Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Back Issue Box: Suicide Squad #9

I continue my back issue box dive looking at Mark Price Leviathan by taking a peek at Suicide Squad #9. As I mentioned in my review of Suicide Squad #8, Mark Shaw was rescued from comic book limbo in this book. It had been nearly a decade since he had appeared in the Justice League. So John Ostrander was doing his best to re-introduce Shaw (as the Privateer) to the comic book world. And what better event to do that in than Millennium, the mini-series which thrust the Manhunters cult as a universe-wide threat.

In Squad #8, Shaw arrives as a vicious martial artist with a genteman's swagger and manners.

Here, we see him in action. The Squad is sent out on a mission to thwart the Manhunters. Shaw is one of a few new members on the team. One of the conceits of Millennium was that there were sleeper agents hidden in all books. I am sure when reading this book, there had to be some suspicion with Shaw as perhaps still being in the fold.

Luke McDonnell remains on art and brings his usual rough and tumble style to the book. As I have said before, McDonnell's look is perfect for this title, a bit rough and raw, consistent with our characters.

On to the book.

"The Final Price" has our teams in a Florida swamp, there to blow up a Manhunter temple which happens to be near Belle Reve.

Last issue showed how the personal relationships in this group are a bit frayed. Here, Rick Flag is not in charge. Given Flag's near breakdown last issue, Bronze Tiger has been put in command. But Tiger has no leadership experience and is a bit nervous.

Meanwhile, The Privateer and Slipknot have been added to the team so there are two question marks that Tiger and the others need to keep track of.

Lastly, the plan seems a bit ridiculous. The squad is to drive that sweet car (begging to be made into a Kenner toy) deep into the temple where the bomb it carries will be detonated.

That concern over Shaw's loyalties increases with his opening lines. He seems almost proud of the grandeur of the temple. He rejected the Manhunters in the JLA although he still craved the power that group gave him. Has he reverted? He certainly has shown that he is still proud of the skills they have taught him.

Meanwhile, Slipknot wonders if that Amanda Waller's threat to blow off the villain's limbs should they stray is a feint. And Captain Boomerang does nothing to dissuade Slipknot of that notion.

Check out that car! I'd love that as a toy.

Task Force X isn't the only group looking to bring down the temple. Captain Atom shows up. His military group wants to destroy the temple as well. Why let Task Force X get the credit. Now this seems like a time to join up. Atom can probably level the temple on his own from the sky. And that seems like an even better idea when he hears the makeup of the bomb. Xyzedium will most certainly level the temple and anyone nearby including this whole team.

But before Atom can do the right thing, he get embroiled in a fight with Firestorm which takes him away. 

So it is up to the Squad to head on in after all.

But this sort of intra-departmental rivalry and squabbling is in the presence of Shaw. Does this add to his becoming Leviathan, seeing how Task Force X couldn't work well enough with others that they would have to sacrifice human lives?

It won't be easy. The Manhunters not only have their human agents but they have a near inexhaustible robot army. How can the Bronze Tiger, a martial artist, stand up against them? 

Turns out he can't. His leg is shattered.

Meanwhile, Shaw does better because he knows how to turn the robots off. You think he'd have shared that info in the pre-mission briefings!

I had to include this scene where Slipknot tests his theory on Waller's conviction.

Hope he is right handed!

Things are not going well for the team.

Both Boomerang and Deadshot run out of ammunition against the robots and are pretty much helpless. Karin is grabbed by a Manhunter and taken into the temple.

Only Shaw and Flag remain to drive the bomb-car onward.

Again, Shaw rejects his Manhunter background. He has a thirst for justice and they used that against him.

If you think of Leviathan's aims, he wants the truth to be out. He wants the eradication of secrets and behind the scenes dealings. That aim for justice remains intact!

With the bomb nearing the target, Flag and Shaw just happen to run across Karin, hanging from a precipice and begging for Flag to save her.

But Shaw smells a rat. The Manhunters prey on human weakness and emotions. Flag needs to stay on point with the mission. 

Even I smell a rat. This movie serial cliffhanger pose Karin is in is almost too precious.

Turns out Shaw's instincts were right. Once 'saved' Karin pulls a gun on Flag. 

She won't let him deter the Manhunter cause because she is one ... as is her lover Mark Shaw.

Is Shaw her lover? He says it is impossible because  he was in prison when their supposed torrid love affair occurred. (Nice little tie-in to both SS history and Shaw's history.)

It turns out that the Manhunters programmed one of their androids with Shaw's memories ... and even his face. Karin was in love with a robot.

She can't believe she's been duped.  When the Manhunter asks her to kill both Flag (who has been wounded) and Shaw, she pauses. 

Then, at just the right moment, the robots all malfunction (something which ties into a Spectre issue).

Realizing she has been duped by the Manhunters just as Shaw has been, she decides that she will be the one to drop off the payload. Her love has been a lie. Her life has been a lie.

So why not go out the hero.

She does the job, even getting a 'with my last breath I spit at thee' moment with the Shaw-Robot. 

And with that the bomb goes off killing her and destroying the stronghold.

This is a very strong issue both for the Squad and Shaw.

From a Suicide Squad viewpoint, Karin is killed. Slipknot is maimed. Earlier Amanda Waller is concerned Batman has discovered the existence of Task Force X. And we even get the first appearance of The Duchess.

From a Shaw viewpoint, we see how he can be driven, even ruthless when it comes to finishing a mission and achieving justice. He sees how the path to good can be deterred or even upended by petty squabbles between well-meaning groups. 

And, interestingly enough, this is the last appearance of The Privateer.

The art sort of speaks for itself. But I love McDonnell's approach to street brawls and fights, They often seem more frenetic than polished which feels more true to life to me.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review. I’d forgotten how good this issue was. What a ratbag Captain Boomerang is. And making Karin the sleeper agent is actually a good move - someone with proper history, current importance and shock value.

The Privateer looks better here than in JLA, almost sexy!

You’re doing a great job of making sense of Shaw as Leviathan... I still wish Brian Bendis had properly introduced him as a suspect.

Anj said...

I'm probably making up a lot of what I am seeing.

But this has been fun.

Debating a deeeeep dive into his solo Manhunter title or just a quick pass.

Rob S. said...

Great overview, Anj!

As for the Manhunter series, give it a read and then decide what looks like the right approach! There might not be breadcrumbs leading to Leviathan every issue, but you can probably find some highlights.

Steve said...

I never read the series so either is welcome!