Friday, November 15, 2019

Review: Event Leviathan #6

Event Leviathan #6 came out this week, the end of one of the better crafted comic mysteries in the recent past. 'Who is Leviathan' was a question which plagued me, nay consumed me. This blog could have been called Leviathan Theory Comic Box Commentary these last few months as there seemed to be a weekly post looking at clues.

And I have to sadly say that this time I was wrong. My carefully crafted theory that Leviathan was Ted Kord turned out to be wrong. While a backup theory turned out to be right, it was hardly a mystery by that point.

Here is the thing about great mysteries. Sometimes the reveal is a let down. And while the ultimate identity of who Leviathan is makes total sense, some of the details behind it remain a little bit troublesome. And everything wraps up so unbelievable quickly that we are basically left with a 'to be continued'.

Still, this issue is something of a marvel, told in flashback, with truly spectacular art and colors by Alex Maleev. Leviathan is set up as a big villain for the future. And, I suppose, it all makes some sort of sense.

I have to give kudos for Brian Michael Bendis for giving us this treat over the back half of the comic year. At a time where personally I needed something fun to think about, this mystery was perfect.

On to the book.

The opening splash tells us all we need to know.

Leviathan is a Manhunter.

This issue is set up as a story that Lois is writing, documenting the end of the Leviathan takeover and attack.

 We see Lois typing away. The heroes involved in the story, the detectives and Superman are there but Lois will only talk to her husband.

It turns out that the Manhunter cult isn't widely known in the DCU. Lois really doesn't know much about them. She is asking Clark to explain to her everything that the Manhunters stand for.  I suppose that means that Millennium and Invasion are far enough in the rear view mirror that most of that lore isn't known.

What is interesting is that we learn that Sam Lane has died. Last issue we saw him and Lois teleported away. Now we find out he died. He couldn't be turned. So he was offed. Interesting that Clark calls him complicated but good.

I'm trying to think what number death of Sam Lane I am looking at in my personal comic canon. At least three.

Three hours earlier, the detectives are facing off against Talia and Silencer. Talia knows who Leviathan is ... he is a Manhunter. As a result, Talia thinks Kate Spencer is in on the takeover.

As it turns out, she isn't. But her Manhunter tech has been transmitting to the Leviathan group everything our heroes have been doing.

Recognizing she is in trouble, Kate tries to run off, attacking the group. Tall order given the fighters in this little cabal. But I guess fortune favors the bold.

 It doesn't end well.

I'm a big Talia Al Ghul fan. So seeing that look of anger and joy on her face as she tases Kate was a ting of beauty.

The Spencer Manhunter did seem like an odd inclusion into this group. She isn't quite A-list like the rest. So seeing now that she was a patsy, planted there to feed Leviathan makes that sensible. And her tech being a spy also explains how Leviathan was one step ahead.

Knowing they are now being spied on, the heroes revert to sign language. They assume that Leviathan can't see them without being that tech being detected. It is a nice couple of pages.

With this all happening, the first Detectives and are joined by Lois' second group.

 Ultimately, Leviathan's schemes turn out to be born from the mind of Sam Lane. Lane saw how frustrated the spy agencies were. He saw how nothing was getting done. And so he came up with this plan to topple and consolidate them all.

When Leviathan saw those plans, he acted on them.

There is something sort of 'Tower of Babel' about this, the story where Batman's contingencies were stolen by Ra's and activated. It is something of a trope, the good guy doing a bad guy thought experiment only to have a villain put it into play.

 And then the reveal.

Leviathan is Manhunter Mark Shaw. He certainly fits the bill.

He was a Manhunter. The underlying goal of Manhunters is to bring order out of chaos.
He was in the Suicide Squad.
He was in Checkmate.
He has all these ties.

Okay, so it makes sense for him to be this person trying to bring some sense of order and peace to the world.

But ....

How did he do it?
We have seen all this crazy tech, explosions and teleportations and temporal blasts that are unrecognizable. Do we just think these were weapons that each group had hidden? That he is amassing all the available technology? Is this all Manhunter tech that remains viable and unknown? How did he 'brainwash' these people who changed sides quickly and would be loyal to the point of death? How did he set up a big shop in the time of the Great Disaster?

I guess I have to roll with it?

 He not only reveals his identity to Superman but his plan.

He has all the information in the world at his fingertips and he is going release it. No more secrets.

And he thinks Superman is going to join him. He thanks Superman for all the work he has done saving the world. Now it is time for Leviathan to help stabilize things.

I love this panel. Superman looks like he is kneeling before Leviathan, like a disciple listening to a preacher. There is something 'sermon on the mount' about this.

You almost wonder if Superman will buy in. This is about order. And after all, Leviathan and Superman want the same thing.

 But then all hell breaks loose.

Plastic Man escapes the Spyral tech trap and signals the detectives. Both groups of fighters show up on this island outside of Iceland to join the fray against Leviathan. Suddenly confronted by Talia, some of the original Leviathan members turn. Batgirl escapes the compound to join the fight It is a big sloppy mess.

Realizing he isn't going to win this easily, and seeing that his heroes aren't going to join the new order, Shaw teleports away.

Just like that it is over.

So Leviathan was on an island outside Iceland and remained undetected? Batgirl simply 'escaped'. The unturnable new Leviathan army somehow can be turned? This small group of heroes can overwhelm the two page spash armada from last issue in just about a page? Leviathan runs away that quickly?

It all seemed just a touch fast.

In another sort of trope, we learn that Leviathan actually knows everything ... not just everything about the spy groups ... but EVERYTHING. And he planned to release that info everywhere all at once. Such information, when shared, would lead to global chaos, a mess Leviathan would sweep in and tidy.

But luckily ... and again maybe a bit too easily ... Batgirl pulls out some device that Amanda Waller stole that is the linchpin to Leviathan releasing all that information. He can't do it.

Now we don't see Waller. We haven't heard of this device before. So it also came out of left field a bit.

 And then the be continued. After all, Shaw is still out there with a sizeable army.

Silence thinks she knows how to completely stop Leviathan.

But remember, this is Superman retelling the events to Lois as she is writing the story. That part isn't to be shared now. The real story is the Leviathan reveal.

And so we get the Daily Planet front page.

The world knows about Leviathan, Shaw, and Manhunters.

For now, the plot is thwarted.

In the end we see the Guardian, still loyal to Leviathan, saying that the Leviathan loss has invigorated the group. But Shaw seems crestfallen. If the heroes won't join, then he'll burn it all down. Suddenly this interesting new villain seems sort of Republic serial baddy.


I know I am sounding like I didn't like this. I honestly did. Shaw makes sense. The heroes team makes sense. The way they worked it all out makes sense.

But I think I need to roll with much of this. The capabilities of the Leviathan organization right now don't seem to fit. Perhaps more will be revealed soon.

Still, the art was gorgeous. The mini-series as a whole was brilliant. And the mystery was thought-provoking. I couldn't ask for more.

Overall grade: B
Overall grade of mini-series: A


Anonymous said...

So, Mark Shaw is sticking around - now it makes more sense that you can vote for Leviathan in several categories for the Harley Quinn Villain of the Year thing. (I wish I could remember the URL where the nominations and voting are.) He's not one and done - he'll be a force to reckon with.

What does Guardian mean by "The bigger heads have tons of new ideas"? The bigger heads among the followers? Or does Leviathan have a boss?

Leviathan already knew a lot of secrets. Was he in a position to know secret identities and the like? And just where is Amanda Waller? Dead? Alive?

As a wind-up perhaps this needed to be titled "The Road to Leviathan," as it's more of a road than an event. But anyway, I had fun, and enjoyed the painted art. I'd like to know exactly Batgirl was doing in there, and maybe we'll find out in Batgirl if the current nonsense arc ever finish.

Bendis has given some interviews about this and he's satisfied that a reasonable number of people figured out that it was Mark Shaw - I think he said 18%. Not too many, but not none.

I don't think we should be shown Lois or Clark's published writing too often. This writing does not reflect polished journalism, and it's even worse in Superman 17.


Jim Werner said...

One of the reasons people guessed Mark Shaw was that it was leaked months ago (i believe around issue #3). I bet without that, it would have been less than 5%

Martin Gray said...

I could certainly have done with more show and less tell: Plastic Man’s escape sounds amazing, I’d like to see that; Batgirl’s behind-the-scenes palava, that sounds intriguing, show us; what was the process of the second group of detectives... that sort of thing.

I would have got a huge kick had you been right, it could have worked, there was more to point towards the Charlton heroes than a Manhunter, with last issue being the first time they entered the picture as reasonable suspects.

Did I miss Guardian being involved before this issue, or did I forget?

And did we ever find out who that woman was using Kate’s face?

As the scripts were coming in, DC should have decided to extend the series, give it room to breathe.

Anyway, don’t be sad, you’ve given us all a lot of fun food for thought these past few months. Take a bow. You ARE Leviathan!

DanielT said...

Every point you raised is valid and accurate, but the biggest issue to me is how many casual readers have any idea who Mark Shaw is? The comics aficionados speculating about his identity are a small percentage of persons who read Event Leviathan. As far as I know, Shaw's only appearance since the New 52 was in Forever Evil where he was a U.S. Marshall. Maybe he was "Rebirthed" as a Manhunter--there's a Manhunter in Doomsday Clock #11 but no indication of who he is--but if so then Superman should know who he is.

**Sigh!!*** DC continuity is such a mess and Bendis running roughshod all over it isn't helping. I can't even begin to fathom how this, the current JLA story, the King Batman and Doomsday Clock all fit together.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

I don't know that DC would appreciate your calling this issue "something of a MARVEL", but what's done is done. 'Nuff said about that!

Now that we know who Leviathan is, it would be nice if Bendis could publish a run down of the clues (real or false) that he included. Your Ted Kord/Charlton/Watchmen theory made a lot of sense, and I wonder if some of the "clues" that seemed to point in that direction were purposely put in as decoy.

Anonymous said...

There isn't much here, but Bendis talks about the clues he (thought) he sprinkled about when asked

"... you promised that this was a mystery you could solve, that there are clues. What were some of the most prominent clues you had here and in Action Comics that tipped it to Mark Shaw?"

He says there's quite a few... but then as far as I can see, simply mentions the costume. Maybe there are, or will be, other interviews where he'll say more.

It's an interesting interview.

I cited the wrong number: Bendis thinks 8%, not 18%, of his sample guessed correctly.

Congratulations to our host Anj who Bendis name-checked on Twitter, and I guess a character of his name is going to debut in the upcoming Leviathan Dawn special. (And be tortured? I bet the character will go down saying "Nooooo, this time I was so sure I was right!" But it would be even better if he's a recurring character.)

" #leviathandawn.. debuts leviathan agent @dranj70 because he is awesome and totally deserves to be tortured by leviathan! not joking. thanks for being so cool!"