Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Wonder Woman #23.1

Welcome to the last installment of Leviathan Wednesday, a side project I started last October with First Issue Special #5. The purpose of these Wednesdays has been to review the history of Mark Shaw and chart his path to Leviathan. 

And so we come to (as least as far as I know) his last appearance before Event Leviathan. Today's installment is Wonder Woman 23.1, from the New 52 era. This was one of what seems to be endless 'villain months' DC puts out in which the enemies of the title heroes take the reins for a month. This month occurred before the Forever Evil month. 

This issue stars the Cheetah, giving us the New 52 origin of Barbara Minerva and her transformation into Diana's arch-enemy. But most importantly, at least for my purpose, it guest stars Mark Shaw. This is the New 52 Shaw so it is hard to know if any or all of his prior history has happened. 

But if consider that some amalgamation of all the Shaws in continuity made up the one that became Leviathan then there are a couple of things that happen here that are interesting. Can you foresee this Shaw becoming Leviathan based on this one issue? No. But mix it up with everything else? Sure.

Shaw becomes Leviathan. And now I will have covered all his history. Now we know why.

On to the book.

'The Hunt' was written by John Ostrander with art by Victor Ibanez.

Remember, this was the New 52 Wonder Woman. That project by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang certainly had its detractors. It was a bit off the well-trod standard Wonder Woman origins. 

So seeing Ostrander as writer here is interesting. Of course, given that Ostrander and Kim Yale were the architects of the post-Crisis Shaw makes his addition here both a wonderful surprise and not surprising at all. Did Ostrander know about all the things Marc Andreyko put Shaw through? Or was he wiping all that away?

We start with Cheetah running from Belle Reve during a mass escape. This is still Barbara Minerva. But the origins from George Perez are gone. 

Now things get a little interesting from a Shaw perspective.

This Minerva worked at A.R.G.U.S.! She is part of the system Shaw is trying to dismantle as Leviathan.

Moreover, she found something called 'The God-Slayer Knife' and somehow used it's abilities to become the Cheetah.

And she is a hunter, slashing and eating her way through the troops trying to track her down. She'll join the Injustice Gang (or maybe Injustice League) as directed. But first, she has a personal vendetta to handle.

This is a brutal opening scene with great art by Ibanez, playing up the savagery of the Cheetah as she guts one of her pursuers and eats his heart.

The government wants to bring these escaped villains back. 

So why not bring in the best manhunter (notice the lower case m) they know, U.S Marshal Mark Shaw. Minerva lived with her aunt on a religious compound in her youth. It is the logical place to start and investigation.

Could the down-trodden and deranged Shaw from the Anderyko Manhunter series shake off all that and just settle into a government job? Or is all that history gone?

I do like how Ostrander sneaks the manhunter word into his description of Shaw. 

Shaw arrives at the closed compound, guarded by a young girl armed with a machine gun.

But that old Shaw confidence is there. She better let him in or he'll shoot her.

This is an interesting place. It is called 'Amazonia' and in it, Minerva's aunt Lyta preaches a military lifestyle in worship of the Goddess of the Hunt. (We see in flashback that Barbara is irate when Diana tells her that the Amazons did not specifically revere Artemis in this way.) Once indoctrinated into this cult, the women are allowed to enter regular society, but always as a hunter of some sort, bringing wealth, technology, or other items to the group. 

We then get a rather grim piece of this Barbara's history. Her father abandoned her, forcing her mother to take Barbara and her brother Alexander to Amazonia.

There, after some training and indoctrinating, Lyta said the Goddess demanded that only the best hunter could remain. She sends Barbara and Alex out into the surrounding woods. There, Barbara slays her brother to keep her place in Amazonia.

She is then sent out into the world to find and bring back the God-Slayer Knife. She succeeds and stabs herself in the heart. This triggers her transformation.

Brutal. No wonder Cheetah is insane.

But Lyta doesn't like nosy people poking into her business.

She decides she needs to hunt ... and her prey is Shaw. She gives him a 5 minute lead.

He seems pretty spry.

But this Shaw is not the extremely capable combatant we are used to in Manhunter. Here he seems almost ordinary in his skills.

In fact, he can't even defeat the rather elderly looking Lyta.

She fights him hand to hand and then buries an arrow in his shoulder.

I'm almost embarrassed to read her say he was more challenging than she anticipated.

You might remember way back in the JLA stories, he took out Batman easily. 

So this is either not that Shaw or this is a Shaw whose history has caught up with him, who has lost a step.

But the fact that A.R.G.U.S. created the Cheetah and that this secret mini-society exists feeds into his hatred of such cabals.

But before Lyta can kill Shaw, the Cheetah shows up.

I don't exactly know why Barbara hates her aunt, perhaps because of her monstrous form now? But she attacks Lyta.  

Even though she is armed with the God Slayer Knife, Lyta is overwhelmed. Barbara eats Lyta's heart. 

Ibanez really shines here. This is a monster tale. This should be grotesque and horrifying.

Even though he lost to Lyta, Shaw picks up the God Slayer Knife and tells the Cheetah he is bringing her in. Before he can engage, she is whisked away by the Injustice League. He vows he won't give up the hunt.

So how does this play into Leviathan?

Well, Shaw is still a Manhunter. He witnesses how shadowy places like ARGUS can't be trusted. He sees villains being barbaric. And he claims a weapon as his own. If you add this to the main Shaw history, you might say that he realizes here he can't just be 'ordinary'. He can't let these places and villains go about doing what they do. 

If this isn't the main Shaw, if this is a new New 52 one, maybe this is his first step on the path.

So that's that. The history of Mark Shaw. Checkmate #1 came out this week.

Leviathan is back!


DanielT said...

I'd say this is the New 52 Shaw, and the Leviathan Shaw is the classic one brought back by Rebirth.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you listened to Supergirl Radio's interview with Tom King, but I wouldn't hold my breath for classic Kara any time soon. The jest of it is that editorial thinks that she is too precious and they don't like that. With the current editorial we are just not going to see Kara Zor-El again until editorial changes.

I do respect that King took the time to read some of her history back to the Binder era, but in the end, the book ordered is pretty much "don't do that".

Bostondreams said...

what does that mean, 'too precious'???