Writer and creator Peter Milligan goes through his latest issue of Terminal Hero giving us the inside story on what he was trying to do with the issue and how he sees things. And we get to mix in the beautiful art of Piotr Kowalski.
TERMINAL HERO TWO: COMMENTARY
The tumour that was going to kill Rory might have shrunk, but his troubles are only just beginning.
We open with a flashback of Longcrow medical research centre, and see Quigley: he’s the guy who created Treatment Q, which is having such a devastating effect on Rory.
This page introduces a theme that runs through the issue: are there occasions when it’s better to be dead than alive?
We then introduce the British Intelligence agents, Davenport and Campbell. They’re threatening to reveal what Rory did to Raz – he splattered his head – unless Rory helps them.
I was less interested in the British Intelligence angle per se, than the pressure they put Rory under. Difficulties are mounting up for Rory, internal and external. These agents will also, later, be a link to the man who saved and changed Rory’s life.
This and the subsequent scene also gave me the chance to show that in spite of some of his thoughts and actions, Rory is at heart a decent guy. Even now, he is worried about what Raz’s nice Pakistani mother would say to him if she found out that Rory had killed her son.
So he commits his “second murder in the case of a week”. This scene shows how desperate Rory has become. His moral compass has slipped: Rory was a doctor, he’s supposed to save lives, here he is taking them. It also, of course, shows again how the changes that Treatment Q has wrought in him can be used to such devastating effect, and how he can combine this with his medical knowledge to be a killer.
Rory’s relationship with the lovely Emma has progressed. But it’s based on a lie. He cannot tell her he killed Raz. he cannot tell her what’s happening to him.
He’s even scared to sleep beside her, for fear of what his nightmare-self might do to her.
In page eleven, after another killing for British Intelligence, Rory’s demons – unleashed by Quigley’s treatment – assault him. The nightmare image he keeps returning to is that he subconsciously had sexual feelings for his dead sister. Here, a “bad Rory” or “shadow Rory” does what Rory might, in this nightmare world, really want to do to her.
This is probably the most harrowing scene in the issue. Maybe the comic so far.
Haunted by the images from the previous scene Rory is forced to try his own special kind of therapy. Some people have asked me about the idea of Rory using sex, drugs and drinks as a way of dampening down his demons. I had the idea while looking at some people outside a pub one night. They were drink, booze, and sexed up. They might just have been having a good time. But I had the notion of people using these powerful sensory stimulants as a kind of therapy, an analgesic against modern life.
Broke, Rory has to return to Davenport and Campbell. Which leads us back to Longcrow, and our first look at Quigley as he is today. Quigley’s supposed to be dead. Here, we see that he’s alive. But only just.
Is living like Quigley really living? Would you rather be dead than in his horrible situation? Terminal Hero began with Rory being told his life was about to end. The story has been about Rory discovering that life (and death) is more nuanced than that.
With this Quigley character I wanted a feel of that early British Quatermass kind of story. Brilliant misguided scientists, isolated medical centres, monsters from the id. All that cool stuff.
Rory learns a little more about how the Treatment Q works. But can he – who’s killed a number of times recently – kill Quigley when he asks Rory to?
In turmoil, Rory visits Emma. And he comes close to voicing one of the main themes of this issue, and the book:
“I always thought that any kind of life was better than dying. Better than death. But is it?”
Terminal Hero is in one sense about Rory trying to escape. He tries to escape the tumor’s death sentence by taking Treatment Q. Here in the final scene we see him working for British Intelligence. But Rory has plans to escape once again. From British Intelligence…and from himself.
This will mark a whole new chapter in Rory’s life, and in the comic. I really like the desperation it takes for Rory here: he knows nothing about what he’s letting himself in for. He’s stepping into the unknown.
And so are we…