Or – “Cancellation Notice? What Cancellation Notice?”

reviewbubble.jpgMH8.jpgSo, did you have a happy New Year? Mine was just a big bag of crazy, thanks for asking. Ten pounds of psycho in a four and a half pound bag, but boy did I eat well! And while I don’t make resolutions, per se, (because I don’t need anything to make me feel like I’m already a failure in a brand new year) I’m going to try and do three or four things differently in 2007, including give you more Spoilers bang for your mostly imaginary buck. Speaking of fresh starts, I’m sure some of you have heard the story of DC’s Manhunter and the book’s fresh start/second chance. Initially cancelled with issue #25, DC was so overtaken by the fan outcry that they gave the book another five issues, and a chance for more if business picks up… So, how goeth the restart?

MH1.jpgShort answer: quite well, and you should add this book to your hold list. Long answer? It has, since the beginning, been a very well-done and thought-provoking book. The dichotomy of lawyer/vigilante has been done before (most notably in Daredevil) but Kate Spencer aka the newest Manhunter gives us an interesting perspective into it all. There’s a lot going on here, and Kate is a very well-rounded character, with friends, a support system, even a son, making her feel very realistic.

Behind a pretty Arthur Adams cover (foreshadowing the conflict within) we see Kate, true to form, stunned at the turns her life has taken. This issue starts with Manhunter in the woods, her internal monologue making it clear that she feels out of both her element and her depth. She stalks the woods alone, wondering where her prey is, exhorting herself to keep her head in the game, when she’s suddenly attacked, and the identity of her adversary is revealed…

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Okay, that ain’t good. Relative power levels aside, Diana has probably a THOUSAND extra years of battle experience on Manhunter. After this dramatic reveal, we flash back to the previous day, with Wonder Woman in Kate Spencer’s office, sharing an awkward silence. Kate awkwardly tries to figure out what to say to an Amazon (“So, uh… do you follow the WNBA?”), and finally Diana explains why she has come. She wants Kate to represent her in court.

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Hmm. From a Wonder Woman prespective, I’m not sure this is the best way to go. With her own book so late as to be non-existent, and this being the new and different “One Year Later” DC Universe, it seems like they’re freezing Wonder Woman at a difficult stage, neither truly new nor truly old. Constantly beating the dead horse of Max Lord seems counterproductive at this point. Notwithstanding that, it’s a really good angle for Manhunter, placing Kate onstage with the oldest and most recognized female superhero around, and putting her clearly in the spotlight at DC. We return to the here and now, as Kate finds herself overwhelmed, for a moment, then actually manages to pull a fast one on the princess of Themiscyra.

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Better hope not, or Warner Brothers will sue you for lost income to the tune of eleventy billion frickin’ dollars. As Kate marvels at her own awesomeness, we cut to the Himalayas. Why? ‘Cause it’s a big cast, and most of them have had their books cancelled, thus making the reprieve for this title a double blessing. Case in point: Mark Shaw, two-Manhunters-ago the next big thing (his title lasted about two years in the mid-80’s), on some sort of self-described “wild goose chase” in Tibet. Mark is known for a couple of things, the first was being created by Jack Kirby , the second his incredibly complex and vaguely ugly costume, and the third was belonging to a vast underground conspiracy of Manhunters that led back several millenia to planet Oa, home of the Guardians of the Universe. Pretty heavy stuff, that. Mark shows an old woman a drawing (which we don’t see) and she freaks out, causing half a village to riot, making Mark wonder if he’s crazy, or perhaps has a brain tumor. Suddenly, the sound of armored men makes him realize…

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Could these be the remnants of the endless legions of Manhunters? We don’t know, and won’t find out this month, as we return to Kate of the Jungle. She realizes, far too late, that not only is Wonder Woman missing, but the lasso that was just wrapped around her has disappeared as well, and presumably is back in it’s mistress’ hand. She calls her tech wizard for help, wishing she could see in the dark, when he reminds her that the infravision in her mask means she can. Heh… That was pretty cute, actually. Meanwhile, we cut to Kate’s best friend Cameron Chase (her book ran 9 issues, in the late 90’s) coming home from a run with her boyfriend. She recieves a mysterious phone call, one of a rash of hangups she’s been getting for weeks, now. Unfortunately, this time someone is on the other end… her sister Terry. And she’s not alone.

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Dr Trapp (the iron jaw feller) was the nemesis of Kate and Terry’s father, a superhero called The Acrobat, who belonged to a retconned superhero team of the 60’s/70’s called “The Justice Experience.” And he’s a coldblooded murderous wacko… This plotline, too, is going to have to simmer in our minds, as we return to Kate’s battle with Wonder Woman. Finally, we see the explanation of why they’re beating each other up (Kate’s price for representing Diana? “Train me.”), and Diana adds a little bit of fuel to the fire. “If this goes to trial, my contacts tell me they will go for the death penalty.” Wow. REALLY not where I would have gone with Wonder Woman, but still awesome for Manhunter. WW cryptically hints about who is behind this, citing her sizable rogue’s gallery (Dear lawd, please don’t let this be another Doctor Psycho story). As she says that, we cut to Washington, where a mysterious figure watches the news reports of Diana’s trial and talks with an even more mysterious disembodied voice. The voice tells the shadow that a change of plans may be necessary, whereas the shadow thinks a more proactive approach is in order.

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I really enjoyed this issue, as everybody got a little screen time without overshadowing the main character. I’m intrigued by the Mark Shaw plot, horrified at the Cameron Chase plot, and interested in the mystery of who’s pulling the strings. Honestly, this is better Wonder Woman than we’ve seen in months, as her JLA appearances have been essentially cameos and her own publishing schedule (plus the “everything you know is wrong” nature of the One Year Later books) give us very little actual Wonder Woman there either.

As a restart, it’s a strong one, and I’m hoping that it gets some people talking about this title. It’s a very good book, with a strong cast (I’m interested to see if they can still use Obsidian given his new role in the Justice Society and Alex Ross’ strong remarks about his coming-out in previous issues of this book), and the art is top-notch. Manhunter herself has an interesting backstory, with continuity ties that don’t overpower the main plots, and has served to resurrect several of my favorite characters from the old days. Manhunter #26 is, essentially, issue one of a new title, but it’s a title you should check out, seeing as how I liked it enough to give it 3.5 stars. Here’s hoping they’re still doing this at issue #50.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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