Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Review: Manhunter #8

I am now 8 issues into my look at the 1980's Manhunter series as I gather clues into the ultimate transformation of Mark Shaw to Leviathan. It interesting for me to see just how much of this early run has been devoted to secret societies, masks, and outright duplicity. No wonder Shaw is so disturbed.

Manhunter #8 is no different, with Shaw tangentially involved the DC event Invasion. Shaw gets sent to Cuba to check up on the Flash and runs into Durlans. The whole thing, in many ways, is nonsensical. But from that 10000 foot view of Leviathan, it is just one more brick in the foundation of this turning of Shaw from hero to leader of the Leviathan army.

Writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale again show us a Shaw who is haunted by his Manhunter history. Shaw again sees secretive, manipulative groups trying to control others from behind the curtain of disguise. These themes have been prevalent from the beginning of the series. Whether Brian Michael Bendis read this to get his ideas for Leviathan is a mystery. 

But the plot of Durlans trying to take over Cuba but not really using their powers or being ruthless seems a bit inane.

The art here is done by Frank Springer with inks by Pablo Marcos. This is standard fare, nothing fancy.

On to the book.

I have to admit that I get a bit of a smile whenever I see the word Flashpoint in some DC comic. It has come to mean something so specific these days. 

Remember, at this point Shaw is a bounty hunter, more interested in a quick buck than changing the nature of the DC Universe as a leader. So when summoned to the stately West household for a job, he knows he has to accept.

This is around the time Wally was a young, brash kid who was as interested in bedding women as he was in heroing. Now Wally has been roped into heading to Cuba to help with the Invasion. His mother doesn't think he is up to the task. So she has hired Shaw to go and look out for her son.

I do like this little exchange. Wally West's father was one of the Manhunter group in Millennium. Mrs. West thinks Shaw owes her because of his connection. Here we see how Shaw still is upset over how he was used by the cult. 

But her words strike Shaw. As does her promise of payment. 

Shaw jumps onto the outside of the plane carrying Wally to Cuba ... literally the outside, using his staff as a magnetic anchor.

The Durlans aren't exactly happy to see a transport ship entering their space so they shoot it down. With his staff drained from the flight, Shaw has no hope but to fall and hope the foliage can blunt the damage. 

As he falls, he does call out the name Sylvia, the police officer from Manhunter #5 who fell for him. Perhaps we haven't seen the last of her.

Shaw does survive and is able to track Wally and Chunk, both of whom have survived. 

The two seem to be in a Cuban military camp with ... Fidel Castro? 

Seems odd that Castro would be in such a small camp.

Shaw saves Wally and Chunk from the firing squad but when discovered, one of the soldiers becomes a python and chokes him out.

Turns out these are Durlans in the shape of Cubans, including Castro (who I assume the Durlans hope to replace). Mysteries and deceit!

But there is almost too much to unpack here. Why is Wally just standing there when he has powers? Why are the Durlans fighting as human soldiers if this is a remoted camp away from prying eyes?

When Shaw awakens, he tries to use his history as a Manhunter to see if he can pretend to be an ally.

But the Durlans hate the Manhunters just like everybody else.

If that's true, why not just kill him?

But this shows how hated the Manhunters are and maybe just how much self-loathing Shaw has.

Even if hated, the Manhunters provide great training.

Shaw is able to free himself and attack, driving the Durlans away. He marks their energy with his helmet so he can identify them regardless off their form later.

But wait ... why are the Durlans maintaining humanoid, or even Cuban forms? Why not attack in the form of ... well ... just about anything else?

Then things get even more wonky.

Remember when Wally was in front of  firing squad? Well now he is in a VIP tent. And a nubile young woman heads in to get it on!

Well, it turns out that woman is a Durlan, sent to kill Wally ... softly I suppose. Why not kill him as any other huge alien creature?? Why this tactic?

At least one of the Durlans changes form, becoming a giant bird and grabbing Shaw to take him away.

Once more, the Manhunter training frees Shaw putting him face to face with the Durlan female leader.

It looks like an old fashioned staredown.  But why would the Durlan female think her best chance of defeating Shaw was with a pistol. 

There is a definite Bond Girl feel to this. But it seems so out of place. 

The two stare down. 

Utimately, the Durlan woman simply walks away. She recognizes that the passion of humanity makes them implacable enemies. 

We have seen that passion, in Shaw. We have seen how he can motivate people, captivate them. 

Still, this whole thing seems silly. 

But now Shaw is stuck on Cuba. 

Or is he? 

There is Frank West, the ex-Manhunter. Maybe these two can find a way off together.

Maybe this didn't deserve its own post. But the insanity of Durlans fighting with pistols, Wally about to be killed in the amorous clutches of a Durlan, and the team-up of ex-Manhunters made it too fun. 

And the other stuff, the slow turn to Leviathan, still fascinates.

Overall grade: C

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