Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #18 & Manhunter #19

Welcome to Leviathan Wednesday, a side project where I look at Mark Shaw's history in comics and then forward project what I see onto his ultimate move to becoming Leviathan.

We are approaching another key moment in his history. 'Saints and Sinners' is a 6 part arc occurring at the tail end of his solo series in the 80s. While he remained a bit player in Suicide Squad after this, the end of the Manhunter book put another pause on his comic career.

But what better way to end this run then by having Shaw take on a version of Dumas, the villainous assassin we met in the first arc. I'll probably cover this in three posts but settle in. This one gets a bit wonky.

The creative team remains consistent. John Ostrander and Kim Yale plot. Yale scripts. And Grant Miehm is on art. This is a relatively action packed story and touches on a lot of the characters and plots and history of Shaw so this is a solid read for Leviathan buffs. Miehm really stretches himself nicely here, giving us innovative page layouts and dynamic fight scenes. I feel he is starting to feel it here.

Onto the book.

'Recalled to Life' starts right where Manhunter #4 ended. 

Shaw has killed Dumas and sits outside their home. We see a forlorn Shaw sitting there before leaving on his motorcycle. Perhaps this step, killing his opponent, has worn on him a bit more than he anticipated.

We do see he has little trouble killing or threatening to kill after this. So maybe that moment was more key than I thought.

But the house isn't deserted. 

A criminal in the house named Carlos discovers Dumas dead body. He immediately calls a Mr. Maison.

Carlos turns over the body to Maison in hopes of getting some political favor. But there is no honor among thieves. Maison kills Carlos, tying up a potential loose end.

Maison turns out to be ex-CIA, now working on his own. 

Maison wants to extract the shape-changing ability out of Dumas' body so he can create an army of assassins to do his bidding, becoming a sort of Dumas. He even holds the mask up.

Hmmm, a shadowy spy organization using technology to try and take over the world. Shaw is faced so many times with threats like this. The root causes of why he becomes Leviathan are everywhere.

The right DNA is extracted from the body and a shape-changing serum is created.

But before Maison can give it to himself, a band of samurai, loyal to Dumas, jump into the lab. They are there to pick up their leader's body and attend to it. They slaughter Maison's men.

Just before getting killed himself, Maison injects the one dose of the serum made into the head assassin. 

Now I don't know why Maison thinks this is 'revenge' unless he thought the serum so untested it could be lethal.

But it is interesting (and a point I will pick up on much later in Leviathan Wednesday) that Dumas has a loyal army.

And we see that fierce loyalty here.

It seems the injected assassin has obtained the powers of Dumas and therefore has become the new Dumas. We see some of his warriors bowing and chanting his name like a cult.

This is some ritual. The worshiping men attack the new Dumas who slays them all, showing his strength and skill. 

It could be that Shaw sees just what sheer obedience and allegiance can lead to, even sacrificing oneself. We see that sort of freakish devotion from the Leviathan members too.

Kazuo, leader of the local Yakuza and friend of Shaw (we have seen him plenty in this series) stumbles on the scene of the dead warriors and knows what it means.

A new Dumas has risen, and one seemingly bent on revenge. Mark Shaw must be made aware.

Back in the US, we see Shaw is in a good place in his life.

Here we see him chatting up his girlfriend Sylvia with that quippy, funny wordplay which was a big clue in the Leviathan mystery.

But Sylvia has bad news. There is an emergency at the Shaw household.

Sprinting there in his Manhunter garb, Shaw finds Kazuo talking to the Shaw family. The new Dumas is out there and is swearing revenge on the Shaw family. The fleur-de-lis dagger is enough proof to convince Manhunter it is true. 

With Shaw's family in danger, the decision is made. The Shaw family will go to Japan and hide out in a Yakuza safehouse. Meanwhile, Shaw will stay in the US to take on Dumas.

But back in Japan, a trap of sorts is sprung. 

The new Dumas kills the Oyabun of the Yakuza, their leader and Kazuo's father. Having done that, Dumas takes control of that clan and has the Shaw family in his grasp.

Nice cliffhanger.

Manhunter #19 is titled 'Shadow Warrior' and has a striking opening page. You really get the sense of ritual and cult in this. The candles, coffin, mask, and blood all bring about some odd incantation or ceremony.

It is a good reminder that Shaw was in the Manhunter cult at one point. Now there is a Dumas cult. 

Eventually there is a Leviathan army that seems more cult than not.

And then, a twist and a good one.

Kazuo brought Shaw's family to Japan at the request of the new Dumas. Kazuo is a traitor.

But my guess is Kazuo didn't know this assassination of his father or the assumption of rule of his clan was in Dumas' plan as well. 

Once more we see how deception leads to possible injury. Shaw's nose is shoved in it time and again. And given that Kazuo himself has betrayed Shaw for Dumas, he shouldn't be surprised when Dumas betrays him.

To consolidate his power and eliminate revenge, Dumas initially considers killing Kazuo.

But Kazuo's second-in-command, Ryu,tells Dumas this would only inflame the clan. Instead why not send Kazuo to Shaw, using Kazuo to convey verbally the villain's plans.

How demeaning to be sent to your friend who you betrayed as a messenger boy.

I do like Miehm using Dumas' gauntlets to show reflections here.

But there is more. As a symbol of his servitude, Kazuo must sever the end of his pinky off. Even more demeaning!

I do like this page Kazuo's hand almost ensnaring Shaw. You can see how Shaw just isn't in control here.

But it might be time to turn the tables.

Ryu is still loyal to Kazuo.

He sets bombs around the compound that Shaw's family is being held in. He takes out the guards.

And then he lets Manhunter in.

While Shaw's family runs for their lives, Manhunter squares off against Dumas.

I like Miehm's work on this brawl which takes up, appropriately, the bulk of the back end of the book.

Nice use of surprint in that last panel as we see the two skirmish.

But even when Manhunter gets the advantage, it is short-lived.

Dumas disembowels him. 

Sick art work here. Love the 'swuck' sound effect.

Ahhh ... but another twist.

It isn't Shaw. It is Kazuo.

He wasn't going to let his father's killer go unpunished. He wasn't going to suffer the indignity of remaining silent and maimed. But his skills fell short.

So all that battle wasn't even our star!

Still, a great sequence and an ending I wasn't expecting.

But trust me, the best and craziest stuff is yet to come!

More bricks in the foundation of why Shaw turns.

See you in a week!

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