Thursday, March 4, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday On A Thursday: Manhunter #13 and #14

Welcome again to Leviathan Thursday (pushed back a day given Supergirl news)  as I look at Manhunter #13 and Manhunter #14, delving into Mark Shaw and his descent from Manhunter to Leviathan. 

As I have said before, the title is a sort of standard super-hero book. But Shaw is a fascinating character. And as I have said before, the stories all involve technology, spies, and lies. Shaw is immersed in it. But he is also impacted by it, often detrimentally. So no wonder he walks down the path to Leviathan.

This will be an odd post covering two issues. One is a stand alone silly issue. One is a middle chapter in a huge crossover story and I am only covering this issue. But both have interesting bits which continue to pave this road to villainy.

Writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale do a great job keeping this book a mix of adventure, snappy dialogue, and intrigue. The first issue has art by John Koch who has a house style standard approach to the affairs, almost borderline cartoony. The second issue brings back Doug Rice. His art remains stylized and energetic, working well with the action.

Settle in. I'll try to be pithy!

'Trackdown' starts with Mark in a martial arts class. His sensei is a tough woman who tosses him around despite his Manhunter training. That's incredible.

He also is being hounded by a reporter who wants to trail him on the job to get a story. But Shaw won't have anything to do with it.

As usual, there are bills to pay. 

So he heads to the police station to see which D-level villains have a bounty on their heads.

Take a good look. Because Catman and Mirage are big bounties and close by.

Shaw's charisma is highlighted as he sweet talks to Flo, a worker at Belle Reve, to give the lowdown on the villains.

But more importantly, Flo puts Shaw in touch with Oracle. At this point, no one knows who Oracle is.

Remember how in Event Leviathan, Leviathan singled out Barbara Gordon and recruited her. He didn't use his brainwashing on her either. He called her a friend. Here is that origin. 

Another thing about Leviathan is his love of information and the free exchange of that data. He doesn't like secrets.

So I thought that this sequence where Shaw discovers the knowledge that he can derive from public records has echoes to that desire for a world without secrets.

Of course, this is a comic book.

The social event Shaw joins his sister at, an unveiling of a statue of Bast at a museum, is crashed by Catman.

I have to giggle at this sight of Shaw fighting with mask and staff while wearing a tuxedo.

It turns out he actually needs his armor. Catman is a brutal fighter who nearly guts Shaw.

But then Catman can't escape because his car has been booted for unpaid parking tickets, something Shaw alerted the cops to based on those public records.

With no car, Catman is stopped cold.

Okay, you'd think Catman could escape on foot. Or carjack someone. Or kill the cops and grab their car. I mean, he did just light up Manhunter. 

But instead he is an easy bounty.

The end of the issue has Sylvia Kandrey come back into Shaw's life.

Both realize that they have feelings for each other and that they messed up early on.

And so a romance is born.

A done-in-one that is forgettable. But Oracle and public records make resonate with Leviathan.

'Misdirection' has Doug Rice back on art and his work grabs you right on the opening splash page. Gorgeous.

This issue has a few more moments that leads me to Leviathan.

Let's start with this opening monologue of Shaw being afraid that his mask will meld to his head and he will become consumed by the Manhunter cult.

And then think of this.

From Event Leviathan #6, Shaw's mask melded to his head as he is consumed by the Leviathan cult.


And then we see him in his apartment getting ready for the next case.

One thing we know about Leviathan is that it stole and repurposed technology a ton. So I like seeing Shaw in this book upgrading and grabbing all the new tech he can. Here we see the Southern Cross Salvage Corporation, the tech company from the recent three parter, making good on their promise for new devices.

So another piece of Leviathan here.

And then this piece.

Belle Reve was attacked. Amanda Waller was almost killed. Waller asks Shaw to infiltrate her only lead, an enemy compound called Anaconda Corporation in Chicago. It seems the Janus Directive is active; a war between spy organizations in the DCU is about to unfold.

Shaw is witnessing these so called 'good guy' spy groups back-biting and in-fighting. This is everything he hates as Leviathan. Everything.

She promises Shaw that he can hit the alarum and he'll be rescued.

So off he goes.

He gets coerced into doing something he doesn't want to, thrown into a war he has no stake in.

Is the Janus Directive happening? Or is Waller playing Shaw? See how distrust of these spy organizations keeps coming up. Is it a surprise he becomes Leviathan?

Ultimately he breaks into Anaconda and finds the four floor office building has about 20 sub-basements. It is a super-villain lair.

And there, Shaw sees them testing a new weapon, a ray that is deadly to life but keeps the buildings and environment intact. 

It is funny to think of Leviathan's weapons which destroyed buildings but teleported the people away.

Is this more tech that Shaw will acquire?

Unfortunately it looks like a set-up.

The goons in this place, the viper squad, are waiting for Shaw and engage.

We get a lot of great action pages by Rice here as Shaw battles his way out of the building, hops on his bike and drives through the city, and ultimately jumps onto a moving train.

But the big thing is that Waller and the Squad doesn't respond to his emergency signal. He was possibly betrayed by Task Force X, one of the clandestine groups he has been told defend the world. Hmm ...

I mean, really nice, very slick action sequences by Rice.

And look how it ends.

After being battered by these killers and in the midst of a brief explosion of smoke as Shaw, he is gunned down by the others. With friends like Waller, who needs enemies like Kobra?

What a great issue, perhaps the strongest so far, to show why Shaw turns into Leviathan. He sees spy organizations eating their own tails, nipping at each other. He sees technology being developed which can destroy humanity. He is betrayed by the people who are supposed to be the heroes.

And it is amazing how his background in the Manhunter cult both haunts him but also manifests in him as well as a cult leader of a sort. That nightmare on the opening page becomes reality.

Hope you guys are enjoying this deep dive as much as I am.

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