December 6, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #370: The Shroud

A vigilante pretends to be a crime lord in order to infiltrate criminal gangs.

So, when I started writing up those Noteworthy Issues columns, one of the first I covered was the first issue of the original West Coast Avengers mini-series.  It was a fine enough issue, but there was a lesser Marvel character in there that, when asked, declined to join the fledgling team.  That was the Shroud.

So, what’s that guy’s whole deal?

Maximilian Quincy Coleridge was all of ten years old when he saw his parents gunned down in front of him.  So, basically, he’s Batman.  But it looks like he didn’t have access to the sort of money Batman has.  As such, he still dedicated his life to fighting crime, but he ended up joining the Cult of Kali, and during a ceremony, he had his face branded with a fancy tattoo that replaced his eyesight with some sort of replacement form of ESP.  Returning the States, he took the name “the Shroud” and eventually found a unique way to fight the forces of evil:  he posed as a criminal himself in order to infiltrate criminal gangs and bring them down from the inside.

The Shroud would eventually develop powers based on access to the other-dimensional Darkforce, allowing him to summon and control patches of darkness as well as teleporting from place to place.  That came when he was hit by a ray gun while battling the Red Skull alongside Doctor Doom and Captain America while in outer space.

You know…comics are awesome sometimes.

The Shroud eventually formed a gang of his own called the Night Shift, made up of various supernaturally-based secondary characters (plus Werewolf by Night at one point), these guys tend to bounce around as criminals or secret heroes depending on who their leader is.  It isn’t always the Shroud.  Heck, Shroud once tested Moon Knight to see if he would make a good replacement leader.

That said, the Shroud seems like the sort of character who should perhaps appear more often.  His whole “secret good guy” shtick could make for fun stories where basically only Captain America and a handful of others even know he’s a good guy.  Heck, wanting to stay undercover is why he declined to join the West Coast Avengers.  But really, it looks like he’s mostly just developed an on-again, off-again relationship with former Spider-woman Julia Carpenter and that seems to be about it.  Yeah, he is something of a Batman rip-off, but even his creator Steve Englehart kinda admitted the character was a cross between Batman and the Shadow anyway.

Instead, he’s just this guy who sometimes pops up when there’s a need for a horror-themed hero pretending to be a villain.  There’s actually not much call for that now that I think about it…

But he can look good and moody in a chair sometimes.