Or – “It’s Like When You Can’t Quite Break Up With The Unhealthy Girlfriend…”

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Well, it’s time to review Manhunter, and that means it’s time for…

CANCELLATION WATCH 2007!! *cues dramatic music/graphics package*

Attention Mr and Mrs America and all the ships at sea! Manhunter, originally cancelled with issue 25, then revived, then recancelled with issue #30, has officially been uncancelled. DC, always a bit manic depressive with cancelling Manhunter, announced at the New York Comicon that Kate’s title is ongoing again, and this time it’s for the long haul. None other than Dan Didio announced at the convention that this is not just an extension, Manhunter will continue for the foreseeable future. I don’t know if it’s the cameos (Batman AND Wonder Woman appear this issue), the variant cover, or just the fact that people love the underdog, but the adventures of Kate and company are off the chopping block, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Wanna see why? Click ‘er and let’s roll!

MH1.jpgLotsa plots, lotsa plots! That’s fun to say… Kate Spencer, aka Manhunter, has been hired by none other than Princess Diana herself as defense attorney in Wonder Woman’s grand jury trial investigating the death of Maxwell Lord. Kate’s best friend Cameron Chase has been chasing down her kidnapped sister, finding that she’s been taken by Doctor Trapp, an old enemy of her father (who was secretly a superhero called “The Acro-Bat”). Cameron’s boyfriend Dylan (also Kate’s go-to guy for all things technical) is helping her to track Trapp down. Mark Shaw (who used to be a superhero called Manhunter as well) is on a sort of vision quest in the Himalayas, and Obsidian has disappeared from the book because Alex Ross didn’t like him being homosexual. Worst of all, Wonder Woman’s main defense, the allegation that Maxwell Lord was a murderer himself, is undermined by the appearance of his victim: Ted Kord, the second man to call himself Blue Beetle. Beetle interrupts a press conference, and he, Diana and Kate have to make a quick exit, boarding his waiting aircraft, the Bug.

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Ted seems very confused, and the amount of detail that he knows about his life makes it clear that even if he’s NOT Blue Beetle, he has serious insider information about the Justice League and the life of the real Beetle. Diana questions him, and he starts to freak out, and just at the moment where Wonder Woman is going to press the issue, The Madmen attack out of thin air. You may not know of the Madmen, but none of their incarnations has the ability to fly, teleport, or otherwise show up in mid-air, at least not without help… Meanwhile, back in Gotham City, DEO agent Cameron Chase follows the only lead to her lost sister: The official museum of her father’s lost superteam, The Justice Experience. Cam is wary, and the museum is in a part of town that even Batman locks his doors in, but Doctor Trapp is true to his word, as Cameron finds her sister next to the wax statues of Dad and Trapp himself.

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That jaw is seriously messed up on a number of levels. Ten thousand feet over L.A., the Madmen are attacking, and Wonder Woman crashes out of the Bug to engage them. She’s not necessarily a deep thinker when it comes to supervillain attacks, our Wonder Woman. Blue Beetle quickly throws Kate a parachute shaped like a Beetle, and gives me the first inclination that he’s not all he seems with a subtle dig at her: “Don’t worry, it’s Idiot Proof!” The second thing that makes me wonder is when he leaps out, saving himself, but leaving a woman he thinks is innocent and unpowered behind. Kate, even without her Manhunter suit, isn’t without her resources.

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Nyuk nyuk nyuk! Unfortunately, Beetle’s special ‘chute is defective, and doesn’t do anything but drag her down quicker… Luckily, Wonder Woman catches her easily (“I’ve done this a few times before…”), and they fly off after Blue Beetle. Kate realizes that both the Madmen and the Bug itself seem to have just vanished, added fuel to the fires of skepticism over whether this is the real undead Ted Kord. The two super-women confront Blue Beetle, but before we get any answers, the scene shifts back to Gotham, and Cameron Chase. Blinded by concern for her little sister, Cammy rushes in where angels (and anyone else with sense) would fear to tread…

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Rule one of supervillains: Expect a trap. Doubly so if the villains NAME is Doctor Trapp, Cameron. Ten points for familial concern, minus five million for common sense, says judge Beeblebrox of Betelgeuse. When her communicator goes dark, Dylan goes on the offensive, only to be nearly electrocuted by gimmicked doors on the museum. We’ve seen very little of Dylan’s past, knowing only that he’s in witness protection for SOMETHING, but for Cameron, he risks it all to call in a few old favors. Diana has likewise, called in for backup, and Manhunter finds herself startled by the appearance of a man from complete shadow… trademark dramatic entrance of The Batman. “Your reputation precedes you, Ms. Spencer,” says the Dark Knight, before getting right down to business and ripping into “Blue Beetle” like Oprah on a hoagie.

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Okay, that right there proved it for me, even if all the other evidence didn’t: This isn’t Blue Beetle. Yes, he was known for jokes, but they were actually funny, dammit! Whoever this guy is, he must like Jay Leno. Yeesh. Diana says that there’s only one way to find out the real truth, to which Batman responds “Two, Diana. You know I don’t trust magic.” “Beetle” submits to a rather roughly induced blood sample, then allows Diana to put the Lasso of Truth on him.

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In no way, shape, or form is the phrase “The DNA sample will prove it” a yes or no answer. Certainly it’s a true answer, as the lasso proves, but it’s obviously evasive, designed to give a false positive, and I can’t believe Diana fell for it. Diana warily accepts this non-answer, and Batman sweeps out, mentioning to Kate that “we will meet again.” Ms. Spencer fumes that apparently EVERYBODY knows her secret identity. At least she only has the one, unlike poor Mark Shaw. Last issue, he was initiated into the secrets of the order of St. Dumas, and now he is told of their history, mostly a parade of masks and mental illness. And, speak of the devil, it’s Jean-Paul Valley!

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“Not another identity,” indeed, Mark. You’ve so far been Manhunter, The Privateer, The Star-Tsar (love that one), Manhunter again, and Dumas. You’re at nearly Hank Pym levels of identity crisis, here. If Mark IS destined to be the new Azrael, this should be interesting, as I don’t recall anyone finding Valley’s body after his “fatal” shooting in the last issue of his own book and Batman might concievably have a word or two for Mark, as well. Kate returns to her home, finding that the door has been opened, and that her television set is playing the video of Wonder Woman killing Lord. The only difference is, this version has AUDIO, and there are sections even Kate has never seen… “Omigod. That can’t be what I think it is…”

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To misquote ‘Roadhouse,’ the name… is Bordeaux. Of course, the Black Queen chesspiece is kind of a giveaway there, as well, even if you know more than one person with a bright red eyepiece set in a metal cheek (say, if you’re good friends with Kano). Lots of plot movement this time around, and a possible new superhero on the horizon, as well as some interesting insight into what works and doesn’t work about Blue Beetle.

I’m very pleased that Manhunter is back on the slate for real, and look forward to reading issue #100. Far too many books with this much potential have been canned early (Power Company, Chase, nextwave, and Plastic Man, to name but a few), and it’s good to see DC supporting the book with trade paperbacks. I highly recommend it, both the trades and this issue, which nets 3.5 stars. And I’ll see you in twelve months when we need ANOTHER Spider-Girl-style save from cancellation…

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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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2 Comments

  1. Stephen
    March 8, 2007 at 2:01 pm — Reply

    So DC pulls a fast one on bringing characters back from the dead. Instead of escaping from hell, Ted is a clone – not like we haven’t seen THAT one before. I can’t wait until ten years down the road when it is revealed Ted has been cloned from the original Kord AND Lex Luthor. At which point clone kord saves the universe from the next infinite identity crisis and dies in the process…dead for good this time… or is he?

  2. March 8, 2007 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    Mmm… Well, having seen the previews for next issue, I can tell you it isn’t a clone.

    And I think that the new Blue Beetle is cool enough that returning Ted to the firmament would be passe. Unless we need a new Azrael. :)

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