Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Back Issue Box: Manhunter #5

Today I continue my deep dive look at Mark Shaw by taking a close look at 1988's Manhunter #5.

The first 4 issues set the stage. We see Shaw has set up his new identity as bounty hunter Manhunter.  We met his family. We see his father has a history of craving justice just like his son. We saw him fight with Dumas, a masked assassin who could be Shaw through a mirror darkly. And we meet the local police, hard-nosed Lieutenant Best.

Issue five is an interesting book, a stand alone story which deals more with Officer Sylvia Kandrey, a police officer who is savvy with early computer skills, akin to an early version of Oracle. Kandrey is slick with early databases but also shy. Somehow she gets trapped in Shaw's web. 

In fact, from a Leviathan viewpoint, that is the most interesting part of this issue. How could Leviathan convince an army to follow him like zealots? Well, when you see how quickly Kandrey falls to his charms, you wonder if his charisma is super-human. 

The issue was written by Kim Yale with art by Mary Mitchell. John Ostrander isn't around this time. 

So let's look at this done-in-one issue with a lens towards looking at a Leviathan future.

As I said, our main character here is really Sergeant Sylvia Kandrey.

The book opens with a shot of a computer, the Manhunter mask on the screen. We see caption boxes of Sylvia saying 'Did you ever want someone so badly that you could taste it? And you ever let someone get under your skin so completely the you are driven to possess that person, heedless of the consequences or your obsession?' 

Powerful words, especially when you know the loyalty that Leviathan has from his people. 

And especially more powerful when we first meet Kandrey, a mousy quiet young woman who barely looks up from her monitor. But when Shaw shows up at the station and asks Kandrey out on a date, she is so smitten, she jumps at the chance.

At the restaurant, Shaw reveals another motive. He wants Kandrey to help him find Ashley Mavis Powell, a child molester.

But you can see how quickly Shaw worms his way into her mind.

After one date, she is obsessed with him.  

That is a Leviathan-level of mind control or dominance of thought.

At the station, Kandrey begins doing some investigation on-line about Powell. It is enough to make Lt. Best remind her that Kandrey shouldn't endanger her job by following Shaw. 

And then, a white-haired police agent named Paula asks for Kandrey's help on a different case. But when Paula leaves, all of Kandrey's files on Powell are corrupted or stolen. It is clear, Paula is Powell.

Once again, someone with a secret, with a sort of mask, is using that power to hurt people. Perhaps the underlying theme of secrets and how that irks Shaw will continue to grow and make the turn to Leviathan a natural progression.

But that dark side of Shaw rears it's head again as he needs to rescue Kandrey from Powell. 

He is able to take her down. But he thinks it is unfortunate that he didn't use lethal force.

Sure enough, all the shenanigans with Shaw gets Kandrey in trouble with Internal Affairs. Rather than be suspended, she quits. 

When Shaw says he didn't mean for Sylvia's life to get upturned like this, she walks away blaming herself.

Still, what sort of hold does Shaw have over people that a chance meeting and one date can make someone like Sylvia destroy her life? The same sort of hold that could make agents of upstanding spy services become villains. 

I have to say, this has been a delightfully fun side project for me. And knowing the next few issues, it only gets better as I build a new Leviathan theory, filling in the back details of Shaw's life that leads him to don the new mask.

Yale does a great job here, showing us someone on the outside of Shaw's life pulled into his undertow. And I can't help but wonder if Kandrey was a template for Oracle. I don't know much of Mary Mitchell as an artist. Her work here is serviceable.

Overall grade: B

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