Manhunter #29

by

Or – “What’s In A Name? You Wouldn’t Ask If Yours Was ‘Hortense.’”

MH12.jpg

In the DC Universe (or, to be honest, the streamlined and updated DC/Quality/Fawcett/Charlton/Etc Universe), the name “Manhunter” has carried with it a bit of a stigma, for some reason. The first Manhunter (from Quality Comics) was Dan Richards, a police officer who put on the mask to clear a friend’s name. He was retconnedly brainwashed, and later murdered by a later claimant to the name. Paul Kirk, the second Manhunter, had an abbreviated run in Adventure comics, was trampled by a Rhino, cloned, killed, cloned, killed, cloned, ad infinitum. Mark Shaw, next up for the pain train, was brainwashed as well, and found the only thing in his life that he valued to actually be a secret cult run by alien robots. Chase Lawler had to wear one of the worst costumes I’ve EVER seen, and was murdered shortly after taking on the role. Kirk DePaul (a Paul Kirk clone), murdered. the 1986 ‘Manhunter’ movie with William Peterson was better than “Red Dragon,” another take on the same book. Even J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, gets no respect (his new look reminds me of the Cocoa Puffs Cuckoo). And now, poor Kate Spencer lives her comic life on the edge, a few issues at a time, cancelled thrice. The worst part of it all? She’s probably the best Manhunter since Archie Goodwin’s run in the 1970′s.

Now that we know Kate’s title isn’t doomed, it’ll be interesting to see how the events of previous issues play out. But here’s the basics of it all. Kate Spencer is a lawyer, MH1.jpgmoonlighting as mysteryman (cause mysterywoman sounds a little stupid), who has been asked by Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) to act as her council in an arraignment regarding Diana’s killing of Maxwell Lord, the corrupt head of Checkmate. Kate has to balance this with the sudden return of Blue Beetle, a man Lord was said to have killed (thus undermining part of the case, Max’s proven murderous nature). This forces her to work with Batman, who has evidence proving conclusively that the old Beetle is dead. The supporting cast is also in peril: her best friend Cameron Chase is being stalked by a supervillain foe of her deceased father, associate Mark Shaw has been dragged into another strange cult, and her “tech guy” Dylan is about to make a decision that could ruin his life in order to save the woman he loves. Could there be anymore drama? Well, yes, as the issue proper starts with a firm and unbreakable “Absolutely not!” from Wonder Woman. But what’s she vetoing?

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Kate doesn’t get it. If Wonder Woman is all about serving the greater good, and freeing Superman from Max Lord’s control SERVED that greater good, why won’t she admit that’s what happened? What possible reason could Diana have to possibly GO TO JAIL over a man who (at least from an Amazon perspective) deserved to, indeed, HAD to die? Turns out life is nowhere near that simple when you’re Wonder Woman.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

She will not sacrifice the people’s trust in the original superhero just to extricate herself from a sticky legal situation. That’s noble as all heck, and very admirable, actually. The main problem I have with it is that this wouldn’t be the first time Superman was a threat to the public because of hypnotism/fakery/doppelgangerdom, etc. Hank Henshaw’s actions during ‘Reign of the Supermen,’ f’rinstance. But, Diana stands by her point, and asks Kate to respect that. Ms. Spencer does so, but also puts in a call to another (incredibly ironic) associate…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Why, whatever could she have up her well-tailored sleeve? It’s excellent to see people taking advantage of an excellent character like Lois (here, and in a recent ‘Birds of Prey’) as more than just Superman’s wife (although her ties to the Big Red S are always in evidence.) Meanwhile, in Gotham, Dylan Battles has been forced to do something he never wanted to do: associate with his old friends.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Witness protection, eh? That particular puzzle piece is new to ME, anyway, and may explain some of the hold that Kate has over him. Dylan takes his mysterious package, and swears to his captured girlfriend Cameron that he’s on his way. Back home, Kate Spencer watches some ridiculously stupid people newsbiting about the seeming return of Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle. She laments the deal she had to make to get help from Lois, turning over exclusivity rights to her story, after the trial is over. “Her poor husband. He’s probably totally under her thumb.” Cue the irony, as there’s a tap at her window heralding the appearance of her mystery witness. Meanwhile, former Manhunter Mark Shaw wakes up in Dylan’s apartment (which confuses him, as last he remembers, he was in an underground cavern in the Himalayas), and a mysterious (yet familiar) costume has appeared with him. Shaw starts to lament yet another identity in his life, when a mysterious voice starts speaking to him…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

“Okay, now I’m talking to invisible warrior saints. That’s a little crazy.” You know it, Mark… Just sit back and enjoy it, your life is about to take another one of those bizarre “I’m dressed as a pirate fighting the JLA” kinda turns. As for the much-mentioned Cameron Chase, she and her baby sister are still at the mercy of the eeeeevil Doctor Trapp, who intends to kill both of them by dipping them in wax. That’s old-school villainy, right there, folks. As he sets his doomsday device in motion (and presumably was about to leave, as there’s NO POSSIBLE WAY a Rube Goldberg device put in place by a supervillain could ever FAIL), the power cuts out. Angered, Trapp heads for the fusebox, when the door blows open in a huge gout of flame. A dark figure steps into the room, and Trapp cries out (in best Republic Serial villain fashion), “who are you?”

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Nice one… But I don’t remember stormtroopers with wings. Must be from one of the prequels, or something. Back in LA, Kate has arranged a last-minute meeting with the prosecutor and the judge in Wonder Woman’s hearing, and she has some information she wants them both to hear. “The grand jury is already deliberating,” says the judge, but Kate is certain that they’ll want to hear what this PARTICULAR witness has to say in the matter…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Super-Dylan manages to outwit Dr. Trapp (for a moment), but he takes a second too long to banter with his girlfriend, when he should have been untying and arming her. A shot to the back of the head takes Dylan down, and drops Cameron’s weapon into the wax, as she yells for Trapp to stop. For some reason, I clearly hear Chris Lattas as the voice of Cobra Commander as Trapp hisses, “This one actually means something to you?”

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

What a jerk! I mean, it’s one thing to be evil, but this type of sadistic brutality is best left to Wendy’s fryer employees, and the guys who have to clean up after elephants in the parade. Y’know, people who DESERVE to be angry about their lot in life. Actually, now that I mention it, Dylan would make that list, too, even though he started out so strong. I still don’t get why Trapp wants either of the Chase children, to be frank, except for the fact that he’s crazy and evil and removed his own jaw to replace it with a garden tool, and stuff. Back at Casa Legale, Superman explains to the judge exactly what happened, and why Diana is protecting him. Sadly, the judge can only tell him that she can enter the evidence if and when it goes to trial, as the jury is already deliberating on the arraignment. Suddenly, there’s a call from Batman, with news. An hour later, Kate is meeting with Blue Beetle. She explains exactly what the DNA results from last issue show…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Well, Steve, it wasn’t a clone, but it was something just as heinous, a cannibal metamorph. But the question of who “his boss” is should be an interesting one. Suddenly, “Blue Beetle” attacks, but Kate is prepared, with her Manhunter armor on underneath her suit. He uses his malleability to get the better of her, even throwing her out her office window. Laughing that she can’t grow wings, Everyman starts to fly away, when Manhunter blasts him with her staff. He falls to the ground, grabbing a hostage, from the street. “I’ll kill her!” he screams… Kate isn’t buying it, Indiana Jones-style.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

They do all seem to use the same rude word to describe her. Manhunter returns to her office, pondering the question of who Everyman’s boss is, when her phone rings. The verdict on Wonder Woman is in…

…and it’s a cliffhanger, darnit! Mark Andreyko, you are an evil man. However, I’m very impressed with this issue (actually the whole #25-on arc), as the team seems to have brought their A-game (and pushed their A-level plots to the front-burner) to stave off cancellation. And by thunder, it seems to have worked. From the art to the story to the top-notch guest-stars, this issue is really pulling out all the stops, truly earning it’s four star rating while deepening the characters and relationships not only of the series’ mains but of DC’s big three as well.

4stars.jpg