal Drakonmegas and his wife Jessie and Mikal's agent, Max. Mikal is having a crisis of identity. He's a new age "pop necromancer", but he's decided to stop doing that and instead expose the charlatans in his field.
Terror goes to an occult contact of his named Rekrab asking for help on dealing with Barbatos. Rekrab tells him about Drakonmegas. Note that Rekrab says that Daimon Hellstrom is really the son of Beelzeboul, not Satan, and that Drakonmegas is another such son.
So Terror goes to a temple in the Himalayas and tears the jaw off a snake that happens to possess Hellstrom's "darksoul" (see the References).
The he goes to Drakonmegas and bites him, infecting him with Hellstrom's darksoul.
Drakonmegas is unaware of his origins, but even before he is bitten he's having nightmares showing what seems to be some of his history.
Except things don't seem to line up. I really suspect that Drakonmegas was actually meant to be Hellstrom, and somewhere along the way the idea got rejected and Chichester switched to having him be an elder half-brother instead. Drakonmegas really looks like Hellstrom, for one thing. The fact that Satana appears in his dream, in a scene that looks very similar to one from Marvel Spotlight #13, is another clue. The implication from the dream is that Drakonmegas shares a mother with Satana, but that won't turn out to be the case. We can write it off as just bad information from a dream, but it suggests to me that there was a revision. Although in the original story, Daimon was already born. So maybe the revision was that Drakonmegas was going to be a full, younger, sibling to Daimon and Satana, instead of an older half-brother. I don't really know. As i said at the top, things are a little muddled.
Anyway, Terror slips away after biting Drakonmegas, so Drakonmegas doesn't know that anything has changed. Drakonmegas then holds a press conference with his agent Max, on the island of Alcatraz, with the idea of showing how "psychic surgery" is faked. Instead, what he does to Max turns out to be real.
The police move in to arrest Drakonmegas, and then Terror shows up to "rescue" him.
As they are fleeing on a boat, the transformation caused by the infusion of the darksoul is completed, and Drakonmegas becomes
Hellfire figures out what Terror has done to him. But Terror promises to remove the darksoul if he'll help him, and on top of that he's recovered a body part of Hellfire's deceased mother, and he promises to use it to give Hellfire information about his origins. Apparently Terror's power includes the ability to transfer the sensations from his borrowed limbs to others.
So Hellfire agrees to help. They escape the police and an attack from Barbatos' goons. They go back to Alexis Primo, who gives Hellfire a costume.
They then go dig up Hellfire's mother's grave to get more body parts so Terror can learn more about her.
Through her eyes and ears, they learn that Hellfire's father was (the/a) devil.
We've definitely deviated from anything seen in Satana & Daimon's background at this point. But we're interrupted here by an attack from demons.
Some humans sent separately by Barbatos also choose this moment to attack, but they are basically limb fodder for Terror.
Hellfire is told that his mother "was a foul mark against our Lord Beezeboul's infernal glory".
They manage to drive off most of the demons, and use one that they held captive to travel to Hell.
As they leave, we see Dr. Strange show up.
Beezeboul is not pleased to hear that his demons failed. A distinction is also made between his plans for Hellfire vs. Hellstrom.
Terror seems to know his way around Hell, and he leads Hellfire to a demon called Vulkanus.
You can see in one of the scans above that Terror uses the spikes on his face as weapons. While he's fighting Vulkanus, he actually pulls them off his face and stabs the demon in the eyes.
It's also said during the fight that Terror went to seminary school. I'm not sure if he was joking ("There are easier ways to make a living -- but I never had the patience to complete my studies at the seminary.").
Terror takes an amulet from Vulkanus. I'm actually not sure what the amulet helps him with.
They now head to confront Beezeboul directly. On the way there, we get more about Hellfire's mother.
Notice that it was Rekrab, the occultist that Terror went to earlier, that gave Hellfire's mother the means to send Beezeboul away. Beezeboul managed to take the dagger away and kill Hellfire's mother as he was leaving, so Hellfire is said to have been born from a corpse. Terror says that they are much alike.
When Beezeboul shows up, Terror suddenly bites Hellfire with the snake teeth, saying that, in giving him the info on his mother and having brought him to his father, the terms of their contract are complete. So Hellfire is at Beezeboul's mercy.
He uses that to bargain with Beezeboul, and gets the contract that was keeping Barbatos from dying. He is then escorted out of Hell by a devil, abandoning Hellfire. But he suddenly has second thoughts ("there is no profit in a company whose reputation is for leading partners into a lethal equivalent to bankruptcy") and returns, giving Hellfire back the darksoul. We saw earlier that the dagger that was used to banish Beezeboul to Hell is embedded in a nearby rock...
...and Hellfire is able to grab that and stab Beezeboul, creating another portal.
When they get back, Dr. Strange scolds Terror.
That's the last we see of Hellfire in this story. Terror then goes after Barbatos and tears up the contract, killing him.
So that's the first Terror solo story. The plot is fairly straight forward: Terror needs to kill someone that is protected by a devil, so he gets help from a mystical guy to fight/bargain with the devil. Things get convoluted and drawn out over five issues because a lot of time is spent on Hellfire's back story, which would be more understandable if the guy wasn't literally a second-rate copy of a minor character. Given the reality that any new character is a hard sell, it might have made more sense to focus on the titular character himself, maybe with a series of one-off stories highlighting the character's personality and giving us increasingly definitive hints about his origin, instead of leading off with a five-parter focused on a secondary character and a bunch of demons.
I still think Terror is an innovative character and there is a lot to enjoy here. His power is so humorously gruesome and his "just business" personality is also a lot of fun. Jorge Zaffino's art is certainly a matter of preference, and this book might have been better served by something brighter and cleaner just to make the humor more accessible; i suspect some people reading this were turned off by what felt like an arty horror book. But i like Zaffino's art, and i think Terror is a crazy fun character.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP list Beelzeboul as Satan, which makes sense if he really is the father of Daimon Hellstrom (especially if we want to ignore the retcon that Hellstrom is really the son of some minor demon that we've never heard of before). According to the Marvel Appendix, though, Beelzeboul apparently appears again in a Nightcrawler series. I'm going with the MCP and listing Beelzeboul as Satan. As the Appendix also notes, it's possible that all the various minor hell demons may actually be aspects of a single Satan entity.
There's nothing in this series that indicates that this is meant to be Terror's first appearance in the Marvel universe. In fact, he's already quite established in his business, and at the end it's clear that he and Dr. Strange are meant to have some history. And that's good, because i've already had to place a couple of Terror appearances prior to this story (not deliberate continuity inserts, but stories that had to get pushed back in publication time for continuity reasons). I have pushed this prior to Daredevil #305 (ironically, Terror's first MU appearance by publication date), because Terror is in Las Vegas in that story, and he'll appear again in Daredevil #308 & 309, which also take place in Vegas.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAlexis Primo, Dr. Strange, Hellfire (Mikal Drakonmegas), Jessie Drakonmegas, Rekrab, Satan, Terror (Shreck)
Speaking of Clive Barker, "Rekrab"'s name is a clear tip of the hat to him...
Posted by: S | March 15, 2016 10:03 PM
Rekrab? That's an unusual name...
Posted by: AF | March 15, 2016 10:09 PM
Beat to it, darn.
Posted by: AF | March 15, 2016 10:09 PM
Other than some minor chronological overlap, would it be viable for someone to come along and actually link this "Hellfire" to the Hellstorm imposter from Defenders #118/Hellstorm #1?
Posted by: AF | September 14, 2017 9:26 AM
I think the biggest hurdle would be that Mikal Drakonmegas has a wife and established life here (career/agent), which seems to conflict with the life that the doppelganger had with Seripha. Nothing insurmountable depending on what you're going for, i guess.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 15, 2017 12:11 AM
I don't want to torture myself re-reading Hellstorm #1-3 and I've not read Terror Inc. (but I've read the Hellfire scenes in #1 when it's really clear it was meant to be Daimon and Patsy) and I'm sure there's all sorts of minor things that make that irreconcilable idea.
But from what I see on the surface: at the start of Hellstorm #1 we see the demon re-materialize "6 months ago", so he was apparently banished from Earth again off-panel (or is that meant to be Daimon re-materializing? I have no idea). The imposter is nuts in Hellstorm #1 and no longer on good terms with Seripha.
While Daimon is retired, Hellfire shows up and somehow becomes a celebrity exorcist figure. Possibly banking on Daimon's rep as his own and wants to get the darksoul for himself (right?).
So I'd posit, Hellfire was driven mad by the darksoul - which Daimon reclaimed via his father - and then slayed Hellfire and his new cult.
It seems to me a good way to a) finally give the imposter an identity, b) resolve both redundant characters (they both died in Hellstorm #1) and c) seems to really gel nicely with their continuities - the imposter debuted in Defenders #118, the monastery story that Hellfire references is the next set of issues, Hellfire debuts what could be 6 months before Hellstorm #1 and then the imposter has apparently come back in Hellstorm #1 and shortly after that Hellfire doesn't appear.
Posted by: AF | September 15, 2017 8:11 AM
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