22 March 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part II: Manhunter: Trial by Fire

Comic trade paperback, 222 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 2005)
Borrowed from the library
Read December 2016
Manhunter: Trial by Fire

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Pencillers: Javier Pina, Jesus Saiz, Brad Walker, Diego Olmos
Inkers: Fernando Blanco, Jimmy Palmiotti, Bob Petrecca
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterers: Jared K. Fletcher, Rob Leigh, Pat Brosseau, Nick J. Napolitano, Travis Lanham

This book is good but not great. Which is fine; lots of comic books out there aren't even good. But Manhunter seems like it should be great. All the pieces are there, and there are lots of things to like here. I like showing what happens when a supervillain gets arrested and goes on trial (Kate calls Hawkman and Superman as witnesses in the trial of Shadow Thief for the murder of Firestorm). I like that Superman takes the time to sign a photo for Kate's son. I like that Andreyko delves into the history of DC's various Manhunters, showing her as the latest in a lineage (DC's sense of history and tradition was the highlight of the post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint universe). I like that Kate isn't always nice, struggles with smoking, and has an ex-henchman she goes to for technical support.

When I told my wife (who is reading Manhunter along with me) that I liked it when Superman testified, she said, "Of course you did." I guess I am predictable.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #7 (art by Jesus Saiz & Fernando Blanco)

But the book never clicks as much as I want it to. The trial of Shadow Thief is interrupted by various supervillains trying to kill him so he can't testify against them, a mistrial is declared... and that's it, the storyline is over while they wait for a new trial to come along. The Manhunter stuff just gets confusing because there's so many Manhunters, and I've even read the issue of Secret Origins that organized all their histories into one coherent narrative. And bringing it all in for a five-issue story doesn't quite work because it pulls this series away from its core purpose a little too much: how does Kate carry out the kind of justice the legal system won't let her?

I mean, yeah, of course.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #13 (art by Brad Walker & Jimmy Palmiotti)

That said, the stories are decent. I like the sense of Kate as someone who struggles in combat, who is improvising and doing her best, and sometimes failing. She gets beat up, she suffers, but she plunges back into it all. She has tenacity and luck on her side-- she survives a fight with Cheshire, which might seem improable, but is mostly because she cares more than Cheshire. Cheshire is a hired gun and has a reason to just give up, while Kate has a dozen reasons to just keep going regardless.

The fakeout about who was killing Manhunters might have worked better if I could keep track of who they all were.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #13 (art by Brad Walker & Jimmy Palmiotti)

Anyway, I like it, and I'll obviously keep reading. But I'm still hoping that Manhunter delivers on its potential.

Next Week: Captain Atom crosses universes and experiences Armageddon!

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