Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Back Issue Box: Manhunter #7

It feels like I am settling into a nice routine of doing my Mark Shaw retrospectives on Wednesdays. I hope to continue this as we approach Event Leviathan:Checkmate.

As I said when I began this side project, sometimes I'll review multiple issues. Sometimes just one. It all depends on the tone of the books and how much they add to the Leviathan mystique. Today I'll review Manhunter #7 written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale with art by Doug Rice.

Once more, this is a good issue where you see how Shaw is working with and against shadowy organizations. And whether these cabals are 'good' or 'bad', they always end up hurting people, destroying them. 

But more than others, I thought this one also showed the other side of Shaw, the one who laughed and joked enough in Event Leviathan that I thought for sure it was Ted 'Bwa-ha-ha' Kord. 

This issue is also drawn by Doug Rice whose dynamic manga-esque style was a draw for the book. Here Rice shows his dynamic approach to the art nicely with the Count Vertigo battle. As you can see from the cover, his approach to showing Vertigo's power is to show a very geometric landscape showing height, much different than the usual wavy, seasick approach I mostly see the Count's effects displayed.

On to the book.

We start with an excellent splash page of Dr. Alchemy fighting his way through the police with a some ill-gotten booty.

I like how Rice sets the page up with Shaw overlooking the proceedings. Really love that.  

Shaw is making fun of criminals as not only superstitious and cowardly but also usually stupid. Surely Alchemy could make a mint other ways than robbery with his stone.

That sort of snarkiness was seen now and then in Event Leviathan.

Rather than jump into the fray, Manhunter has a sneakier way to get to Alchemy.

He knows the villain has a weakness for chesty redheads and so hires a sex worker to seduce Alchemy into putting down the stone, rendering the villain vulnerable.

Once the stone is put down, Shaw crashes through the skylight and makes short work of the villain.

The sex worker, unhappy to be put in this dangerous situation (she thought she was simply hired to be with Alchemy) stabs Shaw in the back. Thank goodness for his armor! I thought that was pretty amusing. 

Nice use of shadows and angles here by Rice.

Looking for his next bounty, Shaw decides to go after Count Vertigo. 

Shaw has made contacts both as a Public Defender and as Manhunter. So he heads to 'Little Vlatava', a section of town where immigrants from Vertigo's homeland have moved. There he speaks to Josef, to learn more about Vertigo.

It seems that Vlatava has been annexed by the Soviets. Vertigo was captured and brainwashed into becoming a Soviet dupe. 

Vertigo was then captured and thrown into an American prison. He was recently freed by a right-wing fascist group hoping to free Vlatava from the Soviets and rule as a Reich. This group is trying to reprogram Vertigo.

Again, we see how Shaw is exposed to secret overthrows of governments, brainwashing and secrets, and rival counter-groups. All while destroying the person who is Vertigo, a shadow of himself.

With an inside line about Vertigo, Shaw contacts Amanda Waller. Remember, he has ties to Task Force X, another secret organization.

Waller figures out that Vertigo is being hidden undercover at a military base. She thinks the Suicide Squad might have a use for the Count, so she gives Shaw a couple of hours head start to gather Veretigo before the Squad comes in to snatch him up.

Waller also let's Shaw use a military plane to sneak onto the base. The plane tells the Vlatavan spies that it needs to make an emergency landing. And rather than raise suspicion, the fascists allow the plane to land.

Shaw is riding in the wheel well so he can sneak off immediately after landing, in fact jumping off and using his power rod to protect himself.

I have to admit, Shaw is a man of many skills.

As for Vertigo, the Soviet programming is too deep. Without their cause, he has slipped into a sort of depressed catatonia. 

Realizing they can never make Vertigo out the be the figurehead of their fascist regime, the Vlatavan rebels have to figure out what to do with him.

They quickly decide that if they can't use him to rule, they can use him as a symbol. They'll kill him and set him up as a martyr for the cause, framing the Soviets.

Our Manhunter has overheard all of this.

While he might be here only to earn a buck, I can't help but realize that this is yet another organization willing to kill, maim, and damage the planet. And they do it all from the shadows, all behind a curtain of feints and lies.

These are all the things Leviathan is against.

Unfortunately, Vertigo initially remains catatonic. Shaw can't drag him out.

In an effort to snap him out of the funk, Shaw slaps Vertigo. That triggers those old feelings of aristocracy in Vertigo. How dare a peasant slap someone of royal blood! 

And just like that, it's on!

Nice work by Rice with Vertigo floating, wisps of wind whipping around Shaw's feet.

But I'll also remark that Leviathan is about equality and sharing. This sort of superiority shown by Vertigo has to gall Shaw.

The fight is one. 

As I mentioned when talking about the cover, we see how Rice shows Vertigo's power by giving us a dizzying effect to show height. Shaw is on the ground but you'd never know it. He can barely comprehend his surroundings.

But Shaw is also an accomplished fighter. He studies and knows weaknesses. Perhaps that skill has served him well as Leviathan, taking down others quickly.

Here, Shaw remembered that Vertigo was taken out by sonics once. So he has tricked out his baton to let out a sort of pseudo-'Canary Cry'. 

Love that first panel. That panel really has an energetic, almost animated feel.

One of the fascists thinks this is a disaster. Whether as figurehead or symbol, Vertigo was an important part of the Vlatavan rebellion. 

But like most rebel cells and shadowy sects, this one has a contingency. Another symbol will be found.

Overall, I have been enjoying this look at Shaw's solo career. Every issue seems to resonate with the Leviathan destiny, thrusting Shaw against lies and imposters and shadowy cliques. Meanwhile, we also see Shaw's skills, charisma, and ability to get the job done. 


Martin Gray said...

This sounds great. I never bothered with the series as Mark Shaw didn’t interest me, and the costume - horrific. But I shall track these down when non-US people can get DC Infinite Universe. Good work with the Leviathan links!

Anonymous said...

Costume design was quite good. Doug Rice is a hell of a designer.