Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sandman Mystery Theatre #8 (Nov 1993)

Sandman Mystery Theatre #8: "The Face" Act Four
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.

The Sandman has discovered the lair of the killer who has been chopping off the heads of various Chinese in an effort to stir up gang violence in Chinatown.  The Face's hideout is loaded with sets of dentures, wigs, fake noses, foreheads with eyebrows, everything he needs to change his appearance so as to look like virtually anyone.  The Sandman also notices a newspaper with a personal ad from the Face's shadowy employer, so now The Sandman knows how the killer gets in contact with his boss.

Over in Chinatown, paramedics treat Jimmy Shan for the head wound he received when the Face tried to kill him.  Of course, neither fact that Dian Belmont was following Jimmy nor that a woman saved his life are very appealing to Jimmy and his current anger issues.

Jimmy screams at Dian for another two panels, accusing her and her father and every white person of racism, and then sulks in pain and embarrassment.  Dian's grief and humiliation is interrupted by her father's sudden intervention as he drags her back home.

The Face, suffering a gunshot wound from Dian, makes his way back to his lair, coughing and muttering to himself, unaware that The Sandman is lying in wait for him.  But despite his wounds and shaky appearance, the Face betrays unexpected speed and strength.  When The Sandman points his gas gun in the Face's, um, face, the Face wheels around to attack.

So... that could've gone better.

Back at the Belmont household, Larry screams at his daughter for sneaking around Chinatown and getting involved with Jimmy, who's assault only points to his involvement with the Tongs.  He's also none to thrilled that Dian stole his gun, which she used to save Jimmy from the Face.  Larry accuses his daughter of taking the law into her own hands like a "vigilante debutante."

At a dive bar across town, the Face calls a newspaper demanding they run an ad in tonight's edition so he can get in touch with his boss.  An exotic dancer tries to come on to him, but he shows her what he looks like without his makeup and prosthetics.  Terrified of his appearance and his not-so-veiled threats, the woman backs away.

In the hospital, a pair of nurses chat as one of them goes to check on Jimmy Shan.  One of the nurses says horrible things about Asian- and African-Americans.  When they get to Jimmy's room, though, his bed is empty and the window is open.

Elsewhere, the mayor sits at a meeting with local business men and other movers and shakers, including philanthropist Herman Ross and his partner Benson, who are still trying to get a school funded in Chinatown.  Ross and Benson are flipping through the newspaper, which happens to be running an ad from the Face requesting a meeting.

The same ad is read by Wesley Dodds, who knows this is how the Face and his boos make contact.  He puts his creepy doll to bed and suits up for a night in Central Park.

After Dian sneaks out of the house, we find Herman Ross in Central Park waiting for the Face.  The Face, though, seems to be running quite late, so Ross dispatches his driver to look around and find him.

After escaping from the hospital, Jimmy Shan goes to his mother's home to retrieve his father's gun.  He's in a killing mood, and Dian can't stop him even when she arrives begging him to stop.  Jimmy is so embittered by the world of late, that he actually comes across as racist as Dian's father.

Back in the park, Herman's driver attacks him with an axe.  It's the Face, of course, pissed off that he got shot when trying to kill Jimmy.  He blames Herman Ross for setting him up and wants revenge.

But "Herman Ross" may not be what he seems...

The Sandman throws a net over the Face to keep his speed and strength neutralized.  In a rage, the Face lashes out, but loses his footing and stumbles into the pond.

Jimmy goes to see Wu Sung, head of the Huo Yubai clan, who he blames for killing his sister.  But Dian followed him again, refusing to let Jimmy's hatred lead to his self-destruction.  She actually stands between Jimmy and Wu Sung, insisting that if Jimmy wants to kill the man he has to shoot through her.

Her defiance is enough to snap Jimmy out of the moment's insanity.  He drops the gun and Wu Sung tells Dian to get Jimmy out of there.

Lieutenant Burke is heading out to enforce the peace in Chinatown when he finds someone tied up in front of the station.

Larry Belmont tells Dian what we already know, that Herman Ross' partner, Benson, hired the Face to start an all-out war in the Chinese community to further their business dealings.  Benson hoped that Wu Sung would be killed because Wu Sung was the only person who knew that Benson was part Chinese.

Larry apologizes to Dian for being racist toward Asians (I think he should've apologized to Asians, but whatever), and Dian tells her father that she isn't seeing Jimmy anymore on account of him losing his mind and pointing a gun at her.  The story ends with her making a date with Wesley Dodds, now the best man in her life.

The final revelation of the power behind the Face was a little underwhelming since he really didn't know that much about Herman Ross or Eldridge Benson.  And despite how dangerous the Face should have been, he was taken down too easily.  He slipped out of The Sandman's grasp once out of luck and desperation, but the second time, he just falls into the water and drowns.  It doesn't have the same level of menace as the Tarantula from the last story arc.

Dian's story throughout these four issues is a little more interesting, but Jimmy's self-destruction swings too far toward the melodramatic.  There really didn't seem to be any racism or insecurity in his first appearance, so to see him fall so far so quickly is a little jarring.  It is interesting that it's not merely the fault of society in how it limits and projects fears on him because of his appearance, that there is something dark and hateful inside him, but it comes out too suddenly.  Dian, of course, shows a new kind of heroism in her compassion and her refusal to give up on the man she once loved very much.

There was a lot of good material in "The Face" but it wasn't as awesome as the initial arc in the series.  Still... "Pretty good" for Sandman Mystery Theatre is still better than almost any other series.

Come back next week for the opening act of "The Brute"...


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