Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #14 and Manhunter #15

Welcome to Leviathan Wednesday, my look at Mark Shaw's history and how it led him to become Leviathan. 

Shaw's history took some significant turns in the Marc Andreyko Manhunter book as we discovered that he was brainwashed by the DEO into become a killing machine. The Manhunter cult and the N'Lasa being were all part of  his programming, artificial memories implanted into him. And we also learned he had the Dumas personality built in as well, being two assassins in one, a perfect weapon for a corrupt secret organization. 

Trust me when I tell you things are going to get weirder in today's post where I cover Manhunter #14 and Manhunter #15. The first issue sort of wraps up the major Shaw storyline as he confronts the OMACs and makes a sort of ally with Kate. Manhunter #15 is a bit crazier as it opens up yet another can of worms about Shaw's history. 

In fact, for those of you who manage to get through these long posts, I am going to ask you an important question at the end. (I will bold it for those who want to just scroll.)

As I have said, Andreyko really embraced the Manhunter history in this arc and I appreciate it. And Shaw is such a compromised human, abused and tortured and unstable, and all because of the superiors of the shadowy organization he worked for. No wonder he wants to take them out. No wonder he hates them. No wonder he became Leviathan.

But the art on these two issues is just incredible. In #14, you have Javier Pina bring his smooth, organic, clean style to the book. In #15, you get flashback tales from two current superstars, Rags Morales and Sean Phillips. Sean Phillips is a personal favorite. In his story we learn that Kate Spencer's gauntlets belonged to the Azrael Batman. So seeing him draw an issue of Manhunter was a treat.

On to the books. Settle in.

You may remember that last issue, Kate activated the Manhunter staff which acted like a homing beacon for an OMAC to come attack. Shaw is completely addled, flipping between the Shaw and Dumas personalities mid-sentence.

I love the title 'The Devil Inside' as it talks of the demons that hiding within Mark Shaw, some of which have been implanted by people he trusted.

These OMACs are tough, nanite covered, heavily armed attack units.

Here, with the element of surprise, it easily gets the upper hand.

It initites 'Manhunter Tech Elimination protocols'. This is something that has been created to seek out and destroy Manhunters.

Here he flips back into Shaw mode and attacks the OMAC thinking it is a Dumas plot. That is paranoia.

And it is shocking that he doesn't seem to register that it is he who is in the Dumas armor.

Then we see what Manhunter Elimination Protocols entails. This thing sinks wires into Shaw to 'deactivate' him, a process that will most likely kill him.

Even Kate, who was nearly killed by Shaw, can see that Shaw is being played. Perhaps this thing is pulling the schizophrenic strings of Shaw.

That top panel is terrifying.

This all seems to link to the DEO somehow.

Shaw worked for the DEO.

The DEO told Cameron Chase that she could use lethal force on Shaw if she ran into him.

And now this connection to these odd OMACs is another thread on this web.

So now the secret organization that trained, programmed, and tortured Shaw now wants him dead. 

As I keep saying in these looks back, no wonder Shaw hates the DEO and became Leviathan.

Whatever this OMAC started with Shaw seems to give him some clarity.

He now knows he is Dumas. He remembers killing Kirk DePaul. 

Shaw looks almost pitiful in that top panel, a complete mess.

It turns out that this OMAC is Chase's friend Harold covered in nanite armor. 

Shaw realizes that the OMAC wants to strip him of the Manhunter tech inside him.

The clarity within Shaw keeps growing.

The government made him Manhunter. He knows they implanted something inside him, linking him to the Manhunter tech and creating that persona.

And now it seems clear that the tech in Shaw has been upgraded and refined and turned into the OMAC armor. The government, here the DEO, has been busy programming, basically enslaving, more people, making them assassins and unwitting soldiers.

Knowing that the only way to save his own life is to eliminate the tech, Shaw rips the Manhunter circuitry out of his head. Kate destroys the original staff.

With no Manhunter tech around to eliminate, the OMAC leaves.

Thankfully, Kate knows that Shaw is the victim here.

Rather than turn him over to the authorities, she'll help him. 

Now who knows how this is turns out. But it is surprising that Shaw held a grudge against Spencer in Leviathan when she actually helps him out tremendously here.

Shaw is now of a clear mind. He knows he was made into a puppet by the government, turned into killer. But he is also broke and empty.

Kate decides to hide him. Shaw can stay with Dylan until a new identity and a new life is created.

Can Shaw regroup and pull himself together? Or is this just a pit stop on the way to him losing his mind more and becoming the villain Leviathan?

On to the next issue.

Manhunter #15 is actually a flashback issue that concentrates more on the old Manhunter and the DEO.

You get a sense of how they went from Mark Shaw Manhunter to OMACs. 

And they do it in a couple of short stories.

The first part shows Manhunter being killed by Eclipso. A version of the Suicide Squad, called the Shadow Fighters, was formed to fight Eclipso.

Most of these Fighters were killed. Manhunter was one of them.

Major Victory, Commander Steel, Dr. Mid-Nite, Wildcat, Peacemaker ... all killed by Eclipso.

So if Manhunter was killed by Eclipso who was Mark Shaw alive and living in that dingy apartment?

In the aftermath of the massacre, Amanda Waller confronts Sarge Steel.

How could he send the Shadow Fighters out there to fight Eclipso? Waller hates what Steel is doing here. And given what a hardened person she is, that says something.

It turns out that the slain Manhunter isn't Mark Shaw.

He might have the costume and the skills but he has the wrong DNA.

Steel flashes back to the earliest experiments in the OMAC project, perhaps better called the Shaw stratagem?

Here is a DEO agent pumped full of the Manhunter nanites.

The nanites work immediately, programming this agent into thinking he is Mark Shaw.

Suddenly Steel has his army of well trained, completely obedient, Manhunter assassins. 

But he needs to keep this buried so he can continue to refine and upgrade. He tells the medical examiner to forge the autopsy. This is Mark Shaw who has died.

Steel is a cold hearted bastard.

Since he can create Mark Shaws, the real Mark Shaw becomes a commodity. But rather than eliminate Shaw, he'll keep him out in the field as Dumas. The only thing left is to bury the Manhunter persona. The staff ends up in storage where Kate ends up finding it for her own uses back in the first issue.

This is a huge piece to the Leviathan inevitability. Remember, Shaw initially doesn't say he is Leviathan. He says that they all are Leviathan. Leviathan is the group. As someone who was basically created and cloned. As someone with multiple personalities within him, no wonder he rejected individuality. No wonder he created Leviathan. No wonder his soldiers couldn't disobey him. 

No wonder he became Leviathan.

So here is the question. 

I didn't cover the Eclipso issues where 'Manhunter' gets killed because I knew it wasn't Shaw. But the truth is, readers didn't know it wasn't Shaw at the time. Should I go back and cover the Eclipso issues where 'Manhunter' gets killed? I assume someone else being killed thinking they were him, might drive Shaw mad. And that story does follow the timeline shown in the Ostrander/Yale book very closely.

Checkmate #1 is just a couple of weeks away. So I will be wrapping up Leviathan Wednesdays soon. So let me know!


Kinofreak said...

Please go back and cover Eclipso.

Steve said...

No. That story irritated me for the sheer waste of future stories just to engage in a super-hero blood bath.