Golgo 13 Vol. 12: Shadow of Death (Viz Signature)

golgo12-header.jpgAnother collection of smooth, suave ’70s super-assassin Duke Togo’s greatest hits.


184 pages B&W; $9.99

(W / A: Takao Saito)


The 1970’s was a fine decade to be a hired gun. Between Shaft, Dirty Harry, Flint, James Bond, Don Pendleton’s fictional mercenary "Mack Bolan: The Executioner," and plenty of others, smooth, womanizing, quasi-ethical killers practically clogged the streets. In the 12th volume of the new Golgo 13 reprint series, one story from 1976 and another from 1974 offer more high-stakes adventure, more hot chicks, and more lucrative jobs for another legendary samurai of the silencer, Duke Togo.

The cover of Golgo 13 vol. 12 by Takao Saito. Click for a larger image.In "Shadow of Death," Duke finds himself pitted against the Moriarty to his Sherlock. A Russian agent is charged with the same task as Duke: to shut down a chemical-weapons plant and kill everyone connected to it. Duke journeys to the Pacific Island nation of Palau, where he pumps a local prostitute for info (heh, heh). She notes that the mysterious stranger is too tense to climax, although she "certainly did, Mister." Tough guys really do occupy their own unfathomable universe, I guess.

Duke gathers info about the chemical plant, but with every interrogation (in one brutal scene, Duke actually shoots a man’s ears off to get him to talk), he learns he’s a step behind another agent who asked the very same questions. If the ultimate asskicker is being beaten to the punch, it’s big news. Duke is headed for a showdown with a worthy opponent, indeed.

The tension ratchets, tighter and tighter. The assassins finally meet. They may have shared the same objective, but now, this island ain’t big enough for the two of them. Duke finally gets his climax, and it’s a conflux of violence and a philosophical silence – the kind of masculine, lyrical fight scene you might find in a Kurosawa film. Nice.

The second tale, "The Dark-Skinned Sniper," is a junket through the American Deep South that reeks with the clichés of the racist small-town sheriff and a whiff of ‘70s Blaxploitation, too.

Duke is commissioned by a black New Yorker who robs a bank to pay the high-priced assassin, and dies just afterward in a hail of police gunfire. The target: a profoundly racist Mississippi colonel fixin’ to run for governor. Golgo is sheltered by a band of Black Panthers (and by his lady du jour, an Afroed beauty). He takes on a veritable Klavern of thuggish Negro-hatin’ cops, and makes them pay for their bad manners. Duke’s skin-darkening pills (the meaning of the story’s title) are an absurd twist. His very cinematic car chase may have been absurd, too, but it was also awesome.

The impassive Duke / Golgo 13 doesn’t need to say much. He lets his guns and the occasional dagger do the talking. As usual, he’s written just as sharply as he’s illustrated. | Byron Kerman

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