Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Flash #22 and Manhunter #9

Welcome to what has basically become Manhunter Wednesday, my deep dive into the Mark Shaw character as I try to show how his history leads him to become Leviathan.

Last week, I reviewed Manhunter #8, an Invasion crossover. This week I cover, as quickly as I can, Flash #22 and Manhunter #9, more Invasion information.

This is a decent story if you look at it from the viewpoint of Shaw seeing how secret organizations and duplicity lead to disaster. Remember, Leviathan is all about destroying spy organizations and abolishing secrets. What better storyline to hammer home that than a secret invasion by shape-shifting aliens. Moreover, let's throw in an immature hero like the then Wally West who almost gets taken in by it all. Shaw learns he can't trust heroes to see through these things.

Writers William Messner-Loeb, John Ostrander, and Kim Yale give us a pretty crazy story. Within the issues, Fidel Castro gets a lot of lines. In some ways, Castro almost gets a sympathetic voice. That is kind of odd. I don't delve into that too much here as I am concentrating on Shaw. But that stuck out to me.

The art is by Greg LaRocque in the Flash issue and he gets to showcase his talents nicely. There is a costume party in the issue with everyone in superhero or villain garb. LaRocque has different invitees pair off in the boozy atmosphere so we see Superman and Starfire flirting, etc. As a fan of his Legion work, it was nice to see his stuff here. Frank Springer and Pablo Marcos give us some solid if uninspired work in the Manhunter half.

Settle in. It's a two issue review so it'll be long but I'll try to keep it brief!

Let's start out with the beginning. In the last issue of the Flash, Wally's father, a former Manhunter agent, sacrifices himself. He activates a bomb which destroys a Durlan ship from taking off. 

Shaw has to break that news to Wally.

Remember how in Event Leviathan, Leviathan would crack wise now and then? Say something quippy? That was a key clue for me to think it was Ted Kord behind the Leviathan mask.

I have seen that play out in this character in the 80s. Here, he tells Wally that if he is looking for his father, he'll need to look in very small places. 

That is gallows humor and not the right thing to say to someone just grieving. 

This starts an antagonistic relationship between the two heroes throughout the rest of the storyline.

While Wally gets treated like a king by Fidel Castro, put up in a mansion and a big costume party, Shaw is left wondering how he'll get off the island.

That is, until he is asked by some revolutionaries to kidnap Castro.

Now I get the need for income, and I get the compulsion to use your skills, but is kidnapping the head of state of a foreign country really the sort of work Shaw should get into? Seems like something to say no to.

But not Shaw.

He talks himself into the party and he and Wally again get into a confrontation.

Wally disparages the Manhunter clan. I don't think that people realize that Shaw hates the cult as much as anyone. 

And Shaw puts down Wally for his daddy-complex. Wally shouldn't transfer his anger onto Shaw.

Now Wally is young and immature here but perhaps this leads to Shaw's lack of confidence in super-heroes doing the right thing.

Sure enough, Shaw cuts the power to the mansion in hopes of grabbing Castro who is in attendance. 

When Wally comes out to investigate, he finds the rebels around the house. He is shocked to knock one out and see them revert to Durlan form.  But before he can wrap his head around it, Manhunter comes in and knocks him out cold.

This is a solid show of Shaw's skills. Flash's speed only works if he knows what is coming. Shaw silently sneaking up  is impressive.

Incredibly, Shaw is able to grab Castro and bring him out to the rebels. 

Alas, it turns out all of the rebels are stranded Durlans. They had no intention to pay Shaw. They want to use Castro as a bargaining chip to get off-world.

Once more, Shaw is betrayed by secrets and lies. 

In the Manhunter book, we pick up the action. 

The Durlans have grabbed Castro and Wally's mother and head off into the woods. 

Last week I wondered why the Durlans didn't shape change more in this adventure. 

Here we learn these Durlans haven't been exposed to many animals on Earth. They can't become fish and swim away because they haven't seen any fish.

You would think that prior to an invasion, the Durlans would have analyzed any number of beasts to turn into, either Terran or extra-terrestrial.

Manhunter has come to and has stalked the Durlan force, waiting for his time to pounce.

He can't believe it when Wally's mother tells the Durlan that she is the Flash's mother and that her super-hero soon will be on the way to rescue her.

Just like that, one of the Durlans takes her form to sneak attack.

You can see Shaw's frustration. He doesn't deal well with idiocy.

Once again, we see Shaw's skills in action.

He heads into the the Durlan base, takes most of them out, and grabs the real Castro and Mary West. 

I have been pretty impressed with seeing what Shaw is able to accomplish.

But even he can be outnumbered. And we have learned that the Durlans do know the form of a hawk.

Pretty soon they have Shaw surrounded. Thankfully, Wally arrives to save the day.

Perhaps this shows that Shaw sometimes jumps into things too quickly, underestimating the resistance he will face.

But things get ugly.

One of the Durlans takes the form of Wally's father and convinces the Flash that Manhunter is the true vllain.

Just like that, we have the heroes skirmishing.

But as I said in the intro, it shows how quickly simple lies and deception can make someone as powerful as the Flash do the wrong thing. No wonder he thinks that overlapping spy organizations heaping lies upon lies can only lead to ruin.

In a risky move, Manhunter simply sits, inviting the Flash to pound him. 

He knows that all of this with Wally is just father issues.


But it works.

The two team up and get back to the Durlan rebels.

Within the camp, Shaw uses his mask to determine who is a Durlan and who isn't. He takes out the aliens with his baton.

Once more, you see how Shaw is using his technology to overcome deceit and trickery. Perhaps this is where it all started.

Unfortunately, he is still stuck on the island as are some Durlans. 

Just as he and the Flash are about to go on a hunt, the gene bomb goes off.

I would have loved it if in Event Leviathan, if Leviathan made a point to go after the Flash a bit more. I suppose it is Barry these days so maybe this history is meaningless.

Still, once more we see that Shaw is confronted with shadowy groups trying their best to undermine society. One more brick in the foundation leading to Leviathan.

Overall grade: B-

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