Friday, September 30, 2016

Butcher #1 (1990)

Butcher #1 (May, 1990)
Writer/Co-Creator - Mike Baron
Artist/Co-Creator - Shea Anton
Letterer - Steve Haynie
Colorist - Julia Lacquement
Development Associate - Katie Mann
Editor - Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

Here's a series I'd totally forgotten about.  I usually associate The Butcher with a Brave and the Bold miniseries he shared with Green Arrow... it completely slipped my mind that he actually had his own solo miniseries.

It's written by the character's creator, Mike Baron... who I kinda had fun with when I recently reviewed Sonic Disruptors... or one of the most unsubtle satires I've ever read.  Let's see how this one goes...


We are on board a train zig-zagging through the Canadian Rockies.  There is a large Native American man selling cigarettes and candy to the passengers... he's wearing a name-tag which reads Jonathan Butcher.  Suddenly a sharp-dressed pair enter the car, and bump our man out of the way.  They find an attractive young mother, and after confirming she's a Canadian, invite her to dinner in their personal train car.  One of the two reveals that the work for a Mr. Loftus.

Butcher's ears perk up after hearing that name, and after twosome depart he questions the woman's wisdom in accepting a private dinner-date with a perfect stranger.  She's pretty oblivious to the potential danger of such a thing... not thinking that anything could possibly go wrong on a Canadian train.  Is this a known thing?  Are Canadian trains famous for their safety?  I dunno...

Butcher heads to... okay, this is a bit confusing... either his own room... or Loftus' private room.  Not really clear as to which.  Either way, once inside he disrobes and enters into a trance.  He focuses in on a story his sister Sue Ellen had told him about a... sharp-dressed pair who tried to forcefully buy his family's gas station and convenience store.  When his father refused... they blew up the shop.

Butcher reflects on how his research following the occurrence.  After a month of checking into dummy company after dummy company, he landed at one name... Loftus.  He decides it's time to exact a bit of revenge, and dons his formal "dinnerware".  I gotta say, this get-up doesn't look nearly as cool as I think they thought it would.

We advance to dinnertime, where our Mrs. Karen McLeach is dining with creepy Mr. Loftus.  The young Audrey McLeach is tired from all the frivolity... and Loftus offers to let them have one of his (many) extra rooms... just how big is this car anyway?  Here we meet Loftus' bodyguard... a giant Korean man with a wildly unfortunate haircut called Kam.  Loftus explains that he wants to open a casino in Vancouver... where gambling is illegal.  But, oh ho... nothing's illegal for the Loftus's's's.  It's around now that our gal finally starts getting the heebie-jeebies about her dinner-date.  She makes sure to inform him that her husband is a Mountie... which doesn't impress him all that much.  She tries to politely leave... and that doesn't go all that well either.

Kam grabs her, and Loftus begins... threatening her, saying that he can make her do anything he wants, as touches her face.  She nails him with an open hand slap.  She's got some long-ass fingernails that make it look like Loftus was just in a scuffle with Wolverine.  This scene is pretty uncomfortable...

Luckily, the Butcher is nearby.  He is sitting atop the train car in full meditation.  He thinks back to a time he'd spent with his grandfather.  They spent four days fasting atop a butte.  On the final day, Butcher was left alone.  He watches as a lamb wandered into the path of a snake... the snake wrapped itself around the poor lamb.  Butcher felt the need to intervene, however could not move.  Suddenly a hawk swooped down and tore the snake to ribbons with its talons.  Butcher awakens, and finds that he is holding the remains of a snake and has blood dripping from his mouth.  Ew.  The grandfather informs him that there was no hawk... Jonathan himself was the hawk.  It is his fate to rend snakes.

It is now time for our man to spring into action.  There is a bearded man guarding the doorway to the private Loftus car... and so, Butcher uses his way with words to sweet talk his way inside.  No, he doesn't do that at all... he snaps the poor fool's neck.

Inside there is yet another guard.  This one's packin' heat... Butcher is able to kayo him, but not before taking some hot lead to his side.

The gunshot gets the attention of our flattopped bemulleted pal Kam. The two engage in fisticuffs until, during a grapple, Butcher plunges a knife into Kam's gut.  This only seems to tick the giant off.

Kam removes the knife and starts wielding it himself.  Butcher is quickly able to disarm the monstrous Korean... and then plunges the knife into Kam's chest.  Butcher... livin' up to his name!

With Kam... well, not dead... but out of commission for a moment, Butcher uses his glass-cutter to make his way into the car's bathroom.  Kam manages to crawl his way into Loftus' room, and informs him that there's an uninvited guest using their toilet.  Loftus then unloads his gun into the bathroom door... yeesh.

Loftus backhands Karen and tells her to check the body.  She refuses and... well, Loftus decides to check it out on his own.  Maybe this dude can be reasonable.  I did mention he looked as though he had a tussle with Wolverine a bit earlier... here I would have to imagine he got some of Logan's healing factor as his facial wreckage has all vanished.  As he approaches what he believes to be the dead body of the Butcher... our man... and this is pretty gross... kicks him square in the kneecap.  This is rendered really very well on panel, and is a pretty stomach-turning sight.

Butcher mounts Loftus and demands he spill the beans on the people who hired the Loftus's's to murder his family.  After a bit of coercion, he finally comes clean.  It was the Namdorph Corporation in San Francisco... specifically one Edward Gryzinski, who apparently works on the 35th floor.  Now armed with the information, Butcher slams Loftus in the chest... not sure if that was a killing blow, but soon that will be a moot point anyway!

Suddenly, a loud "chuck" rings out, and it becomes clear that the car has been disconnected from the train.  Outside we see Kam... yeesh, again with this guy... physically separating the trains with his own body.  Damn.

Butcher tells Karen to grab her daughter, as things are about to get bumpy.  They have no choice but to jump, for if they don't... they gon' die in a fiery crash.  Karen is justifiably reluctant... but Butcher... and the thought of plummeting off a cliff prove to be pretty decent motivators.

Once the trio collect themselves, Butcher informs them that Loftus' men will soon be there to make them all dead... and so, they must flee.  He promises them he will deliver them safely, and despite her reservations, Karen appears to be thankful.


Okay... well, I liked this a whole lot more than Sonic Disruptors.  It's got similar subtlety issues, but overall it's not bad at all.  In fact, the story actually somewhat engaged me... and I can see myself tracking down the other four issues of this arc.

The character of the Butcher is a lot more interesting than I thought he would be.  I like that, while he's a violent bloodthirsty type, he's also something of a tactician.  I was afraid we were going to go one of two ways... either a complete savage, or a tranquil peacenik (which would be ironic given the fella's name, right?).  Thankfully, he falls somewhere in between.

The villain during this issue is a bit one-note... but, that's all he really needed to be.  We get the impression that he's just a spoke in the wheel, and the real bad guy is going to be our man's ultimate target.

The violence is ratcheted up pretty high here (that broken knee... yikes!).  I actually had to recheck the cover date... I'd have sworn, from the contents, that this would have been circa 1993... post-Image launch, and all that... but, no!  This came out in very early 1990... which really made me take pause.

Overall, yeah... this was pretty good.  You may need to be in a very 1990's mindset to fully appreciate this... but luckily, that's like second-gear for me.  The art is a touch on the blockier side, but fits the story quite well.  It reminded me a bit of Larry Stroman's work on X-Factor.  I'd say this won't rock your socks, but it's definitely worth a flip through.


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