(The) army thronged like locusts or like ants,
and hid dale, plain, and mountain.
As the dust rose from that countless host
the cheeks of our worthies turned pale.
As for me, I raised the mace that kills with a single blow,
and felled that host upon the spot.
I uttered a roar from my saddle, saying, ‘The Earth
has become a millstone upon them.’”

Ferdowsi, The Shahnameh

hydra

Isn’t that great? I’ve always wanted to write something starting with a swanky quotation. But don’t let the elitist arty-farty stuff mislead you, because this review is all about standing up for the small guy. Yes, we are gathered here to pay homage to the underclass of the four-colour world, the unsung peons whose devotion to duty allows the implementation of plans for world domination and at whose expense the triumph of good over evil is periodically enacted – the expendable cannon fodder, the small fry, the dregs of villainy. I’ll call them, for brevity’s sakes, the Hordes. You know them: they are the henchmen of Mr. Freeze or the Joker, the minions of HYDRA or the Hand, the rank-and-file of the Skrull empire.

The first thing about these poor slobs that comes to mind is that they are total losers. Superhero comics revel in their being “super”, and stack the odds in favour of the people in tights and against the mooks to a shameless degree. There is some precedent for this. People have been taking on entire armies single-handedly for a long time, as shown by the quotation from the Shahnahme, Persia’s national epic.

Contemporary superhero comics are way suckier than the oldies, though. Almost invariably, when a cape wades through waves of minions the point is to establish the distinction between human and superhuman in the most perfunctory of ways. It’s a low-level form of what goes by the name of momentism, a style of writing that has been defined as the subordination of storytelling to the search for iconic moments that capture and refine the essence of superheroes. When Hordes are getting stomped, the fuss is not about distilling Batman’s quiddity, or Wolverine’s or that of any other specific character, but rather about gratifying the reader with the most childish of the escapist thrills which the genre can offer, that of bestriding the world like the proverbial collosus, shrugging like Atlas and being unconstrained by the actions of lesser men. This is momentism at its crudest, meant to showcase how exalted the brotherhood of cape-bearers really is, designed to spell out what genre we’re dealing with. As a case in point, consider the acclaimed first score or so of issues of “The Immortal Iron Fist”, written by Brubaker and Fraction. The goons of HYDRA are little more than blood-filled punching bags in that, fit for the Immortal Weapons to execute their multi-key supercombo moves on only, and although Aja’s art ranges from “excellent” to “incredible” throughout, the presence of HYDRA’s army on the page is an inconsequential blur. It wears thin, fast.

Compare this with Ferdowsi: with a few lines, he manages to instill a sense of great dread to the approach of the “countless host”, which makes its ruination in the verses that follow all the more portentous. The stylised representation of combat creates a sense of drama, rather than flattening it.

The drama becomes roadkill in the comics because, in their chase after those elusive iconic money shots, they break a very basic rule: if you want to deny all agency to some of the people in your story you’d better have a very good reason to do so. Superheroes are not such a gravity-defying genre that they can ignore the sound logic of finding strength in numbers, and Hordes should be dangerous, primal things, that augment their members in as many ways as they diminish them.

Hordes are scary as fuck, come to think of it. It’s not only the capacity for violence of multitudes that we find unsettling, these days we’re afraid of belonging to them, of not belonging to them, of their effect on the environment, we are appalled or vindicated by their choices in matters of politics or taste. Superhero comics, which by necessity express themselves in the language of violent conflict, cannot afford to be as piss-poor, glib and regressive as is their wont if they are to have the faintest chance of getting any resonance off of this.

A first step towards a better handling of Hordes is the understanding that they come in many shapes and sizes. It is a time-honoured tradition to postulate a simple dualistic model as the starting point of one’s lucubrations, and then move on to the ever-popular shades of grey at a later stage. Let us therefore define two broad kinds of Hordes, which we can call mob-like and vacant-eyed, respectively. The main thing about mobs is that the coming together of lots of people is an emotional affair, even if those emotions are for the most part of the base, volatile sort. A good depiction of this kind of Horde will therefore test the viewer’s willingness to partake in the vicarious thrills associated with these emotions. Hordes of the second kind are usually gatherings of zombies, robots or commuters. In this case the point will be to take advantage of the subjects’ frigidness to create a sense of alienation in the audience. Usually, this will be enhanced by the odd bit of forlorn humanity being discernible amid the Horde’s serried ranks, a technique which is known under the term “mockery of the living”. Another trait of vacant-eyed Hordes is a predilection for being slow but relentless.

The most important thing by far for all this to come across right is the art. It’s not like the presence of Hordes can be easily combined with lots of realistic dialogue at any given time in a story, anyway. Admittedly, drawing large numbers of people is a bit of a chore, and it must be difficult to get the results not to look like a confusing mess. Some of my favourite depictions of Hordes come from the hands of the excellent Adrian Smith. He’s cut his teeth working for gaming companies like Games Workshop and other outfits that make a living by foisting plastic and pewter miniatures on pre-teens with way too much disposable income, and the depiction of large crowds of people armed to the teeth is an essential part of his job description. Check this out:

as_khorne

That’s one busy picture indeed, a trippy welter of snarling visages, leering skulls, shrunken heads and spikes. Quick background note: the action takes place in Game Workshop’s “Warhammer world”, the city must be part of the so-called Empire, which is loosely based on Renaissance Germany (“loosely based” as in “milking Albrecht Dürer for all he’s worth”), and the people doing the storming are followers of “Khorne”, the god of anger and dealing out gruesome death. Khorne is one of the dark Powers of Chaos, which are inspired in equal parts by Moorcock, Lovecraft, the work of Flemish masters like Hyeronimus Bosch, and 80′s metal bands. Whatever. In spite of all the stuff that’s going on, the composition of the picture is highly kinetic. Its central feature is the unstoppable advance of the raiders. This is anchored by things like the skillful use of space (what little is left of it!) around the column of chaos warriors, the towering champion blokes wearing great helms at both ends of the group (they are the same character, essentially), even the fact that most of the helmets’ horns point downstairs. The hopelessness of the defenders’ situation is not only brought home by the attackers’ ostensible badassery, but also by details like the dejected guardian genius of the city to the left, or the rainspout to the far right that looks like a death mask. The very stone is reacting to the madness that blots it from view, not unlike the way we imagine that Ferdowsi’s “dale, plain, and mountain“ groan and heave under the host that hides them.

But that’s far from the whole story. Smith has added a spoonful of the vacant-eyed formula to the picture, to great effect. There’s a shell-shocked, almost bovine quality to the few faces that aren’t caught in mid-scream (heck, even the steed looks smarter than some of them). It’s as if Khorne’s worshippers were being offered the simple choice of joining in the mass frenzy or being unable to keep their wits about them in the impossible sea of spiky bits they find themselves in. This choice is not unlike that offered to the viewer, whose eye can get lost amid all the insane painstaking detail or be swept along by the dynamic tableau.

That’s a great, artful depiction of a furious mob, in short, one that uses the idiom of the Awesome! and Extreme! comics and fantasy art of the last few decades to represent a set of very fucked up states of mind. Adrian Smith can also do vacant-eyed legions with bravura:

as_therians

These guys, “Therians”, are from a gaming universe called “AT-43″ which I know exactly fuck-all about. They seem to be cyborg-y post-human supremacists of some description. It doesn’t matter, the picture tells us all we need to know. Again, the image is busy as all get out, but it’s unified by the verticality of the composition, that conveys a sense that these people are “ascended” and untouchable and don’t think much of us meat bags. This verticality is reinforced by the fact that Smith has done away with the slow but relentless advance thing, giving the Horde instead an equally frightening 360-degree field of total, multi-eyed awareness. The “mockery of the living” comes with bonus genre meta-commentary, in the form of the freaky ladies with stilettoes for feet, exaggerated thoracic region, incongruous S&M accessories and blank doll masks. The small touches of volcanic orange and the crouching stance of some troopers –a pinch of the mobs, in this case– underline the Horde’s intent. We’re left in no doubt about this being a civilisation that embodies some of our most topical fears about modernity: efficiency has crushed humanity, futurism and scientism have run amok, we’ve got beyond the candyfloss horizons and crapped a spawn of spider eggs there.

Now, astute readers may wonder why exactly I’m arguing that these eminently iconic shots of Hordes are instructive, after railing against the evils of momentism early on. Well, momentism is like every other genre convention, it becomes suspect through overindulgence. As applied to Hordes, it could be novel for a while, because I haven’t seen that many iconic A.I.M. moments yet. More importantly, since the majority of such moments would have to revolve around some sort of extravagant, pervy soul-crushing fascist shit like in the above examples, they could help draw attention to some of the most masturbatory tendencies in the field.

This detournin’ of the momentin’ is not the only innovation that a reappraisal of the Hordes would require. Have you noticed that in the comics they never get their own sound effects? At most they shout something along the lines of “Hail, Naja-Naja!” like unto a single man. But crowds can be noisy in ways that individuals cannot. Let me propose, by way of example only, the following sound effects for Hordes, to be draped across comics pages in big blocky letters: MARCH; RUSH; ROUT; WHISPER.

The last one would be associated with discontent in the ranks, of course. It’s really so one-note, the usual subservience of Hordes to the whims of their masters. The act of keeping on top of a large group of people should be depicted as something that takes a heavy toll on the spirit and –since these are superheroes– the body. In this lasersharking fest of a post, I considered the possibility of a Martian villain that cuts bits off his or her body and animates them to bring forth a Horde. It was an attempt to represent, in a suitably grotesque manner, the strain on the soul of treating the masses as the extension of a single will. Other similar conceits can be brought to bear: telepathically-controlled Hordes in which the controller’s mind is in constant danger of scattering and losing its coherence, supervillains that are mere figureheads for the collective intelligence of the host that stands behind them, you name it.

Furthermore, it should not be unheard of, to get closeup shots of the Hordes, to bypass the charismatic leader and single out the odd individual in their midst. Every dog has his day and all that. The idea is that the public and the private are inseparable, and determining whether individual or collective agency has been at work at any given time is as much a matter of perspective as of anything else. Rest assured that somebody out there regards even you, gentle reader, as part of some heinous Horde or the other. That’s why it’s important to do justice to the dregs of villainy.

P.S.: There is actually a comic out there that is checking at least several of this reviewer’s boxes, and on the whole it’s handling the Hordes deftly. You won’t be surprised to hear that it’s “Batman and Robin”.

[Ed note: Cheers as ever to Brother Satrap, our honorary Mindless and dear chum, for this latest post.]

32 Responses to “Rogue’s review: Mindless hordes”

  1. Thoapsl Says:

    Although it wasn’t a great comic overall, I loved the sequence in Bendis’ Spider-Woman Origin story where Hydra was introduced. In the context of somebody’s attempted conversion to the Hydra cause, I thought Bendis sold their ideological sales pitch surprisingly well – for once I felt like it actually made sense that people would fight and die in those insane green-&-yellow costumes. Ever since then I’ve loved to read about Hydra doing things… when a horde epitomises mindless violence, but at the same time you feel like they do have a reasonably decent motivation and justification driving them (“reasonably decent” from their pov, obvs) – that’s compelling stuff.

    I guess one of the truly scary things about a mob (fictional or not) is how easy it can be to empathise with the mindset, to imagine and understand the seemingly “reasonable justifications” of the people who behave that way.
    Are villains at their most horrifying when you can see yourself in them? Vice versa?
    I don’t know, I’m going to have to think about that one…

  2. lanmao, the blue cat Says:

    I love the Rogues Review/Heroic Hype things (is there a better word than things? Forgive me, I’m drunk & on the internet). The serial format of superhero comics is strongly conducive to a kind of rote reiteration of basic concepts/characters/symbols as stylized representations of what the reader “should” be thinking or feeling, and I think that these things often point toward what could be accomplished by applying some brains and balls to the grand old tropes of the pulps which inform teh superhero genre.

    Two quasi-related points:

    1. The universe of Warhammer 40K is an example of the great results that can be had from judicious theft. It’s totally awesome and totally stitched together out of stolen elements of other things.

    2. My dad taught me the Hydra pledge (Hail Hydra, immortal Hydra…) before either the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer. Why, I still don’t know.

  3. The Beast Must Die Says:

    So your Dad was in Hydra?

  4. The Satrap Says:

    It’s a well known fact that the minions of Hydra are the most awesome dads.

    But anyway, where are my manners? Thanks a lot to the highly individual and un-hordish Mindless Ones for hosting my stuff. It’s a great feeling, to be able to leave the ranks of the Lurker Horde every now and again.

  5. lanmao, the blue cat Says:

    That would explain why I was never taught to shoot. Skilled operation of a firearm is Not the Hydra Way.

  6. Tymbus Says:

    My most beloved hordes were The Leader’s pink blobby androids from early Ditko Hulk stories and the Sons of the Serpent from 70s Defenders.

    I got the chance to pitch Warhammer comic ideas when the comic was still fermenting. I found it impossible to imagine writing for nameless massess which the gaming format seemed to require. So it was interesting to read how to engage with stories where mobs rule.

  7. Papers Says:

    A bit of Matt Fraction’s CASANOVA that I particularly enjoyed was the idea that mindless hordes–both good and bad–are employed through those seedy little technical colleges found in shopping malls.

    Great post!

  8. It Burns Says:

    Not exactly a “horde” device, but I loved Morrison’s brief characterization of Joker’s henchman at the beginning of “The Clown at Midnight.” The funeral setting really left me with a sour, fatalistic taste in my mouth that made me feel for those silly bastards in a way no other super-comic has.

    I’m sure there are others that are just as successful, though.

  9. The Satrap Says:

    I got the chance to pitch Warhammer comic ideas when the comic was still fermenting.

    That’s really cool, I’m tempted to do the geeky “we’re not worthy” proskynesis ritual.

    I found it impossible to imagine writing for nameless massess which the gaming format seemed to require.

    That’s a problem the fantasy genre has always tried to get around with low cunning, isn’t it? Though massive pitched battles are a common feature, they tend to be presented as a collection of duels between heroes, the outcome hinges on the use of some numinous McGuffin, and the nameless masses are just so much CGI.

    Warhammer has always applied this old formula with abandon, the only variation being that the heroes belong to some of the units used in the game, while the rest are namechecked. The last story for the franchise I read, “Crown of Destruction” written by fellow commenter Kieron Gillen, revolves around the search for the numinous McGuffin –the eponymous crown– by two evil factions, with the sorta good guys caught in the middle. The resolution comes about when the sorta hero realises that the McGuffin is explosive.

    The comic’s better than it sounds, actually. Good pulpy fun.

  10. The Satrap Says:

    The universe of Warhammer 40K is an example of the great results that can be had from judicious theft. It’s totally awesome and totally stitched together out of stolen elements of other things.

    I’m a huge Warhammer and WH40K nerd myself. Yeah, judicious theft and tongue-in-cheek humour (sadly lacking these days) are key selling points, together with the strong personality of the art of John Blanche, my man Adrian Smith and earlier contributors like Will Rees, Stephen Tappin, Tony Hough and the venerable Ian Miller.

    I would be pestering our gracious hosts with requests to do a “Better Living in the Dark Millenium” 40K appreciation post if I didn’t think it would be an utter waste of time, i.e. if the editorial policy of the Black Library –Games Workshop’s publishing branch– weren’t “shit sells”.

    Confession of guilt: these days I get my Warhammer fix from the supplements for their roleplaying games, WFRP and “Dark Heresy”, which range from “does not make you feel dirty after all” to “pretty good”.

  11. Kieron Gillen Says:

    Lovely piece, but I’m not sure about a dismissal of the horde as merely an object to show a hero’s quality.

    I wrote a load more, but I’ve deleted it, as the argument’s probably best in a reduced form. That being: The Killer is awesome. The problem isn’t reducing the horde to a threatening other – it’s not doing that while keeping the emotional nature of a scene.

    (The Killer shows you’re perfectly capable of using the Horde *both* as a nameless threat to kill in amusing ways and as visualising the emotional beats.)

    God! The argument’s growing back. Stop now.

    Warhammer remains awesome, of course, and I’ll jump at any opportunity to gibber about it. Worryingly, any time I’ve found myself writing it professionally, I’ve immediately relapsed into buying stuff.

    (Buying a Necron army after some Warhammer Comic stuff I did and a Skaven one after Crown of Destruction.)

    And glad you got something out of Crown. Was an odd one to write, with the parameters you get to play with*. Working as pulp which appeals to Warhammer fans was about all I was hoping for.

    KG

    *For example, it was originally a Siege set up, but you’re not allowed to do the slaughter of civilians. And there was originally a load more Skaven politics, based around a splinter-cell of Skaven trying to get the McGuffin to try and cement a new minor clan and similar. But that’s not really what the fiction is for, y’know?

  12. The Satrap Says:

    Oh, it’s certainly possible to get good results without treating the Horde as a character in its own right, so to speak, but this facelessness is the unquestioned default setting in the comics and the good results are way too few and far between, hence the insistence on a reappraisal.

    Note the weaselly use of arse-covering qualifiers like “almost invariably” in my piece.

    I haven’t seen the Killer, I need to get out more.

    “Crown” was a good read. The megalomaniacal necromancer and the even more megalomaniacal vampire lord were great villains, it’s a pity they had to buy the farm in the end.

  13. The Satrap Says:

    Threadrot. Is it OK if I hijack “my” thread? I guess it is.

    Followed the link, and I have to say you couldn’t be more wrong in your assessment of the Dark Eldar. “Like they did Chaos but didn’t inhale?” No siree, the Dark Eldar are made of win. The Unseelie Court of the future, bogeymen from beyond Euclidean space, S&M Elves, what’s not to like.

    Admittedly, many of the miniatures are rubbish, but you can replace them with models from related ranges (Dark Elves, Eldar), no hassle.

    And the backbone of the army, the DE warriors, are great models, I don’t care what anybody says. I quit the wargame many years ago, but I still remember that time when a snotty pre-teen at the local store tried to snatch one of my warriors and cut himself on the the spiky bits. If that isn’t the pinnacle of miniature design, I don’t know what is.

  14. Kieron Gillen Says:

    Satrap: In the original sort of pitch, the hero died too*. IN WARHAMMER, EVERYONE DIES.

    Elves are bad enough. Elves turned Emo? That’s unforgivable.

    (The figures hurting people *is* cool, however)

    KG

    *Closest I had to a FLESH-esque 2000AD thrill was bisecting the leader in the Dragon’s claws.

  15. Zom Says:

    Dark Eldar are not Emo

  16. Kieron Gillen Says:

    Actually, I’ll back off on the Emo Elves thing and distract you with the fancy Rogue Trader Special Edition

    KG

  17. Kieron Gillen Says:

    Actually, I’ll back off on that Dark Elves=Emo thing.

    AND THEN DISTRACT WITH THE ROGUE TROOPER SPECIAL EDITION THING.
    http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp

    KG

  18. Kieron Gillen Says:

    Growls!

    KG

  19. Tymbus Says:

    I’ll try and dig out the letters and pitches. They all had idiosyncratic leads which did not sit well with massed armies. Also I felt the universe was so derivative and pofaced I kind of sent it up. The 40k idea was a young boy with psychic powers stalker by a woman harvesting the minds of telepaths, There was a “super hero” style group- The Wolf pack fighting sentient Funghi. My favourite member was, outrageously, a princess (maria Edelewiess) banished to a monastery and forced to sing while her fellow nuns were raped by barbarian hordes. At night she steal a raiders axe and-renaming herself battleaxe emasculates the lot of them.

    A solo strip featured an elric clone- a tortured aesthete prince whose arm becomes attached to a chamelioleech that feeds on the bodies of its victims (a 2000AD Dan Dare rip off). Forced to commit ever more gorey acts to survive, the prince goes mad and the battlefield rings with his gibbering laughter

    In short, utter toss.

  20. The Satrap Says:

    There was a “super hero” style group…

    You were probably on to something. One of the things that can allow to set WH apart from your bog standard Tolkien knockoff is the presence of the “warping influence of Chaos”, that provides the perfect excuse for creating colourful superhero-style gimmick villains, and even the odd good guy.

    There was a couple of old WH supplements devoted to Chaos (that now fetch outrageous prices on Ebay) that had those great random tables for generating impossibly mutated monstrosities. I found that quite fascinating, to see how even a few well-placed die rolls offered the possibility to move the average reader’s imagination beyond its “comfort zones”.

    Of course, since our imagination is incorrigibly lazy, the mutated monstrosities all look the same after a while. Which allows me to return to the main topic of the essay through the back door. In an earlier draft, I devoted a paragraph to the idea that large assemblages of highly individual entities (like e.g. the splash pages with lots of superheroes one sees in event comics) become a horde-like blur (at least to the uninitiated). I dropped it ‘cos it was wank.

  21. Kieron Gillen Says:

    You know, if the money was industry-standard, and I had the creative freedom of something like a Marvel book, I’d write a Rogue Trooper ongoing comic pretty much forever. It’s Star Trek with Fascists! Brilliant.

    KG

  22. The Satrap Says:

    There’s a case to be made (and I’m sure it has been made somewhere) that Star Trek is easy to rework into some sort of fascism. After all, it’s a world that looks like a squeaky-clean hospital ward, populated by anatomically correct, mostly literally-minded representatives of their species, where the worth of individuals is largely embodied in their useful skillz, the folks controlling the photon torpedoes are hailed as great diplomats and scholars, the deckhands can die in droves if need be, and most antagonists –from the Klingons to the Ferengui– look like some stereotypical kind of Semite or the other.

    That’s why the Tau in 40K are creepy douchebags, obviously.

    Now, Rogue Traders (I think that’s what you mean) would get to showcase the truly appealing side of fascism, like wearing fetish clothing (they have some fav Elizabethan/Premier Empire mashup outfits), blowing shit up and stuff.

    BTW, the great Brendan McCarthy has been toying with the idea of doing Rogue Traders.

  23. plok Says:

    What a great post, and fascinating discussion — I know nothing at all about these games you folks talk of, but you definitely catch the attention. The Star Trek Fascist Utopia thing, I’ve long maintained, is in there…thoughtlessly glossed over by scripters, but nevertheless present in the deep structure, and (sometimes surprisingly) in the actor’s character work. The later Treks that spun up out of TNG don’t have it as easy as the original, when it comes to their topical references! There are faultlines everywhere, built-in tensions, but it’s all way too radioactive to touch: because it turns from Western to Horror under our noses, and how the hell can any Captain or crew-member of the Enterprise reconcile what they’re supposed to be, with what they look like? Should’ve had Iain Banks write a few episodes, I guess, but since they didn’t it all gets bogged down in crap scripts full of near-misses and cheap redemptions. But you can still sense it there, under the skin.

    Uh…whoops, not actually what I came here to say!

    I was actually going to say something about the tendency these days to humanize the Horde’s constituents by giving them home lives, seeing them in intake at the technical college or the Tony Robbins seminar or wherever. I think this is a tough thing to pull off — Morrison makes a good show of it in The Invisibles, of course, but I never bought the idea of the Hydra goons as saps like you or me who just get sucked into the cult. That’s too simple, to my mind: surely the Horde is full to bursting with tough customers and psychopaths. AIM kind of interests me a bit more in that way, as a result: it’s easy to be an unreflective fascist, a little more challenging perhaps to be the researcher trying to plug Captain America for the faceless glory of Technocracy. It’s wild, actually: so many things that haven’t been done with the Horde, and yet like latter-day Star Trek those things are percolating away somewhere to create our basic interest in the whole idea.

    Absolutely terrific stuff!

  24. The Satrap Says:

    “Fab outfits”, it’s “fab outfits”. Don’t you hate it when people correct harmless typos in their posts with cutesy addenda? I do. I hate the typos even more, though.

    I was actually going to say something about the tendency these days to humanize the Horde’s constituents by giving them home lives… I never bought the idea of the Hydra goons as saps like you or me who just get sucked into the cult. That’s too simple, to my mind: surely the Horde is full to bursting with tough customers and psychopaths.

    Exactly, with some exceptions (like the Invisibles issue you mention), the “I’m a poor devil, I got a follower mentality condition” thing is a pretty feckless sop to “realistic” storytelling, before the stories get on with the serious business of mook liquidation. Focusing on individual members of a Horde should allow to discover a couple of pretty unsavoury, but forceful and colourful, personalities. Thanks for unpacking this, the last paragraph of my rambling little piece was far too vague in this regard.

    AIM kind of interests me a bit more…

    I was tempted to devote some space to AIM as a distillation in Horde form of the basic pulp/superhero motif of mad, heartless science, but then decided it would be better to subsume it into the simpler categorisation I ended up providing. HYDRA and AIM are definitely the strongest Hordes in the superhero biz, I think. I chalk this up to Kirby’s fantastic design sense. Those beekeeper outfits are evocative and creepy as fuck.

    Fab outfits, in other words.

  25. grant Says:

    I just read this today, and was immediately reminded of Frank Miller’s _Daredevil_, which revolved heavily around The Hand as the villain.

    It’s been years since I read them, but there was a quality to them you may have overlooked – they were largely an *unseen* horde, one that could be all around you, watching, in that kind of “the jungle has eyes” mode right before the drumming starts (to confuse my pulp ethnic stereotypes).

    I actually get a similar vibe from the surveillance terror of _The Prisoner_, and possibly from certain moments in _The Matrix_ movies, when the agent(s) take over/transform real people.

    Frank Miller did that a lot, I think – there are mobs in Dark Knight and _Ronin_ as well. Fists against the sky – people swept up by madness, possessed by something greater than themselves….

    Also, along similar lines to the Star Trek-as-fascism, there’s an inverse to the Horde in what I’d call The Cavalry. Seems like this is often played out by agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but anytime that large group suddenly shows up along the edge of the ridge and the bad guy realizes he’s fallen into a trap, they’re all around him and there’s no way out.

  26. Zom Says:

    Miller was very good at that unseen horde business. It doesn’t work half as well with Brubaker behind the wheel

  27. Botswana Beast Says:

    I think it’s more the elapsed time betwixt Miller and Brubaker (on Daredevil and Marvel Comics, as a whole) that really murdered the Hand in particular conceptually; after Wolverine has re-murdered literally thousands of the fuckers w/ the aid of a Sentinel, they do tend to feel a little cheap and broken-down.

  28. Zom Says:

    Mind you, Millar’s maximal approach to the empty horde had its charms

  29. Botswana Beast Says:

    It did, but it’s a culmination of – Wolverine, I think in particular, just fucking served so many members of the Hand* that they’ve passed from interesting threat to joke.

    *as Cap has tended to A.I.M., but the pill-bucket head, ‘the A.I.M. mystique’ as Livewires had it, always demarcated them as chumps.

  30. Zom Says:

    That is very true

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