Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter (Vol 2) #12

My Leviathan Wednesdays are taking the final turn on the track as we head into Checkmate in June. 

Today I cover Manhunter (Vol 2) #12, the last issue the Manhunter series which sprang from Zero Hour. This was the mid-90s and everything was EXTREME! And everything was very Image-comic-esque. We had lots of big weapons, big spikes, big capes, and insane violence! 

In all honesty, this is the only issue of this volume of Manhunter I have read recently.  I read Manhunter #0 off the racks but didn't read any more. And as of this post, no other issues other than the zero issue is available on DC Infinite. What I do know is Chase Lawler,  to save him and his girlfriend, summoned an elemental type force called The Wild Huntsman. compelled to hunt, he became the Manhunter.

I sought out this issue solely based on the cover which shows Mark Shaw, the true focus of Leviathan Wednesdays. I assumed this wouldn't have much to add to my combing Shaw's history to uncover why he became Leviathan. But I was surprised with what I read. And I know that in the next volume, things we see here are pushed even further.

But overall, this reads like the extreme sort of comic you'd expect it to be. Writer Steven Grant and artist Vince Giarrano give us this insane ride which brings us a wild left hand turn about Shaw's history. So get settled in and get ready to be extreme!!

Again, I am jumping right into this series so bear with me.

We start out with a new Psycho Pirate, now wearing the Medusa Eyepatch (as opposed to the Medusa Mask) talking to our old friend Dumas. I have to assume that this upgrade of the Psycho Pirate is why this is an Underworld Unleashed crossover. The Pirate talks about meeting someone, presumably Neron, who gave him a way to get his heart's desire ... sanity.

The eyepatch seems to manifest the emotion that the Pirate wants his victims to feel. But it is a demonic upgrade, being able to transform its victims into beasts which mirror the emotion they are manifesting.

But seeing Dumas was fascinating. Haven't we seen two versions of Dumas die?

Dumas and the Pirate are watching a different scene go down below.

Chase Lawler, the current Manhunter, has been captured by (unfortunately) an unnamed villain. It seems this villain is some sort of blackmailer. Lawler is some sort of failed mission. And if this villain lets Lawler live, he will lose his credibility. Therefore, Lawler needs to die.

Whoever he is, he knows Lawler is linked to the Wild Huntsman and that link is through the costume. With that, he lights the Manhunter costume on fire, seemingly breaking that mystic link.

It seems certain that Lawler is going to get killed.

Looking down from above, Dumas seems upset that Lawler is going to get beaten to death.

Seeing that as an opportunity, the Psycho Pirate uses his mask on Dumas. He gives Dumas 'liberating madness' while stealing from Dumas the assassin's sanity.

As I said, this is the new Psycho Pirate so the mask warps Dumas, creating some immense monstrous version of Mark Shaw's old enemy.

You really get a sense of 90s comic art here. This is a little bit Rob Liefeld, a little bit impossible, and completely extreme.

And Dumas is indeed a terrifying, insane being.

He puts his massive clawed hand through the chest of the villain beating up Lawler.

And then he full on punches Lawler in the chest, stopping the Manhunter's heart.

It turns out that Lawler's link to the Wild Huntsman was within him and not just the costume.

And with his death, the spirit of the hunt needs a new host.

It leaps out of Lawler and enters Dumas.

Okay, for the time, this is a pretty cool page. 

No at this point you may be asking yourself, 'Anj, isn't this supposed to be a Mark Shaw retrospective?'

And at this point of the book I was saying 'Anj, did you get tricked by that cover showing the Shaw Manhunter?'

But it turns out that Mark Shaw is in this book! He is in the Dumas armor.

He suddenly reverts from that gigantic monster version of Dumas into his human form. Realizing he has stopped Lawler's heart and unable to bear having killed someone again, he commences CPR and somehow revives Lawler.

This definitely ties into Shaw's history. You may recall at the end of his Manhunter series, Shaw had made some moral decision to never kill again. It explains why Dumas cared that Lawler was being beaten to death earlier in the issue. Given Dumas is an assassin, I should have picked up on that empathetic cue that something was up.

But there is more to unpack. Earlier in his series, Shaw killed without blinking. So this new 'no killing' rule still feels new and maybe a bit too entrenched. You also might recall that he also just perforated that other villain. We got no response from Shaw about that killing.

But most importantly, it also means that Shaw is now has the powers of the Wild Hunstman inside him. 

When the Psycho Pirate turns a crowd of people into similar demons, Shaw knows the Pirate needs to be stopped. Manifesting the Huntsman's spirit (check out the eyes and Wolverine hairdo), Shaw wades into the fray to confront the Pirate.

I will say I was glad that the Psycho Pirate calls Dumas 'Shaw'. This panel is the first time we hear that Dumas is Mark Shaw,  5 pages after Shaw pulled off his helmet. 

Now maybe the fact that Dumas was Shaw was told in earlier issues. But I was wondering 'is this Shaw' for those 5 pages. Remember, in my mind and based solely on the cover, I was waiting for Shaw to appear in his Manhunter togs.

The two melee for a bit. But when the Psycho Pirate tries to unleash fear in Shaw, the Wild Huntsman completely manifest, slashing the villain.

Now I have said before that identity and masks are recurring themes in Mark Shaw's history, something which definitely keys into the Leviathan identity.

So hearing Psycho Pirate say that his mask is just a representation of fear, the Hunstman is fear, was an interesting turn of the phrase. Who is the real person? Who is the actual identity? Does a mask become the identity? Or just cover the real identity.

Just pages after crying about nearly killing someone, Shaw decides now is the time to beat the Psycho Pirate to death. The more I read about Shaw, the more you see just how splintered, just how unhinged, just how fractured his psyche is. No wonder he has had so many identities.

I love that Shaw says 'Who am I then?'. Given his future, that is a powerful line.

In fact, it is Chase Lawler who talks Shaw down. Shaw is the Manhunter. Not a killer.

But it also means, on top of everything else, Shaw now houses the seething Wild Hunstman force.

Shaw and Lawler go there separate ways but we do get some interesting followup.

Lawler is questioned by Sarge Steel who is looking for Shaw.

It turns out that Shaw has been working for Steel. Shaw adopted the identity of Dumas so he could work his way into the underworld and feed Shaw information. Shaw became Dumas.

Whew! Just think about how that has probably effected Shaw's mind. He already has identity issues. Now he has been forced to put on the identity of a ruthless assassin. For someone who already has had issues with who he is and what he believes in, putting on that skin must jumble his sense of reality even more.

Lawler is allowed to walk because he has no idea where Shaw went.

Steel isn't happy. He has lost an asset. 

And so this series end. Lawler is freed from the Manhunter identity. He falls into some money. And so he can continue his life as a musician.

But the important thing for me is how this pushes Shaw's story forward.

Shaw has now been Manhunter, Star Tsar, Privateer, the Manhunter again, and now he has lived as the assasin Dumas. Becoming one more entity, Leviathan, now makes sense.

He worked for a shadowy government agency, force to become an assassin. No wonder he wants to shut those things down as Leviathan.

Shaw is walking a fine line of sanity, vacillating between being a killer and someone vehemently imposed to killing just seconds apart. 

Now he is the embodiment of the Wild Huntsman, the spirit of the hunt. 

So in this one issue of this largely forgotten series, we see how Mark Shaw takes some important steps towards Leviathan. 


But hold on to your lug nuts. Things are going to get even crazier!

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