Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sandman Mystery Theatre #10 (Jan 1994)

Sandman Mystery Theatre #10: "The Brute" Act Two
Written by Matt Wagner
Art by R.G. Taylor
Colors by David Hornung
Letters by John Costanza
Edited by Shelly Roeberg and Karen Berger
Cover by Gavin Wilson

Curtain up.

The second part of "The Brute" opens with Dian Belmont and a friend leaving the movie theater having seen the Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant classic, Bringing up Baby.  After showing her open-mindedness on homosexuality, Dian has a profound encounter in the street with a woman abusing her son.

When a police officer further intervenes, the woman walks away.  Dian tries to comfort the child who has clearly been beaten for most of his life, but the boy lashes out and bites Dian.  That night, we see the first signs of her eventual change into werewolf.  Dian's friend, Carol, scoffs at her attempts to help the filthy dregs of society.

Elsewhere, the Sandman has come to rescue prizefighter Eddie Ramsey from mob enforcers working for Arthur Riesling.  One of the hoods called in "backup", a brutish giant who easily disarms the Sandman and nearly takes his head off with one punch.  Ramsey defends the masked hero, but even the boxer proves to be little use against the Brute.  Luckily, the Sandman gets a second chance before the Brute kicks Ramsey's head in.

After gassing the giant, Sandman and Ramsey speed away in the Sandman's car.  Sandman drops Ramsey off at his home and tells him to find a new place to live so Riesling's men cannot find him.  Ramsey notices that the Sandman took a bad blow to the ribs during their fight.

Eddie Ramsey runs to his apartment where his sickly daughter, Emily, waits for him.  He apologizes but they need to flee.  They hurriedly pack everything they can take, including what's left of her medicine and bolt in the night.

Later, Dian Belmont goes to the mansion estate of her unofficial boyfriend, Wesley Dodds.  Wesley's butler, Humphries, tells her he's not home, but in fact he is just arriving.  Wes welcomes Dian into his sitting room for a late night chat, all the while trying to hide the fact that he probably broke a few ribs in his fight with the Brute and Riesling's men.

Dian tells him about her encounter outside the theater and how she stood up and stopped the woman from beating her child.  Wesley is proud of her and commends her for her bravery and righteousness. She thanks him and apologizes for wasting his time and then leaves.

At his own lavish mansion, Arthur Riesling hears the news that Ramsey snitched on him to the district attorney and then escaped the gang.  Arthur tells his son, Dennis, to make sure that Ramsey is killed along with any family members the fighter may have, which is bad news for Emily.  After the elder Ramsey leaves, the drunken Dennis is left alone with the two youngest boys.  Dennis instigates a fight between them for what appears to be his own amusement.

Is this the first time Dennis Riesling has manipulated people and events so he can laugh about it?

Later that night, Wesley Dodds dreams dreams of children of abuse and poverty.

The next night, Riesling's hoods break into the former home of Eddie Ramsey only to find the place hastily deserted.  Unfortunatley, while Ramsey and Emily may be alive, they haven't found a new place to live yet.

The two are befriended by an old tramp named Wilbur Schenk who offers them a place to stay in his shack.  Ramsey's not wild about squatting with the man, but thinking about his sick little girl makes him desperate enough to accept the invitation.

On a boat on the Hudson River, Arthur Riesling meets with a gangster to negotiate the sale and distribution of a large supply of heroin.  Riesling says he has found an untapped market for the drug.  Their conference is overheard by the Sandman.

Later, the Sandman goes directly to the home of District Attorney Belmont to warn him of Arthur Riesling's activities.

Dian spies on her father's conversation with the masked man and then watches the Sandman leave.

In a different, poorer part of town, a couple of kids are playing kick the can when their revery is joined by the Brute.  The Brute's handler losses him temporarily, but the monstrous giant is called back by a whistle.

And the handler driving the car, appears to be Dennis Riesling.

This is another great issue.  There's some really exciting action in the beginning with both the Sandman and Ramsey trying to fight off the Brute.  For all the Sandman's skills and all of Ramsey's fighting talent, they are both nearly killed by the giant.  It's quick thinking and good luck when Sandman throws a trashcan over the Brute's head and fires his gas gun inside to douse the freak with his knockout drug.  I can't wait to see the next obligatory fight between our hero and the monster.  Should be a thrilling bout for the ages!

There isn't any real doubt that Arthur Riesling is a bad guy, but the nature of his son Dennis is a little unclear.  Is he merely his father's henchman, or is he something more?  The scene where he provokes a fight between the boys had a bit of a sinister tone to it.  And what's with those boys?  Something's up in that department.  Based on Wesley's dreams and the scenes in the beginning and end of this chapter, I'm thinking this story is supposed to be about child neglect, poverty and abuse... but we're not quite getting there yet.

Also, Dian continues to be a strong character, but is she becoming too good?  It's nice that she wants to champion child advocacy and protective rights, but her line about homosexuality not being a disease in the first scene felt more like the Matt Wagner's voice intruding on the scene.  We already saw Dian championing racial sensitivity in the previous story arc, and she's fighting against systematic domestic violence now.  Do we need her to stand up for every popular cause all the time in order to know she's a good person?

Anyway, she's still awesome and I can't wait to see what she does next.

Come back next week for the Act Three of "The Brute"...


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