Masters of Silence

First Appearance: Iron Man #281 (June 1992).
Appearances: Iron Man #281-283, Iron Man Annual #14.
Years Active: ?-present.

Peter Weitzman contributes the following origin, verbatim, from Iron Man

There is a world of darkness beyond our own--where dwell evil gods who cast envious eyes at the world of men,coveting death and destruction. The world of the Shinma. From time to time through sorcerous means a Shinma contrives to cross the gulf between worlds and so walks the earth. Many centuries ago,one such demon came to Nippon, a demon with the power to steal the identities of mortals. He is known to us as Kao-Goto Suru, the Face Thief. And he is the reason that we walk the path of vengeance.

It is said that the Face Thief's greatest pleasure is in leading humans to bring about their own doom, and this he proceeded to do upon his arrival. He stole the face of a great and noble warlord called Tezuka, who was known throughout the nation for his honor and wisdom. Disguised as Tezuka, he led his loyal followers to a shameful and hopeless rebellion against the Emperor. Of those betrayed in this way by the Face Thief, only three survived. Those samurai discovered the true nature of the fiend they had followed and swore vengeance against him, no matter the price. But no mortal--no matter how driven by righteousness--can contend with the powers of a Shinma and live. And so, they lifted their voices to the heavens and besought the Three Storms for aid, to strike against the demon. And the Three Storms answered. Thus were the warrior souls of Lightning, Wind & Thunder bestowed upon men, fierce spirits possessed of great skill--and the power to become one with the silent whisperings of the night. Through stealth alone can mortals stand against the power of the Shinma, who are vulnerable only when in mortal form. In return, those warriors swore to serve the cause most dear to the Three Storms: The path of vengeance. They vowed a tradition of service to that goal which would survive long after they themselves had fallen. That heritage is our own.

The ever-reliable Ronald Byrd adds to this:
Who the Three Storms might be is more than I know, but judging by the way we see their giant forms looming within the sky they are evidently gods, and, bizarrely, they too look white. With the three warriors agreeing to serve the cause of vengeance (described as "the cause most dear to the Three Storms"), the Storms bestow the "warrior souls" of lightning (inazuma), wind (kaze), and thunder (kaminari) upon the three; these warrior souls are "fierce spirits possessed of great skill---and the power to become one with the silent whisperings of  the night."  Each Master of Silence "is bound to remain shackled to mortal flesh until he has passed on the warrior soul" to another; even if the Master in question has suffered fatal wounds, he (or she) will live on in agony until the mantle has been passed "to one who will willingly walk the path of vengeance.  One who has been irrevocably wronged."  The Masters of Silence are always a trio, although the warrior souls have been passed on countless times over the centuries, so that the members of the trio might be replaced one by one, two at a time, or all at once, depending upon the circumstances, I guess.  The Masters of Silence have the twin purposes of battling the Face Thief when he again rears his, uh, face in the Earth dimension and of serving the cause of vengeance by acting as assassins "who kill only those who deserve death" (sort of like the Punisher, I guess, although the Masters at least have the stereotypical giri/bushido/etc stuff to lend them some sort of "nobility"; I wonder what cookie-cutter traits the Japanese give Americans in THEIR comic books).

In armor, the original Masters of Silence looked pretty much like the ones of today although of course their weaponry is presumably not as high-tech as the modern ones (Inazuma, from whom we get all of this information, notes that "through the centuries, we have honed our skills and refined our weapons," and they demonstrate familiarity with computers, holographics, and such, so they are not as tradition-bound as the stereotype of eastern warriors might suggest.), about whose capabilities we know at least something.  All three carry swords and wear armor (complete with rocket belts); Inazuma ("lightning") wears white and uses shuriken (radio-controlled in modern times), Kaze ("wind") wears green and uses a chain with a grappling hook on one end and what looks like a boomerang on the other (no doubt this weapon has a name, but I don't know it) and Kaminari ("thunder") wears red and uses a large two-pronged trident.  Their swords and other weapons are charged with energy and their armor immune to the likes of Iron Man's repulsor rays, but whether this is magic or more technological updating, I don't know.  All three share the mystic ability to become invisible, although on one occasion they disguise themselves as ordinary men in suits, and I can't tell if that's a variation on their talent or a use of holograms.

The modern-day Masters of Silence (up to the end of the annual) are the mystic sage Kaze (he senses the Face Thief's return to activity, whereas the other two must be informed of it by him), the headstrong youth Inazuma, and the silent Kaminari.  In the course of the story, Kaze mentions that "decades ago, a great battle was waged in which the demon was confined within a work of art," the very work of art from which the Face Thief emerges in the story.  The Face Thief recognizes this Kaze, so obviously his Master of Silenceship dates back at least to that decades-ago encounter; moreover, the Face Thief taunts Kaze by insulting Kaze's lost lover, Yuki Nakagawa, slain by the Face Thief, which suggests that Kaze's "irrevocable wrong" was the death of his beloved by the Face Thief, dating his MoSness back even further.  In the course of the annual, Kaze is slain, and the warrior soul is passed on to Meredith McCall, former lover of Tony Stark (evidently last seen prior to this as far back as Iron Man (vol. I) #28); her fiance was killed by the Face Thief (in possession of her father), so she qualifies as one who has been wronged.  Bizarrely enough, in a later story arc, Meredith is seen as a college instructor, suggesting that either she chose to pass the warrior soul on to someone else (something we're not actually TOLD you can do while remaining alive, but who knows?) or, more interestingly, that she was on some sort of covert mission for the Masters of Silence; I prefer the latter.

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