Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #23 And Manhunter #24

Welcome back to Leviathan Wednesdays where I look at the character of Mark Shaw in hopes of figuring out why he turned and became Leviathan.

We are about to close a pretty big chapter in his timeline. Manhunter #23 and Manhunter #24 are the last issues of his solo title from the late 80s, closing out the Dumas storyline and wrapping up any number of lingering plotlines. 

In retrospect, I can see why this book only lasted a couple of years. For the most part, Shaw is ineffective, getting routinely beaten up by the villains and never seems to improve in his game. 

On the other hand, when I reread this book, I could easily see how Shaw became Leviathan. The themes of the title are fascinating from that viewpoint. It has to do with identity and masks. Loyalty and charisma. Technology and truth. All of those are seeped into the Leviathan character. 

All that makes Shaw a complicated character. One that I know gets explored a bit more in later volumes of Manhunter, some of which I will cover here as part of this side mission. 

Kudos to Kim Yale, John Ostrander, and Grant Miehm for picking up the baton that Steve Englehart passed off. 

Also, I have to love the cover to Manhunter #24, a clear riff on the iconic moment of 'Spider-Man No More' in Spider-Man #50.

On to the books.

Last issue ended with Dumas having killed N'Lasa and was challenging Mark Shaw to a fight to the death in the Manhunter Temple. 

Appropriately enough, this issue is called Kumite, a term used when adversaries square off against each other in Karate training. Of course, I first learned of it as the name of the martial arts tournament in Bloodsport.

The opening page showing the Manhunter shan with a sword in its eye is a decent foreshadow.

Last issue, Shaw was on the edge of madness, crying and feeling that he was a failure. Perhaps seeing N'Lasa killed or remembering the 'lessons' N'Lasa taught him, or just finally getting a grip on the situation, Shaw is spurred into action. 

He gets up in a berserker rage and pounds Dumas senseless.

It seems like it is over before it began.

At the very least, we see that all of the Manhunter training that Shaw has is still in there making him a deadly fighter.

Unfortunately, Dumas isn't defeated.

He gets up and runs.

Shaw steels himself. He thanks N'Lasa for guidance. And he begins to hunt. He is a hunter.

It is funny to see just how quickly Shaw is able to go from quivering, shaken man to determined Manhunter.

The only gear of his own that Shaw has is his half mask and a busted baton. 

But this is a Manhunter temple. There are Manhunter robots scattered throughout. Shaw knows he can use that tech to his advantage.

In some ways it plays into his embracing his Manhunter past. He is literally putting on the garb of the Manhunters. He is slipping a bit.

Dumas and Shaw melee throughout the temple.

The fight takes them to the top of the Manhunter temple. 

On cue, the Southern Cross Salvage company come back, this time with a superior baton to drop off to aid Manhunter in his quest.

It is a little bit farfetched. Where did they go to get that? Back to Australia? And then head back to Himalayas?  Why not have the baton with them when they dropped off Shaw the first time?

Regardless, their best laid plan goes awry. Dumas catches the baton. 

The baton is coded to Shaw's DNA.

It explodes in Dumas' hand, destroying his arm and sending him plummeting to his death.

Now it's over.

The new Dumas is gone. 

As he makes his way back down. Shaw finds that N'Lasa has survived. The Oans had imprinted a healing factor. 

N'Lasa has seen what Shaw has done and is pleased. 

N'Lasa knows that Shaw is the ultimate Manhunter. He has the training of the Manhunter. But he has the human concept of mercy. He can be a judge. And a judge needs to be ready. He gives Shaw an even more powerful baton.

The idea that Shaw can be a judge over others is one that ties into Leviathan.  Leviathan thinks he can mete out his version of justice, of truth. 

And so it ends. The Southern Cross comes for Shaw. 

But he leaves his Manhunter mask behind.

Is he someone new?

Or has he given up that identity for good.

The three head back to the states. Shaw has got some rest. 

Now he has to deal with everything else.

His name is cleared in Japan. 

Dumas body and collaborating testimony from Ryu help.

But it is clear that Shaw's ties to Japan have been severed. He is neither friend nor enemy. 

The woman that Shaw thought he killed has survived.

He doesn't have her life on his conscience.

Back in the states, Shaw has to deal with the guilt he has over getting his family in danger.

But his sister reminds him how much he is loved.

And he settles things with his father.

Mark doesn't need to fight for his father's love. His father loves him. 

And he meets up with Sylvia.

These two are thrilled to be together again,

Shaw thinks his time as Manhunter is over, having just decided to work with the Southern Cross. But Sylvia shows him that she has not only recovered his Manhunter mask, she is tinkering with it.

Ultimately though, Shaw thinks this chapter of his life is over.

He telepathically sends the new baton back to N'Lasa who will hold onto it until Shaw decides it is time to reclaim it. 

Shaw is Manhunter Prime, whenever he chooses to reclaim that role.

But for now, he is simply Mark Shaw.

And so closes this chapter. 

So what happens from here? Mark Shaw is now just a citizen working for a company. How does he move from there to cult leader? And do we ever see N'Lasa again?

Still, you can see just how challenging Shaw's life has been so far. Between lies and identities and technology and loyalty, it all seems like the foundation to Leviathan. 

We are nearing the end of the pre-Leviathan timeline. And I think it only gets crazier!

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