Marvel Preview #21 (Shroud)
Issue(s): Marvel Preview #21 (Shroud story only)
Since i wanted this issue for completionist purposes, i didn't have any real expectations about the quality. But Steve Ditko does some really nice things with shading for this black and white story.
And the story is relatively important for the Shroud, setting up the scenario that he uses for a long time going forward, where he poses as a crime boss in LA so that he can take down crime from the inside. He starts by taking over the gang of the Crooked Man, a truly Ditko-ish villain. Among the Crooked Man's employees are Cat and Mouse, a burglar and pick-pocket, respectively, who will remain associates of the Shroud going forward.
Shroud tells the Crooked Man that he wants to join him.
But the Crooked Man doesn't trust the Shroud, so he sets him up to be arrested by the police. But Cat and Mouse develop a loyalty to him and save him.
Shroud then leads the police to the Crooked Man's place. He knocks the Crooked Man out and leaves him for the police.
It seems like the police detective Lt. Berg was being set up as a repeat character, which would make sense if the Shroud was going to have a status in an ongoing book posing as a crime boss.
It's a little unclear to me if Cat and Mouse are in on the Shroud's scheme or just think that he's trying to take over the other crime gangs.
Shroud uses his darkness powers more in this story than the other two Ditko Shroud stories i linked to above, and it's said that his control of his powers is getting stronger.
I wonder if there was a minor difference of opinion between Mark Gruenwald, who co-writes here and who had the Shroud use his powers pretty extensively during his Spider-Woman appearances, and Ditko and maybe Steven Grant, who maybe wanted to emphasize the character's pulp hero nature rather than his super-powers.
I can see why this series didn't go anywhere, especially in comparison to the Bill Sienkiewicz Moon Knight story also in this issue, but it's kind of a shame because the Shroud's powers work really well with Steve Ditko's style, and Ditko was doing some really nice work. I've said in the past that Ditko works best when he's doing abstract things, like Dr. Strange's mystical stuff, but with this Shroud story he is able to use shadows and light to create interesting panels in a grittier setting. And i do like the idea of the Shroud operating as a crime boss. That said, i actually like the way things worked out, with the Shroud's having the status of someone posing as a crime boss without us actually getting stories about him going after this and that gang every month.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Marvel Team-Up #93-94 show the Shroud in his crimeboss status quo, with Cat and Mouse. That story had May-Jun 80 cover dates but was pushed back in publication time because of placement considerations for Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. So this story has to be pushed back as well (but not as far back as Spider-Woman #13-15, which take place before this new set-up).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
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