Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Back Issue Box: Justice League #143

I continue my look back at the history of Mark Shaw Leviathan with a peek at Justice League of America #143

I recently reviewed JLA #140 and JLA #141 where the history of the Manhunters was upended and retconned by Steve Englehart.  While Englehart was done with the Manhunter androids, he wasn't done with Mark Shaw.

In this issue, we see that Shaw wasn't done with his quest for justice. But he wanted to shed himself of the baggage that came with the name Manhunter and the distinctive armor. He creates a new super-heroic persona for himself. And while not invited into the League, he certainly interacts with the members a lot.

But the bigger story is the League battling a mind controlled Wonder Woman, the Injustice League, and The Construct, Steve Englehart's malevolent sentience of all the communication waves going around the Earth. I know the Construct from JLA #142 (an issue from my youth) and as a Red Tornado rogue (dubious distinction at best). I won't cover the Construct side of this issue too much as I want to concentrate on Shaw.

Dick Dillin is on art and as usual, his stuff is gorgeous. 

On to the book.

We start out with a dynamic splash page which mirrors the cover.

Wonder Woman is fighting Superman!

The Superman Vs Wonder Woman treasury was a year away from being released! This cover would certainly have caught my eye on the spinner rack. 

And while my money would be on Superman, this definitely would have been a 'we always wondered who would win' issue for me then and even now.

During the prior JLA issues I reviewed in this Manhunter review, Wonder Woman seemed very on edge. She was quite terse and perhaps even angry at her teammates for any number or reasons. They belittle her. They're stupid. They're chauvinists. 

I have to say it feels like she is over-reacting. But that feeling that she is being mistreated continues. Returning from their mission, she decides she has had it with the League and storms off.\

Back on Earth, she immediately runs into Injustice League members Scarecrow and Poison Ivy mid-heist.

But there is also a third man there, dressed like a pirate complete with sword and eyepatch. Assuming he is another villain, she attacks.

Whoever he is, he has some skills, able to shake off the Amazon's punch and strike Wonder Woman to gain some physical space. Pretty impressive stuff given how powerful we know Diana to be.

Still, this squabbling gives Poison Ivy enough time to create giant vines to detain the two.

It turns out this new guy is The Privateer, the new codename and costume of Mark Shaw, Manhunter.

He has tasted the quest for justice, he doesn't want to be associated with the evil Manhunter cult anymore, thus the new look. 

But his training is pretty evident. He was able to hold off Wonder Woman. And he still has the Manhunter baton, a sort of omni-weapon.

So Shaw remains dedicated to justice ... or so it seems.

Remember, as Leviathan his quest is for transparency. He hates secrets and deception. I suppose worldwide truth is a sort of justice.

Hearing a bit of Wonder Woman's anger, Shaw invites Wonder Woman out for a bite! And she agrees. Okay, that's a bit weird. But sure enough, Englehart shows to two in a restaurant eating and talking. And the other diners seem unfazed by the two. I guess Shaw has his wallet on him? Ahhh, the Bronze Age. 

While the initial conversation is friendly, Wonder Woman gets quite irked when Shaw points out that her mind wandered during their conversation. (In truth it was wandering as an outside force is trying to work its way into Diana's mind.)

And the anger we have seen her manifest recently flares again as she outright attacks Shaw, tossing him off a building.

Sahw is actually concerned about Wonder Woman's actions, enough to try and get his way back into the JLA satellite to warn them. Moreover, he was quick enough to slip a tracker onto Wonder Woman to boot. You have to admit, Shaw has cunning. And, at least for now, seems like he respects the League.

While he can't enter the transporter, he is present when Batman returns to the planet. 

After a quick explanation of who he is and how he can track Diana, Batman agrees to team up. 

Wonder Woman has fallen under the control of someone or something who advises her that she has a tracker on her. She leaves it in a building before heading back to the satellite. 

Heading inside, Shaw is able to do some detective work of his own, spying the transmitter and saving Batman from a trap.

Batman certainly didn't like the Manhunters or their 'bounty hunter' ways. And in classic Bat tradition, isn't sure he should trust Shaw. But you have to like Shaw's persistence.

And then more of that Manhunter training. He could hear the trap's lasers trip on. Even Batman is impressed.

For me, when Leviathan was revealed to be Shaw, I kind of was unsure if I could believe he had access to all the tech we had seen. I wasn't sure if he had the skills to be the leader he was shown to be. (Of course, I thought Ted Kord had the tech and the skills).

But as I have read these old Manhunter stories, I have become a believer. The Manhunter tech certainly is impressive. Shaw has tussled with Wonder Woman here and even out-skilled Batman in a death trap.

While the other Justice Leaguers battle the other Injustice Leaguers Chronos and Mirror Master to a stalemate, Wonder Woman heads to the Injustice League satellite. There, the Construct says her anger against the League was real enough that he could enter her mind and take control, just as he has had control of the Injustice League themselves. 

He makes her go to the JLA satellite and fight Superman. She wins and then has Superman call the rest of the League to the satellite for an 'emergency meeting'. But the way he says it is odd enough to make them wonder about whether he was coerced.

Given the villains they have all faced recently are from the Injustice League, the figure out that maybe they should just head to the villains' satellite instead of the JLA satellite.

Sure enough, they find the Injustice League on their satellite and dispatch the villains quickly. Realizing this plot is over, the Construct releases the villains and Wonder Woman from his control. Thankfully Wonder Woman is quickly forgiven.

All right, the overall story about the Construct is a little bonkers. I don't know why he can worm his way into Wonder Woman's mind. I can't believe the Injustice Leaguers would allow the Construct to control them so they would be 'more efficient'. And I don't know why the Injustice League loss would make the Construct release Wonder Woman. 

But this is about Mark Shaw and once again he shows some charisma, some skills, and some tech. Is this further foundation for his turn to Leviathan ... if I can even include pre-Crisis history in a post-Rebirth continuity? I believe yes. He parries an Amazon and out-escapes Batman. That is incredible. 

A couple more issues in this run of JLA in this Leviathan/Mark Shaw  review. And a couple more twists as well.


Martin Gray said...

You can’t fault Mark Shaw when it comes to committing to a theme - the hair! The ‘tache! The depth-perception killing eye patch! Ludicrous.

It’s funny, all I remember about this story is the restaurant scene, Diana referencing her trial and the phrase ‘the League stands’.

I never considered that this would be a good point at which to offer Mark Shaw League membership. How different things could have been...

Anonymous said...

I'll say this for Dick Dillin he knew how to make Wonder Woman looks really strong yet also feminine at the same time...I didn't like that last panel though, whatever else she was in the bronze age, WW wasn't generally a weeper. She might be embarrassed but she wouldn't cry...well thats "if I ran the store"...


H said...


Bit confusing, isn't it? Like you said, it's only going to get more complicated. Say what you will about Steve Englehart, he knows how to juggle plot threads.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

Yes, there are a couple more twists in the road ...

Coming soon ...