June 17, 2008

No One Escapes Reading Manhunter

Say the name "Manhunter" as it relates to DC Comics...and it's a loaded term.

Several heroes have been named "Manhunter". The most recent series has been canceled...and revived...and delayed...and the latest issue has just come out.

(The period between issue 30 and 31 was so great, this issue has a nice, 3 page "introduction" for new readers). It's a series with great word-of-mouth...yet, very few people actually seem to be purchasing and reading this book.

Which is a shame, because this is probably one of the most original, unique books being released by a major comics publisher. It is a very textured, very unique book that combines the best of many strains while retaining a sense of individuality.

In many ways, like James Robinson's Starman, this is a book that is deeply steeped in DC mythology. Kate Spencer (the title character) is the grandchild of two Golden Age-era heroes, a single mother, and an attorney who becomes disenchanted with the justice system. Taking the law into her own hands, she "borrows" some technology from an evidence locker, and becomes a superhero.

Manhunter has been described as "Law & Order with superheroes"...but I don't think that's entirely accurate. Yes, there are some traditional courtroom heroics, but for a DC book, there is an unusual amount of grittiness. (I'm thinking the Ed McBain school of police procedurals). This is not a typical female superhero who is incredibly powerful, has a very stress-free home life, and is "incredibly hawt". It's about a woman dealing with an incredibly complicated world, and there's a great matter-of-factness to this book - so much so that it's hard to believe it takes place in the rather optimistic DC Universe.

The only equivalent comic I can think of is Brian Bendis' Alias series for Marvel. Both dealt with women on the "fringes" of super-heroic society. Both series did not provide easy answers, or smoothly running lives. Things get complicated. Issues are often muddy.

But that's the strength of Manhunter - in a world where a strange visitor from another planet, a self-made detective dealing with childhood trauma, and a princess from a remote civilization all work for the common good, the trials and tribulations of one particular person seem irrelevant. But issue # 31 is a well-written comeback for a series that deserves your attention.

And quite frankly, without spoiling, the final page - that character and that line of dialog are worth it.

You may not think Manhunter is worth your attention, but if you haven't checked it out before, you're missing one of the better series out there.

Highly recommended.

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