Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Back Issue Box: Justice League Of America #149


Today I continue my look back at the origins of Mark Shaw Leviathan by reviewing Justice League #149. I have been looking back at this year in Justice League as writer Steve Englehart and artist Dick Dillin were doing some mind-blowing stories. Honestly, there may have been drugs involved.

Englehart really was diving deep into the DC mythology in this run, both bringing back old villains and adding new wrinkles to DC history. He brought Commander Blanx into continuity, changing the JLA's 'first mission'. He made the Manhunters part of the Green Lantern history. He brought back the Key and Snapper Carr. And, most importantly for this run on the blog, he brought back Mark Shaw Manhunter, a one-shot wonder by Jack Kirby who now was enmeshed in League business.

Since Justice League of America #140, Shaw had been showing up in the books. After learning the Manhunters were a corrupt group, Shaw dons pirate gear and becomes The Privateer. While not a League member, he sure pushes himself into their business. In fact, he get close enough that some even consider bringing him on board. Others aren't so sure.

In this issue, we again see Shaw sticking his nose into League affairs, showing his mental capabilities and his fighting prowess. We even get a truncated take on his origin with some new tidbits. 

It is all fascinating and we are approaching another turn.

Dillin continues to dazzle here. The main villain here is Dr. Light who has many different weapons which have bizarre effects. He seems as much the Mirror Master here as Dr. Light. And Dillin brings it, bring some almost Ditko-esque insanity to the proceedings.

On to the book.

'The Face of the Star-Tsar' opens up with no Leaguer.

Instead we see The Privateer ... Mark Shaw ... About to engage Dr. Light in combat.

Dr. Light has surmised that the League has teleporters to the satellite around here and is hoping his light weapons will allow him entry into the headquarters so he can get revenge. In prior issues, Shaw learned of the teleporters and states that he has included this rooftop on his patrols to keep the teleporter in his sights (even if invisible).

Nice opening action page with the Privateer jumping from above.

This is no buffoon Dr. Light. Throughout this issue he gets tremendous respect from the League as one of their deadliest foes. And with the weapons he produces throughout, he deserves it. 

In fact, it seems initially like he get the drop on Shaw. But it turns out The Privateer was playing possum. After a brief Light monologue, Shaw calls for the JLA to beam down and help out. Shaw mentions how his training allowed him to shrug off Light's attack. 

With the bulk of the League beaming in Light takes off.

So how did Shaw have a JLA communicator to call them? He rigged one himself after seeing it in use in prior issues. This shows that he has the tech background which makes his turn as Leviathan more credible.

It also angers Batman who has never really trusted Shaw, also interesting given Batman's role in Event Leviathan.

The League scatters to find Light only to be stymied over and over by a device or a trap.

Recent member Red Tornado is eager to prove his worth. But 'I am the Red Tornado ... I clean up!' seems a little too quippy for Reddy.

Still, this is a mirage and Tornado is sheepish he was fooled.

On his way back to his headquarters, Light runs into a new super-villain, the Star-Tsar.

The Tsar says he will ultimately be the master of the world and people like Light will need to step aside. 

The Tsar shows no power other than enhanced speed as he runs away from Light after this warning.

It is interesting to see Light get so upset as the new villain trash talking that he vows he'll bring the Tsar down. You think he wouldn't let this unknown rent space in his head.

The League and The Privateer regroup and talk about how they didn't find Light.

It allows Shaw to give us a recap of his origin from the 1st Issue Special #5 to JLA #140 and JLA #141

But Englehart adds a few new wrinkles, most likely to explain Shaw's super-hearing, surviving Wonder Woman punches, and enhanced skills. Part of the training was improving his body via technology. So this is another way that his adept use of tech (and even his cyborg-like look) in Leviathan makes more sense.

Shaw talks about how he became addicted to the power and feeling of invincibility the suit gave him. Once he saw how immoral the Manhunters were and recognized his addiction, he needed to shed that aspect of his identity away.

And so he decided to become the much more garish Privateer. 

He even apologizes for sort of pushing himself on the JLA. He wants to be a hero and fight for justice.

There is almost some zealotry here, some pushing of boundaries, which again link up nicely with Leviathan.

But his idealism and eagerness makes some of the Leaguers wonder if he would make a good member.

Meanwhile, the Star-Tasr and some goons are trying to rob some collection of royal jewels to bankroll their plans for world domination. Dr. Light, seeing this robbery, brings it to the attention of the police. That in turn gets the attention of the League.

In a turn that feels straight from comics today, Batman has already changed the JLA communicators so that Shaw's no longer works.

The League goes off and makes short work of the Tsar's flunkies. But the Tsar himself gets away. Moreover, the are confused because they think this is all Dr. Light's work.

They once again take off to find not only Light bit the Star-Tsar.

Zig-zagging around the city, the Flash literally runs into Snapper Carr.

Once again, Englehart taps DC history, reviewing Snapper's first adventures, his disillusionment and joining the Joker, and even later helping the team one more time.

But Snapper is pretty bitter. He wants nothing to do with the League. He storms off.

Okay, with both Light and the Star-Tsar out there, I wonder why the League take so much time to re-acquaint themselves with Snapper. I suppose he is an old friend. But there are two big villains loose. Unless they think his prior dip into villainy and his happening to be around makes him a suspect.

I love how Flash notices the lack of snaps. Is that a tip-off of guilt? Or simply an older man stopping a habit?

One more time, the League sets off to find Dr. Light and this time the Flash detects the villain's lair, hidden from sight by light-bending rays.

The team jumps in but here is where Englehart shows how dangerous Light is. The super-foe has a variety of weapons that holds off even the best of Leaguers.

Incredibly, The Privateer, still with the team, swoops in and lands a left hook.

And then Light has the heroes caught in a foolproof trap. All of the heroes (hmmm ... or is it all of them) are trapped within a metal globe. A cloud of infinitesimal needles swirl around the outside ready to chew up anyone who enters the vortex. And the center of the globe, Light has  Spectriminator gun which dices up the heroes into each spectrum of color, causing extreme and never-ending pain.

That's messed up. Dillin does a great job showing us this nightmare!

Thankfully ... or maybe luckily ... Green Lantern's ring is outside the yellow spectrum. Using his will, he reintegrates himself. Then he reintegrates the others. 

But the needle whirlwind is still there.

Amazingly, the trap is turned off by the Star-Tsar. He doesn't want Light around either.

For now, his cause and the League's cause are the same.

With seemingly incredible speed, the Tsar disappears.

Just then Light returns to find the whole League free.

After firing wildly with his weapons, Light is knocked out.

The fight brings down Light's lair. And outside in the wreckage is the Star-Tsar.

And it is Snapper Carr!

Lots to mull over here. But for me, looking retrospectively at these issues and reading Event Leviathan, I see how Brian Michael Bendis could see Mark Shaw as Leviathan. From his zeal to his mastery of tech to his sense of justice, he is Leviathan.

In its entirety, this is a whirlwind of a book with lots of action and plot. And the Dillin art is superb.

One more chapter in this part of the timeline to go through!

Overall grade: B+


H said...

I think Len Wein was the one who brought Snapper and the Key back, a few years earlier- Englehart was following up on the threads from those issues though.

Yep, just one more chapter in this part of the Mark Shaw saga, though plenty of twists left (as you clearly know). It's a good thing the issues were double sized at this point- there wouldn't be enough room for all this plot otherwise.

Martin Gray said...

Top job finding Leviathan in Mark Shaw.

I do miss the days when Dr Light was an A-list villain, rather than an utter incompetent, then a rapist. This issue did nothing to convince me Shaw sure should join the team, he had nothing unique to offer beyond an embarrassing wardrobe.

That Snapper bit was a shocker. It seems Midge looked him in the gym for a few years..

Anj said...

Yes, Snapper and the Key were brought back several years earlier.

But nice of Englehart to lean into old stories and make them new.

Shaw does seem quite capable. But his leap to possible teammate seems fast.

Arun said...

It is nice to see old stories in a new avatar. A page by page description has filled me in on all the details. Thank you, and I am waiting for the last chapter. It is an intriguing plot, and I hate the villainy character of Dr Light. Hope his character has more meat in the final chapter.

Rob S. said...

This was one of my very first JLA comics when I was a kid. So much DC history, all meshed together in an entertaining, mind-expanding jumble. Loved it! And because of this, Mark Shaw has always loomed large in the DCU for me... I'm very glad he's got a prominent place in it again.