Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #20 And Manhunter #21

We are nearing the end of the Manhunter series from the late 80s. And that means another chapter in Leviathan Wednesdays is going to come to a close. 'Saints and Sinners', of which Manhunter #20 and Manhunter #20 are the middle chapters, is the last story arc of the title with and extra epilogue issue finishing the series. 

Writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale keep the action going and Grant Miehm's art really gets dynamic and innovative as this story proceeds through these chapters.

This storyline and indeed this blog post takes a bit of a turn at the end. Throughout this Manhunter title and indeed in the first 2 chapters of this arc, Manhunter has been a relatively grounded book. Mark Shaw is a bounty hunter with some advanced skills and tech. But he is still a bounty hunter without true super powers. 

The plots have been fertile ground for someone like me who is looking at this title through the lens of Shaw's ultimate destiny as Leviathan. The stories revolve around spy agencies, masked killers, duplicity and charisma. As I have said more than once ... and as I will probably say later this post, no wonder Shaw became Leviathan. He is forever embattled by the things he loathes and hopes to destroy in the present as Leviathan. 

But the 'grounded' part of this book? Well, that is about to end. So buckle up, there is a lot that happens here so the post is long and things are about to get weird.

'Face of Steel' starts out with Mark Shaw visiting his mother in the hospital.

Remember, the new Dumas has targeted the entire Shaw family. Shaw killed the 'old' Dumas. This new one wants to get revenge on Shaw, I suppose, for besmirching the Dumas name. 

And Mark is feeling significant guilt over this.

In fact. Shaw's relationship with his family becomes a very strong part of the end of this run. 

We just learned that Mark's birth father was a crook. He seems to be weighed down by that history. 

He has been struggling to earn the love of the Shaw's. Maybe he is trying too hard.

And now a killer is going after them because of his life as Manhunter.

Maybe all this need to be accepted has been on an ongoing issue in his life. He joins a cult. He tries to join the super-hero community. Now he is the leader of an army. Maybe this need to be loved plagues him. 

Now remember, last issue Kazuo impersonated Mark. I turns out much of this issue is a flashback, showing how that plan unfolds.

But before he hops a flight for Japan, Shaw discovers that his apartment has been demolished, destroyed by a bomb.

The only tech he still has is what was on his person: the full Manhunter mask, the half-mask, and his baton. 

Remember, whether here or in the present as Leviathan, Shaw craves technology. He always wants to upgrade. I wonder if suddenly finding himself stripped of his gear made him even more hungry. 

And so we see the other side of the last issue.

Shaw gives his mask and suit to Kazuo. And he knows Kazuo isn't going to make it out alive. But Kazuo has his own family issues he needs to iron out.

I also have to laugh about Shaw's Manhunter mini-bombs. They have a little mask! Good branding!

Meanwhile, Shaw and Ryu have to get his family off the compound.

Excellent page by Miehm here, like a great martial art movie. Two stood against many. Wonderful art.

Now we know that Leviathan is a completely new identity. And we know Shaw has struggled with this.  The Manhunter. The Privateer. Back to the Manhunter.

And hearing his thoughts here where he is saying his voice is saying one thing and 'the Manhunter in him' is saying another, that just feeds into his turning into Leviathan, burying himself in yet another identity.

More importantly, the Manhunter voice is ruthless, glad that his enemies are dying. 

And then it seems like Shaw is sort of teetering on madness.

After having cursed the cult of the Manhunter in the past, he seems almost giddy, invoking the lion head of the Shan and chanting the mantras of the Manhunter group.

Let's face it, Leviathan is a villain. He is a little insane. He is destructive. 

So seeing Shaw turn the corner here .. yet again ... so fascinating.

Embracing the 'no man escapes the Manhunter' credo, and entering the 'Nexus Point' of Manhunter training, a sort of zen-state of pure vengence, Shaw decides to bring the fight to Dumas.

So Manhunter blows up Dumas' penthouse headquarters. After all, Dumas blew up his home.

But Dumas isn't impressed. The two meet on the roof where Manhunter was watching and brawl.

Despite his Manhunter training and despite his mental focus, Dumas really wipes the floor with Manhunter.

But then Dumas makes a classic villain mistake. Rather than just kill Shaw then and there, he instead decides that the better way is to leave the battered Shaw on the roof and then blow it up. 

It doesn't look good for our hero, does it.

Such an interesting issue. Shaw is losing it. That is scary.

Manhunter #21 is titled 'Sin after Sin'. 

One thing that is becoming more clear is that Dumas fancy mask is starting to look more and more like the Lion Head Shan of the Manhunters ... hmmm.

Remember, Manhunter was left for dead on the top of a building which Dumas had rigged with explosives.

Turns out Shaw still had enough in him to grab a nearby rope (thank goodness that was there) and swing down off the roof and through a window. 

This is clearly a take off on Die Hard, to the point that Shaw says the same line as John McLain. He even says he is glad he is wearing shoes. (Remember our hero in Die Hard was barefoot for the majority of the film.)

Unfortunately, he crashes into a busy business office. The crash and glass seems to kill some innocent woman who was working at her desk. 

Shaw is already feeling guilty about bringing his family into this deadly business. Now he has an innocent life on his conscience.

And then there is a lot of shenanigans about Shaw and his face.

He has stashed some clothes and cash at a nearby bathhouse. Already he is weighed down by his injuring that woman. 

But when he heads back to his hotel, he finds out he has already checked out. The answer is obvious. The shape-changing Dumas has taken Mark's face. Looking like that his, Dumas could walk up to the Shaw family and kill them.

It leaves Mark little choice but to make himself wanted so that Dumas will have to give up his face.

The easiest way to do that? Steal Emperor Hirohito's sword.

Suddenly, like the last time he was in Japan, he is a wanted man. Once more Dumas has taken his identity and he has had to figure out a way to salvage the situation.

Perhaps this 'Dumas often wears Shaw's face' is going to be a plot point in the distant future.

And now things take a bit of a turn. 

Mark calls on one of his few remaining friends, the guys from Southern Cross Salvage, and has them fly him into the mountains. He needs to head back to the Manhunter temple destroyed in Millennium.

I have talked about how identity and masks is a huge part of my deep dive into Shaw's character. He has become Leviathan. But he also says everyone in that group is Leviathan. He might be a leader but he doesn't think of himself as an individual. 

Here we learn he has a recurring nightmare of his Manhunter mask being fused to his face, losing his humanity. It is just a fascinating dream to hear about given how important the Leviathan mask  is to him. 

But Shaw looks to his past, to his Manhunter past, to gain an edge.

The place is in ruins. And as he walks through, Shaw seems to suffer another breakdown. 

He collapses in tears, bemoaning the fact that he can't seem to save anyone. And he can't defeat Dumas.

And then this guy shows up.


I told you this thing takes a left hand turn. And the next issues are a complete trip. 

But this is Shaw at his lowest. He has lost almost everything. His face has been used against him. He thinks his family is dead. He has decided to embrace the tenets and technology of the very cult he knows is evil, one he was glad to be rid of.

This is a desperate man on shaky mental ground. Things could get much worse.

But certainly all this mental trauma that he has gone through in his life would make him both angry at the world and willing to become someone else. He has already done so.

Wait until you see how it all ends though!

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