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|8||07/19/10||Shroud and the Marvel Underworld, The (Shadowland spoiler?)||(Blog) (Forum)||Shadowland||(Back) (Next)|
(PLEASE NOTE: If you're looking for the POSSIBLE Shadowland spoiler, I haven't hidden it in one of those little pink boxes, so read at your own risk. You were warned.)
(NOTE #2: At this point, Shadowland SPOILERS are being discussed in the comments. So if you don't want to know, please don't go there.)
(NOTE #3: Yeah, I was nowhere near right with this, but it's still good for a laugh. Enjoy...)
First appearing in April of 1976, in Super-Villain Team-Up #5, six years before the similarly designed Cloak, the Shroud seems to have started as a throwaway, derivative character. Blind like Daredevil, but dressed in a dark costume that's closer to Batman, it's been said that these were exactly the inspirations for the character, and his origin certainly seems to bear that out. His parents having been murdered when he was a child, he grew up determined to fight crime. The Cult of Kali trained him and gave him "The Kiss of Kali," which left him scarred, blind, and with some sort of extrasensory perception. Sometime later, he was blasted by a weapon of the Red Skull, which left him with the ability to manipulate the Darkforce. The Darkforce seems to work a little differently for every user (a detail that makes the Darkforce a little too convenient of a plot device for me) but in the Shroud's case, it seems to mean that he carries the cover of darkness with him wherever he goes, emitting dark clouds to shroud his comings and goings.
Here's the thing though: even though he started out as a derivative character, he took an interesting turn, when he decided he would fight crime from within, and started building his reputation as an underworld crime boss. At least, that's what I remember the Official Handbook saying about him. All I've ever seen of him over the years is the typical Marvel fight-of-misunderstanding - some hero runs across the Shroud, they fight, and the Shroud eventually reveals (and/or proves) that he's really a hero. That's always kind of bothered me too, because a guy that's trying to become known as an underworld bigboy really shouldn't be telling his secrets to every superhero he runs across. That was kind of typical for the time though, so I guess it just has to be overlooked. Marvel has missed many chances over the years to revamp this character though. I really think they should have made him seem like a bigger villain in the Marvel Universe.
Apparently, I'm not the only person to think that pairing him against Moon Knight would have been a good place to start. Moon Knight has enjoyed a few long running titles, since the 1980's, and the Shroud would have been a perfect visual counterpoint to Moon Knight, fitting the mood of any of his books perfectly. There was one encounter between them in the original Moon Knight series, and another in February of 1988, in Solo Avengers #3, but nothing I know of after that.
Since then, Marvel has had ample opportunity to make use of the Shroud, really flesh him out, and mold him into a fan favorite villain. He could have featured prominently in books like Moon Knight, Punisher, Daredevil, or later, Immortal Iron Fist. Any one of those books could have had a crime driven story that featured the Shroud at the center of it, showcasing him as the crime boss he's supposed to have a reputation for being. All those opportunities have been missed.
Marvel has featured him some, since Civil War, but they seemed to have been steering him away from the direction of supposed criminal leader. Finally though, he is being featured in Shadowland, and that is just the kind of story that could make his name big. From what I understand about this story, Daredevil has taken control of The Hand, and the advertising has implied that Hornhead is on his way to being "the Marvel Universe's greatest villain." I started this blog with the thought that Shadowland might finally showcase the Shroud as an ultra-cool villain, and get his name out there, but as I write this, I'm suddenly wondering if that's the whole point of the story. Could the 'Devil in the red suit merely be a red herring? Could Marvel be twisting "blind man's bluff," making us think that Daredevil will be the villain, but blindsiding us (oh yeah, that pun was intended) with the Shroud, at the end?
The Shroud and the Hand would be an outrageously cool visual, and would finally make him the crime lord he was always supposed to be, in the eyes of the rest of the Marvel Universe. The Shroud wants to fight crime from within, and the Hand have already started this story with killing other criminals. Would the Shroud be interested in taking over the Hand for that purpose? The more I think about it right now, that has way more possibility to it than I thought. With their similar powers, it could even be the Shroud in the new Daredevil costume - it could be the Shroud that killed Bullseye. I will be as surprised as anyone else if I turn out to be right, but Shadowland might be a whole new launching pad for the Shroud.
|Follow-Up:||Revised Call on Shadowland (possible SPOILER)|