Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sandman Mystery Theatre #7 (Oct 1993)

Sandman Mystery Theatre #7: "The Face" Act Three
Written by Matt Wagner
Art by John Watkiss
Colors by David Hornung
Letters by John Costanza
Edited by Shelly Roeberg and Karen Berger
Cover by Gavin Wilson

Curtain up.

Act Three of "The Face" opens with the Sandman lurking around the city morgue, collecting samples of some kind from the Face's decapitated victims.  A security guard hears the mystery man, but by the time he enters the morgue, the Sandman has vanished.

In Chinatown, Jimmy Shan races to the house of Hsu Chang, head of the Lei Feng family.  Jimmy is still somewhat recovering from his encounter with the Sandman last issue, an encounter that left him gassed and unconscious.

Jimmy recounts his meeting with the Sandman to Hsu Chang, pleading with the man not to go to war against the Huo Yibai because the killings are the work of a third party attempting to pit the Chinese against each other.  Chang dismisses Jimmy's claims as childish and naive, and tells Jimmy that a third victim was found that night.

Hsu Chang shows Jimmy the head of the prostitute killed by the Face last issue.  Jimmy loses his mind to grief, screaming the girls name.  Obviously, she was familiar, someone he cared deeply for.

Back at his mansion, Wesley Dodds conducts some experiments on the samples he stole from the morgue, then does some research in his private library.

Still upset over her father's behavior toward Jimmy the night before, Dian Belmont returns to Jimmy's apartment the following day.  The Jimmy she finds is drunk and angry.  Angry at himself, angry at whites, the Tongs, the whole world.

He asks Dian to leave.  She offers to stay with him but he asks her again to leave him alone.  She leaves, knowing that if she stayed, she would fall into the same abyss of bitterness that has claimed her ex-boyfriend.

After leaving Jimmy's place, Dian heads to Wesley Dodds' manor.  Wesley's butler tells Dian that he has turned in for the evening.

Dian confides in Wesley her suspicions that Jimmy may still be involved in the Tongs' criminal activity.  Wesley advises her to get a night's sleep before sharing her suspicions with her father, the district attorney.  Then, once Dian leaves, Wesley strips off his robe, revealing he's still dressed in his "work clothes".  Humphries hands him his Sandman hat and coat.

Lieutenant Burke leads a detail of uniform police to a medical supply shop.  Burke says the coroner's analysis of the bodies suggests they were killed using a surgical hacksaw but that the murderer wasn't a doctor, so the police want records of all sales of medical equipment to non-doctors.  The light is out in the shopkeeper's office, and Burke knows he's not the first person to come looking for the records.

The cops open fire but the Sandman gasses the room, disorienting the uniform officers and sending Burke running and coughing.

Elsewhere, Jimmy Shan meets with Herman Ross and an associate for a business meeting about investing in some property.  But the death of Jimmy's sister and his recent drunken tear has left Jimmy woefully unprepared for the meeting.  Ross and his pal are not happy with Jimmy.

Later, as Larry Belmont listens to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio, the D.A. gets a call from Burke telling him the Sandman is involved in the Chinatown case.  Dian overhears this.  Elsewhere, the Sandman's investigation takes him from the records room to an empty store front and a mob currier who drops off money at the train station.

That night, the man who has hired the Face to incite war among the Tongs meets his hired assassin in a box seat at the opera.  He gives the Face one final target: Jimmy Shan.  The Face picks up his payment at a locker in the train station, but Wesley Dodds has him staked out.

The Sandman follows the Face into an apartment and a secret room downstairs.  Once there, the Sandman discovers the Face's room full of makeup, wigs, prosthetics and false-faces.  But the killer is not there.

Dian follows Jimmy Shan around Chinatown to confirm or disprove her suspicions.  And while he's distracted from how his life seems to be crumbling, she is alert enough to spot the killer waiting for him in the alley.

The story is ramping up for an exciting conclusion.  The Sandman has the killer in his sites, but when the killer can appear as anyone, will catching the Face be that easy?

We still don't know the power behind the Face's killings, but my money's on Herman Ross.  He has no other reason for being in the story, and if the Chinese go to war against each other leading to violence and sanctions by the police department, it could open lots of real estate or other business opportunities for the philanthropist.

Jimmy Shan appeared to have assimilated completely into the white man's world at the start of this story arc, finding financial success but still lacking the acceptance of men like Larry Belmont.  He has fallen quite far at this point, full of hatred and prejudices of his own and wandering around the Chinatown that seemed foreign for him only a few issues ago.

Dian continues to surprise and impress.  Though she was turning into the worrying girlfriend for a while there, she makes up for it on the last page by actually shooting the killer and saving Jimmy.

What will happen to Jimmy?  What will happen when the Face returns to his hideout to discover the Sandman already there?  And who does Dian really love?

Come back next week for the fourth and final act of "The Face"...


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