Characters Appearing: Cat (Shroud's agent), Mouse (Shroud's agent), Scorpion, Shroud, Spider-Man
Issue(s): Shroud #1, Shroud #2, Shroud #3, Shroud #4
Shroud's series was promoted with an appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man #207-208, which was also a (semi/aborted) Siege of Darkness tie-in. At that point he was already said to be on an "important" mission. But the first issue of this series refers to those issues as having occurred in the past.
This series opens with Shroud breaking up a gang war on a pier in New York. Shroud is back with Cat and Mouse, characters that we've never seen that much of.
The mission seems pretty small time, the sort of thing that street level New York super-heroes handle all the time, which makes you wonder (as Cat and Mouse do) why the normally LA-based Shroud has gotten involved. All we know is that the Shroud is acting on a mysterious tip, written on a papyrus scroll stamped with the Mark of Kali..
He grabs one of the gang bosses, King, and takes him to King's home, where the Shroud forces King into cooperation. What they don't know is that they are spied on by King's recently-married wife, Amara. Shroud then returns to his base with Cat and Mouse, and flashes back to
Shroud never had a giant bat fly through his window to inspire him, so he had to borrow the rest of his origin from Dr. Strange.
Then there's the part about getting blinded while being branded in the face with the Mark of Kali, of course. That's pretty unique (although John Byrne's expanded origin for Dr. Doom comes close).
The next day, a police officer, Inspector... Korngold (!), starts sniffing around the office of a Mr. Lassitter about the gang war. Lassitter subsequently calls in the Scorpion to go after King, who has money that Lassitter wants. Spider-Man, who was covering the gang war as Peter Parker, winds up bumping into Scorpion while following King.
Shroud also shows up.
Despite the disadvantage of Shroud's darkness (which Spider-Man can at least compensate for with his Spider-Sense), the Scorpion manages to gain the upper hand in the fight, burying Shroud and Spider-Man in rubble and leaving us with a cliffhanger that is almost admirable in how mundane it is by 1994 standards.
The escape from the cliffhanger, on the other hand, is batshit insane.
The coloring error on Shroud's ungloved hand is icing on the cake. Just in case you weren't confused enough about what was supposed to be happening.
Poor Scorpion didn't take the opportunity to escape, either.
Spider-Man tries to apprehend the Shroud along with the Scorpion. But Shroud escapes, taking Scorpion with him and noticing and destroying Spidey's Spider-Tracer, too.
Shroud uses virtual reality gear to get the Scorpion to tell him who hired him.
Shroud learns from King that Lassitter had a book with the Mark of Kali on it. Shroud visits Lassitter's office and bugs the place. Lassitter is later contacted by Kali cultists, and Shroud goes to their castle to investigate. He finds a man named Balinor.
Balinor was Shroud's mentor when he was being trained at the Kali cult. Balinor tells Shroud that the current Kali leader, High Lama Yannroth, is corrupt and is mixed up with the Lassitter's criminal organization. Yannroth provides assassins to Lassitter.
When Shroud returns to King's house, he's attacked by gunmen. It turns out that King's wife is CIA. She's investigating King's criminal activities, and as far as she knows, Shroud is a criminal. After Shroud defeats the gunmen, Amara and Shroud agree to cooperate.
Scorpion later escapes Shroud's custody, beating Shroud in a fight on the way out. Shroud claims that he lost the Scorpion, but didn't lose to him, but this looks like a loss to me:
And that's fine. Shroud should lose to the Scorpion, in my opinion.
Scorpion subsequently returns to Lassitter and tells him that Shroud and King are working together. While Scorpion is still there, Lassitter is visited by Yannroth and an operative whose name is Kali, same as the name of the cult.
Lassitter then sets up a meeting with King, luring Shroud into a trap.
Fighting Kali, Shroud realizes that he knows her by the name Dalindra.
Shroud escapes, losing his cloak in the process. So when he returns home (where Mouse has just finished dyeing her hair, apparently), he has to rely on conveniently placed shadows to hide his face.
This always happens when Shroud loses his mask, and he does have darkness powers, but it always looks weird.
Cat and Mouse reverse-engineer Spider's Spider-Tracer to call in some help for Shroud ("we can't exactly call Avengers Mansion"; i guess with Hawkeye having disappeared and the West Coast team disbanded, that's not wrong).
Meanwhile, Shroud confronts Balinor, because Dalindra is his daughter and Shroud was told that she was dead. Balinor now admits that she was corrupted by Yannroth, and also that Shroud was kicked out of the Cult of Kali because his enhanced senses would have allowed him to see the corruption that was already going on in the cult.
Shroud heads back to King's house. Lassitter is interrogating King as to the location of the money. King doesn't actually know where the money is (Shroud hid it). Shroud contacts Amara, telling her to get King to give Lassitter a location which Shroud will use as a trap. This results in a convergence of characters at the Kali temple.
After all the build-up, it's not much of an end fight. And Shroud tells Spider-Man that he's not really a villain, convincing Spidey not to listen to the papers.
Amara similarly lets Shroud go.
As for Dalindra, Shroud lets her go, too, and he promises Balinor that he'll later seek her out and help her overcome her corruption. Seems like the set-up for something to be used in an ongoing series, but we'll never see any more of Dalindra, because you didn't write.
By the standards of 1994, this wasn't terrible. It fails in a lot of ways: it still fails to develop Shroud as a character and Cat and Mouse are still ciphers. It relies too much on Spider-Man. I'd say that extends to using Scorpion as a villain, but if the alternative is delving more into Shroud's Kali background, i'll take the Spidey villain (Dalindra, despite being an Elektra clone, might have worked as an ongoing semi-villain). The plot is also just too involved when it comes to the non-powered antagonists: two crime gangs, a third criminal overlord, the CIA, and a cult, all involved in byzantine details which matter very little to the basic plot. The story barely uses the fact that Shroud himself pretends to operate as a villain, and with Cat and Mouse being so bland you will find yourself missing Night Shift. But despite those faults, the fact is that the story is done with classic 80s storytelling, so it's a kind of relief from mid-1990s splash panels and Image-ified art. But it's still too mediocre to stand out.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: See above regarding Shroud seemingly already being on an "important" mission in Spectacular Spider-Man #207-208. The main clue about Spider-Man's placement is while he's looking at a picture of his parents. It implies without actually saying that it takes place after Spider-Man has learned the truth about his "parents", after Amazing Spider-Man #386-388 and probably the subsequent "Pursuit" Spidey crossover.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The reason Dalindra is so dangerous to the Shroud is because she cannot be perceived by his mystical senses, which I suppose would make her more of a Typhoid Mary clone than a Elektra clone.
Posted by: Michael | November 22, 2017 7:56 PM
I always liked the Shroud. Despite his derivative origins (he's a mix of Batman, the Shadow, and Green Hornet), he seems more like an original character in action. I think he can work with his own title.
However, I have never understood why so many Marvel Limited Series never present their stories in such a way that it would attract people to want an ongoing series. They tend to be routine stories, not an exciting launching off point. This fails on that level as well. There is the major involvement of Spider-Man. A guest appearance or cameo is one thing, but the hero of the LS should never have to share the glory with another character. Second, the villain is all wrong. Not only is Scorpion too strongly identified with another hero's rogues gallery, he's too powerful for the Shroud on his own, and he's rather inappropriate for the kind of stories that should be told with the Shroud. The Shroud works best with villains the caliber of some of Batman's stronger super powered opponents or Spidey's weaker foes. Not just in power, but involved in real organized crime where his Green Hornet attributes can shine, not in more blatant four color heroics.
Posted by: Chris | November 23, 2017 2:29 PM
Shroud is such a mess of a character. He's a Batman knock-off who goes after the likes of Dr. Doom instead of muggers. He's also blind and has darkforce powers. Then he has a mystic connection to a Hindu deity. Oh, and he pretends to be a villain. And manipulates other villains to use their powers for good... Any of these things could've made a good character (except maybe the links to a still-worshiped deity), but put everything together and it just doesn't work.
I think Moon Knight has the same problems. What's his "thing"? Being Marvel's Batman? Having mystical links to ancient Egypt? Multiple personality disorder? A dark past as a mercenary? Many good ideas and plot hooks, but all rolled together into one mess of a character.
Posted by: Berend | November 23, 2017 3:03 PM
Did we already know Shroud was blind, or was that new info? I feel like it never came up in his Avengers West Coast appearances, which is mostly where I know him from
Posted by: Andrew F | November 23, 2017 3:18 PM
Oh, now it looks like I'm slamming Chris's pro-Shroud post. Not my intention, hadn't refreshed the page and thus hadn't seen your post while I was typing mine!
Posted by: Berend | November 23, 2017 3:22 PM
Maybe he should come back as a duo with Moon Knight - their costumes are opposite, they're both messy Batman knockoffs; putting them together and rolling in the mess is such a lame idea, it just might work...
(He WAS always blind.)
Posted by: BU | November 23, 2017 4:53 PM
At this point, the only thing really tying Shroud to Batman is the story of his parents being killed. If not for that, there's only minimal ties at this point. Shroud has actual super powers; he does not have an alter ego of a billionaire playboy, and does not have the other shticks of Batman. His post Spider-Woman appearances have been in a different format than his SVTU appearances, and that's the much stronger version. He's now essentially someone who joined a cult, gained mystical powers including the ability to create darkness, and he's infiltrated the underworld in order to destroy it from within. That's the concept you go with.
Moon Knight seems more of a Batman clone because of his Steven Grant persona. He's also had a less definitive interpretation with different writers concentrating on different things. I always imagined him as a monster hunter due to his original appearance in Werewolf By Night, his Egyptian occult origins, and certain adventures like the excellent story involving Brother VooDoo. I think as a low grade pulpish monster hunter and having more gothic oriented adventures, he'd have a stronger identity. He should be fighting the kind of things other heroes don't because they are too garish. When he crosses over it should be with people like Punisher, Blade, (the Shroud too!) and Brother VooDoo exploring the darker side of the MU. I must admit though, this is entirely in my head and not substantiated in the published materials.
Posted by: Chris | November 23, 2017 7:54 PM
@Andrew F- the Shroud's blindness WAS referenced during his appearances in West Coast Avengers. In West Coast Avengers 1, Wonder Man is flying toward the Shroud and the narrative reminds us that the Shroud is blind- his mystical senses can only perceive objects within a certain radius- and by the time Simon is within that radius it's too late.
Posted by: Michael | November 23, 2017 9:34 PM
Reading fnord's synopsis, this story seems rather pedestrian. I do like the artwork, though. M.C. Wyman inked by Malcolm Jones III is very impressive. Jones was a very effective inker, having previously done great work over Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg on early issues of Sandman. Neil Gaiman once described Jones as "the best inker Sandman had." Unfortunately he committed suicide in 1996 :(
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 24, 2017 2:00 PM
@Michael I forgot about that. When was his blindness established?
Posted by: Andrew F | November 25, 2017 4:37 PM
Like BU said, his first appearance- Super Villain Team Up 7.
Posted by: Michael | November 25, 2017 4:39 PM
Comments are now closed.
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