Or – “The Next Big Thing You’re Probably Not Reading.”

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Comics ain’t what they used to be. That’s certainly not a bad thing, especially if you use 1993 as your definition of “used to be,” but in a world of Attacking Amazons, Hulking World Wars, hugely vaunted relaunches and basic empire-building, you gotta question why a classic story of a woman fighting for justice and the people who support her has had such a hard time finding an audience. It’s a throwback to the old days of superheroing, with some fresh twists on classic material, and it’s been cancelled twice in the last twelve months even though it seldom fails to bring the awesome. Manhunter: It’s What’s for Dinner.

MH1.jpgManhunter is Kate Spencer, single mom, former prosecuting attorney, now crusading for both as a litigator and in her costumed identity. Her best friend is Cameron Chase, agent of The Department of Extranormal Operations, and she has close ties to Mark Shaw, a former Manhunter, as well as the mysterious Dylan Battles (serving as both her tech wizard and Cameron’s love interest) and JSA member Obsidian. Her uniform is reverse-engineered from Darkstar technology, her powerstaff is identical to the one Shaw used to use, and her claws were once used by Jean-Paul Valley as the reserve Batman. Proving that the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts, she has become a force for justice, working with members of the Justice League of America, even taking on missions alongside the Birds of Prey. Oh, yeah… the book is NOT cancelled, but because they thought it was, she’ll be taking a short hiatus after this issue so that the creators can get back on the stick.

This issue begins with Kate’s son, Ramsey, a cute kid of seven totally freaking out that Wonder Woman has come to his house. “OH MY GOD! Are you really Wonder Woman???” Heh. She tells him that she is, answering questions about her invisible jet (she doesn’t have one anymore), and urging him to get to bed, prompting Kate to think that Diana will make a spectacular mom someday. Trying to defuse the excitement, Kate asks her housekeeper (It’s Los Angeles. Apparently everybody has one…) to help put the boy to bed, and the woman responds, “AAAIEEEE! MUJER DE LA MARAVILLA!!!” That’s just too cute. Ramsey tells Diana, “That means Wonder Woman in Spanish, you know,” in the manner of an eight year old who knows it all. Once the household is settled, Diana and Kate talk about last issue’s interaction with a former member of Lex Luthor’s Infinity Inc.

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I like Andreyko’s take on Wonder Woman more than I like the version on display in her own book… Do you think that’s bad? Kate tells her what happened, and Wonder Woman feels certain that Everyman’s new powers came from magic… powerful magic, at that. Kate realizes that Diana is more troubled by the death of Blue Beetle than she lets on, and as she flies away, Wonder Woman whispers that she’s sorry, hoping that the essence of the Blue Beetle is out there somewhere and can here her. As for Everyman, he returns to form, once again a lackey for somebody who wants to kill a red-and-blue clad superhuman…

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Remember how Jerry Seinfeld used to say the word “Newman?” That’s exactly how I say “Circe.” Once again, though, I’m pretty sure this is tying into “Amazons Attack,” and while it’s annoying to see her AGAIN, I can see what they’re going for. I don’t APPRECIATE it, necessarily (haven’t yet decided if I’m buying AA), but I can certainly understand it. Back in Gotham, Cameron Chase, her baby sisters, and Dylan are all in the clutches of the nefarious Doctor Trapp, who is about to tear out Dylan’s throat to try and hurt Cammy. Thankfully, unlike Adrian Veidt, he IS a Republic serial villain and pauses for a dramatic monologue.

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Turns out that the uniform he borrowed is a variation of the Firefly suit, and Dylan? Not a gentleman to mess with, regardless of surface appearance. Dylan knocks Trapp (actually a Trapp-droid) into the wax and runs, with Terry quickly in tow, but before Cameron can escape, he homages Terminator, leaping out at her in the manner of Jason Voorhies. That could leave some burn marks (especially since Cameron wears low rider jeans.)

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I wonder if this was the ending as it was PLANNED, or if it changed now that the book will continue? Either way, don’t make Chase angry. Cameron and Dylan (and children in preschools across America just looked around to see who’s calling them) escape the hands of the evil Trapp, but I hope a beatdown of the Manhunter variety is in his future. That’d be most good, Henry… MOST good. And what of Mark Shaw, former Manhunter, currently haunted by the Kuh-NIGGGits of St. Dumas (not pronounced ‘Dum-@$$,’ by the way, but “DOOO-maaaaah”) and possibly crazy? Again? Well, Mark is attacked by ghost knights in the shower. You heard me. I’ll say this for him, being completely defenseless isn’t slowing the former Manhunter down a bit, as he quickly overpowers his foe and steals it’s weapon…

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“Got the point.” Heh. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of St. Dumas, nor the last of the “Mark as Azrael” motif. I wouldn’t mind seeing a full-fledged return, especially given the lack of a body for the seemingly-dead Jean-Paul Valley. In Gotham, Terry and Cameron are receiving aid from the paramedics, and given a statement to the cops (“This is Gotham City, lady. Your story isn’t even in the five weirdest cases I’ve heard TODAY.”) but Dylan has suddenly disappeared, having to return the armor to his “friend” Jimmy. We get a strange conversation, and a chilling look into what Dylan’s past as a lackey of supervillains might have been like…

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Part of me is not sure that the “cut out your tongue” bit is any kind of joke on Dylan’s part, and it’s strange to see that side of him. You have to figure a man who worked for villains got his hands dirty, but still… But calling a “Mr. J” in Gotham City? It ain’t brain surgery, folks. (That’s a guest villain I’ll enjoy seeing.) Next morning, in LA, Wonder Woman arrives (Ramsey is saddened to see her in a HumVee rather than an invisible jet. “Is it pathetic that *I* was hoping for the jet, too?” thinks Kate. Hee.) and they go to court for the reading of the final verdict. What’s it gonna be? Guilty. Wonder Woman is going to jail, forever, and Donna Troy will have to fill her bustier… Um. That came out wrong. Anyway, the REAL verdict?

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While I’m not thrilled with the message that some of the jurors received, it’s good to see that justice has prevailed (as we knew it had to.) Wonder Woman thanks her for her help, and tells her that she is needed, as both Kate AND Manhunter in Los Angeles before flying off to some emergency (perhaps the formation of the new Justice League? Who knows?) and Kate takes her lead and flies home. Flies? Mmm hmm. She’s learned how to use the staff to propel herself through the air (as seen up top) and it’s pretty awesome. Arriving home, Kate realizes she doesn’t have any normal clothes to wear inside, but is suddenly surprised by the appearance of an old friend.

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Yay! It’s Todd! The rumor mill is fulla crap! In any case, Kate goes inside for her surprise victory party, and we close our run with a happy family moment for everybody… But wait, say the Wayans Brothers, dere’s MOOOORE! Since this ISN’T the last issue, we get a one page tease of something happening in San Francisco, with a smiling, happy-go-lucky schmuck walking into a women’s health clinic. He walks out, whistling happily, disappears, and… the place blows up! To Be Continued? Uh huh! This is a very good issue, wrapping up the threads of what they thought was the last Manhunter story, giving us a realistic look at jurisprudence and the weird mixed messages people get from courtrooms (even the jury), but most of all, it’s a labor of love.

The art is excellent, as always (even with three credited pencillers) and Andreyko has given us a huge bite of Manhuntery goodness, emphasizing what makes the character special (her LA setting, Ramsey, the supporting cast, a lawyer job that occasionally involved a COURTROOM [I’m looking at you, Murdock…]) and creating what would have been an awesome swan song. On that basis, I’d have given it 3 stars, but since there’s a next issue, I’m feelin’ the love, and boost it up to 3.5 stars out of 5. (Yes, Tommy, it’s as good as JSA #4.) This is DC Comics embracing it’s history and the ever-expanding universe, with a strong central character, good story and good art. Isn’t that what comics SHOULD be?

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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. Mark I.
    April 27, 2007 at 2:37 pm — Reply

    “The Next Big Thing You’re Probably Not Reading.”

    No kidding…no comments here, 14 comments on the latest “Avengers B-Team stand around and reminisce hooterfest.”

  2. April 27, 2007 at 3:27 pm — Reply

    Mmm. That’s cool. This is why I actually do three different types of recaps… Mighty Avengers falls under the header of “Stuff That Spoiler-heads Wanna Read.” The second type is a little more rare, as with the last issue of Civil War or the Cap #25 recaps, the “Issue So Notorious I Drop Everything And Cover It Now.”

    The monthly Manhunter reviews (as well as most Retros, the Hero History, Birds of Prey, the late, lamented nextwave, Checkmate and probably Shadowpact) fall under the header of “Crap I Want To Write About, DAMMIT!” and are actually written into my MajorSpoilers.com contract, along with my retreat in Lichtenstein, the three gold Ferraris and my harem of tiny Russian women in leather panties…

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