05 April 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part IV: Manhunter: Origins

Comic trade paperback, 222 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 2005-06)
Borrowed from the library
Read January 2017
Manhunter: Origins

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Pencillers: Javier Pina, Diego Olmos, Stephen Sadowski, Sean Phillips, Shawn Martinbrough, Rags Morales
Inkers: Fernando Blanco, Andrew Pepoy, Sean Phillips, Shawn Martinbrough, Bob Petrecca
Colorists: Steve Buccellato, Jason Wright
Letterers: Travis Lanham, Pat Brosseau, Phil Balsman

I feel about this volume a lot like I did about the previous one: the pieces are there for greatness, but the book isn't achieving it.

Part of this is that it isn't capitalizing on its own premise. The idea of the book is that Manhunter kills the supercriminals the justice system can't take down, but in this volume, she doesn't fight anyone like that: just her own father (and goons hired by him) and a new villain (I think) named Sweeney Todd who's a superpowered serial killer. This kind of stuff could happen in any superhero book-- but I always want to see each book be itself as much as it can. There are hints that we're going somewhere, though, as Kate is now a defense attorney, and there's clearly something up with her most recent client, Doctor Psycho.

Yes you are!
from Manhunter vol. 3 #21 (art by Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco)

The other part is that the book vanishes up its own backside sometimes. I like my superhero stories to be outwardly focused: it they're not out there saving people from problems that would exist without them, it's kind of like, what's the point? (For example, when Superman only saves people from invasions by General Zod that wouldn't have happened without Superman's presence, that would seem to indicate the world is better off without Superman.) Unfortunately, this is a very inwardly focused book in all three of its stories.

The first story is a short, one-issue tale of where the components for Kate's costume came from. Most exciting for me was that her suit belonged to one of THE DARKSTARS! Clearly when I called it a "forgotten DC space heroes comic," I didn't know what I was talking about, because ten years on, it's providing the background for Manhunter. (This is around the same time to when the Darkstars appeared in Adam Strange, too.) Always nice to see the Darkstars in action, even if the story doesn't even cameo any preexisting ones:
But why is his suit different from all the other Darkstar suits?
from Manhunter vol. 3 #15 (art by Stephen Sadowski & Andrew Pepoy)

Also we learn how the staff of one of the earlier Manhunters made its way to Kate, but the story really seems to be there to explain how ex-Manhunter Mark Shaw is a recurring character in this series even though he was killed off back in the 1990s. (Clones, man, it's always clones.)

The second story, "Who's Your Daddy?" is, as I alluded to, about Kate's father emerging to kidnap her son so he can try to do some kind of transfusion. It's okay. I don't find Kate's personal history very compelling, and the story probably goes on a bit too long compared to how interesting it is. Like, three issues would be fine, but it wears out its welcome at five. I do like me some Director Bones, though-- you gotta love a mid-level bureaucrat who just happens to look like a living skeleton.

Imagine this guy as a Dean or a Provost.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #16 (art by Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco)

The final story, "Psychobabble," feels, as I said, incomplete. It starts out as Kate defending Doctor Psycho, but then this Sweeney Todd fellows turns up, and there is also a diversion featuring Kilg%re, an old Green Lantern villain, and then the whole thing really delves into Kate's backstory, showing how she's not a descendant of the Golden Age hero she thought she was, but two different Golden Age heroes. Honestly, this feels like a misstep-- I prefer when my unpowered heroes are ordinary people who decided to step up, not people with Secret Pasts and Destinies. It cheapens what I think is the appeal of the superhero genre.

Like, I know about DC Comics, and I have no idea what this lady is going on about.
And is that even really "ironic"?
from Manhunter vol. 3 #23 (art by Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco)

The one-year jump that happens in the middle of the book is a bit jarring, mostly because you have to infer a little bit too much about Kate's changed circumstances. Why did she become a defense attorney? I think I know why, but it would be nice if someone came out and said it.

Still, there's a lot to like here. Like I said, Director Bones is fun, and the subplot about the reporter who's been stalking Kate resolves in an unexpected and darkly comic way. Javier Pina is a solid artist, the right one for this book, with a realistic, grounded artistic style. Cameron Chase ending up in a friends-with-benefits relationship with Kate's tech guy is also pretty funny. I'm not sure what I think about Kate's assistant Damon dating Todd, the son of the Golden Age Green Lantern-- feels pretty small world, though it does lead to some nice moments.

I can't say I expected a Kilg%re reference, though given the depth of obscurity in this book, maybe I should have.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #22 (art by Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco)

So we'll see where this new set-up goes: I can see potential in it, but Andreyko didn't exactly deliver on the potential of his first set-up, either.

Next Week: A new Blue Beetle crashes to Earth in Shellshocked!

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