Or – “Manhunter!”

It’s been a while since we’ve been treated to the adventures of Kate Spencer and her extended family.  Mark Andreyko’s Manhunter has actually escaped cancellation yet AGAIN, and now the armored Bird of Prey returns to active duty, with a new artist and a slightly new attitude.  But, what new wrinkles are in store for the best book you probably never bought the first two times it was cancelled?

Previously, on Manhunter:  Kate Spencer used to spend her time defending super-villains from prosecution, but a run-in with the homicidal Copperhead left her with a bad taste in her mouth.  She managed to build her own arsenal out of the replacement Batman’s claws, a discarded Darkstar uniform, Mark Shaw’s power staff and takes out Copperhead.  Her career(s) cause her to interact with many superhumans, including a run-in with her own nutso metahuman dad, and even a gig with the Birds of Prey. Her best friend Cameron Chase, and Cam’s boss Mr. Bones, the director of the Department of Extranormal Operations, even got her a high profile case defending Wonder Woman against murder charges.  Manhunter is continuing to balance her career as an attorney, a private life, and her superhero career, and you really should buy the first 30 issues, or at least the trades to enjoy some nifty characterization and storytelling…

This issue starts off with a very well-done synopsis of the previous issues (better than mine, by a long chalk) as Manhunter stomps across the top of a limousine (apparently in front of Mann’s Chinese Theatre) in pursuit of old-school Superman foe The Atomic Skull.  (Best.  Name.  Ever.)  Seems that ol’ Tommy is somehow convinced that the actress playing the female lead in a movie based on the movie from which he takes his identity is actually his long-lost lover, and is willing to kill red-carpet interviewers to get to her.  It was not, however, Joan Rivers who got annihilated, and I’ll leave you to make your own value judgement on that.  Before he can get to her, though, he is confronted by Manhunter, who finds her gauntlets warping when she tries to punch him, finds her powerstaff incapable of absorbing his blasts, and is just generally out-gunned.  What to do, what to do?  Take a page from the Ric Flair playbook!  In a fit of inspiration, ‘Hunter sticks her finger in Skully’s eye (or eyesocket) then breaks his fingers!  That… is hardcore.

Atomic Skull roars a super-villainy taunt, but is interrupted by an old school fistinnaface, then another, and another.  I don’t recall if this version of the Skull was invulnerable in previous appearances, but Kate’s repeated pummeling finally causes him to fall facedown in wet cement.  As one bad guy takes the dive, we cut to El Paso, Texas, where a group of what seem to be immigrants leave their night job at Vesetech industries.  Walking though a waiting mob of protesters (“Thay took our jeeeeeeeeeeeerbs!”) they climb on the bus and head for home.  Unfortunately, a young woman named Marta gets left behind, and when she tries to use her cellphone to call for help, finds it shot from her hand, then get shot in the leg.  An unseen something approaches her, and…

…we cut to Kate Spencer’s apartment, where our intrepid hero gets her son Ramsey ready for a day with great-grandma.  When she answers the door, however, it’s not Sandra Knight (Kate’s grandmother, and the original Phantom Lady) but the man who fathered her father, Arn Munro, aka “Iron” Munro of the Young All-Stars.  Kate is stunned and uncomfortable to see how much he looks like her long-lost dad (who, coincidentally, tried to kill her) and Arn is less-than-successful in his bid to build a bridge.  She allows that he can spend time with Ramsey, but isn’t sure she wants any part of “Iron,” herself.  As Ramsey goes off with his new family, Manhunter’s techie, Dylan Battles, tries desperately to rebuild her melted power staff.  He’s interrupted by the arrival of a package…

…which contains a severed head, and a note from one of the arch villains that he used to hench for.  But not just any arch, my friends…  No, this note is from… THE JOKER.  Apparently, witness protection isn’t as protective as one might think.  When she arrives at work, Kate Spencer finds her page to be very distracted, as he explains his missing cousin (the aforementioned Marta) and causes Kate to go look up the mysterious monsters of Juarez.  She’s horrified to find that over FOUR HUNDRED young women have disappeared in the area, and calls Director Bones, informing him of her plan to go to Juarez.  “Not a good ide, toots.  There are things at work you’d best steer clear of.”  He won’t elaborate, and Kate reminds him that she doesn’t work for him.  Instead, she calls her old friend Todd for a lift, and he obliges.  Of course, “Todd” is Todd Rice, Obsidian of the Justice Society of America, and the lift is one of their helicopters.  Kate thanks her friend for the ride, leaps out into the wilds, and almost immediately finds a body…  and gets a surprise.  “Hold it right there, lady…  or the Blue Beetle is gonna blast you to atoms!”  Yay!  “Is there any place on earth that doesn’t have their own superhero?” thinks an annoyed Manhunter…

I have to say, this book has been a favorite, and Mark Andreyko is on his form, delivering action, drama, a compelling hero (I’ve decided that I’m not thrilled with the term heroine) and a mystery.  He once again reminds me what I loved about this book (the interplay with Obsidian, Kate’s resourcefulness, the awkward moments with grandpa) and the art, by Michael Gaydos is really appropriate for the title.  Kate Spencer is fascinating, Manhunter is interesting, and you really should be reading this title.  The return issue is a solid 4 out of 5 star affair, and I highly recommend this book.  There aren’t a lot of title out there with a strong female protagonist, so it’s a rare treat to see one done this well…


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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  1. Josh P.
    June 13, 2008 at 2:55 pm — Reply

    Re: The Severed Head.

    Picking up on the plot thread of Dylan asking a favor from an old criminal type when he got the Firefly armor to rescue Chase. The criminal type promised not to tell anyone Dylan was still alive and then proceededto cal Mr. J.

  2. Adam
    June 13, 2008 at 4:32 pm — Reply

    A ”Thay took our jeeeeeeeeeeeerbs!” reference. Awesome, just awesome.

    Also, this book sounds fantastic. I love characters that interact with all of the ‘bigger’ heroes, but still remain more of a behind the scenes character. Plus Kate is a badass.

  3. Pat Wagner
    June 13, 2008 at 4:55 pm — Reply

    I wish the margins were better for comics publishers, then they could publish a few books just because they are so good.Movie studios do that(or used to). I got into this series purely from the trades. I will start to pick it up so the stories continue…..

  4. Baal
    June 13, 2008 at 9:23 pm — Reply

    I wish I liked the story more but I’m not much of a fan of the art and thought he butchered Blue Beetle. Andreyko also managed to get BB completely wrong in just one sentence…

    And to keep Manhunter alive, we just need to have someone win the lottery, order sixty-five thousand subscriptions, and send them to our Boys and Gals Overseas. SImplicity (or was that a bad TV show?)…

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