31 May 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part XII: Manhunter: Forgotten

Comic trade paperback, 189 pages
Published 2009 (contents: 2008-09)
Borrowed from the library
Read March 2017
Manhunter: Forgotten

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Additional Artists: Carlos Magno, Dennis Calero, Fernando Blanco, Brad Walker, & Livesay
Colorists: Jose Villarrubia, Dennis Calero
Letterers: Sal Cipriano, Travis Lanham

In my first review of the series, I compared Manhunter to Alias. Well, for the final volume of Manhunter, the art is by none other than Michael Gaydos, the principal artist of Alias. But far from making Manhunter feel derivative, hiring Gaydos reveals the differences between Manhunter and Alias... though sort of in a bad way. What I mean by this is that superhero action doesn't really play to Gaydos's strengths as an artist, and Manhunter is much more action-packed than Alias ever was.

Gaydos drawing what Gaydos draws best: people having conversations. I would argue that he's one of few comics artists who can draw someone in a bra and not sexualize it.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #32 (art by Michael Gaydos)

In this volume, Kate ends up in El Paso when she hears about a lot of women going missing. To my immense pleasure, this means she ends up encountering Blue Beetle and La Dama! I was going to complain that Andreyko gets things slightly wrong in having Jaime's suit speak in English, but I think I'm slightly out of sequence here, so maybe this reflects events to come in future issues of Blue Beetle I haven't read yet. Jaime doesn't play a big role in the story, though, which sees Kate encounter the Birds of Prey and the Suicide Squad as she battles the evils of medical experimentation. It's a decent story, displaying Kate's stick-to-itivness and no-bullshit attitude, as she refuses to accept platitudes and non-explanations, and the way she handles things in the end nicely melds her two roles.

Hey, be nice to Jaime.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #32 (art by Michael Gaydos)

Meanwhile, Kate's grandfather has given Kate's son a robot dog, people keep assuming I care way more about the Manhunter legacy than I actually do, and someone who may or may not be the Joker is trying to kill off everyone Dylan Battles loves. I don't really care for the way Andreyko has handled the legacy stuff in Manhunter: the history of the various Manhunters is too convoluted by half, and he hasn't really tied it together as elegantly as James Robinson did the similarly convoluted Starman history in Starman. And making Kate be the descended of other Golden Age superheroes (though not Manhunter) weakened the character in my estimation, reducing her specialness.

Kind of a B-list Suicide Squad roster, surely?
from Manhunter vol. 3 #34 (art by Michael Gaydos)

The Dylan Battles storyline about the Joker ends up not going anywhere-- he goes to Gotham, and then the series jumps ahead for a "fifteen years later" coda. I get that Manhunter was cancelled, and Andreyko couldn't do all that he wanted to do... but this was a systemic problem with the series, which had a tendency to reshuffle and lose plotlines periodically. What happened to the idea that Kate was going to serve as a defense attorney to supervillains and win their trust? A big deal in volume 3, briefly touched upon in volume 4, and then not even mentioned here. So what was the point of all that stuff with Doctor Psycho? On the one hand, it's not Andreyko's fault his series got cancelled, but on the other hand, this was the third time it was cancelled (there was a four-month gap between issues #25 and 26, and a fourteen-month one between issues #30 and 31). One would think at a certain point, you'd learn and stop playing the long game by advancing four different plots incrementally every issue, and actually tie up something you set up as important.

The last two issues jump ahead fifteen years, giving us a flash-forward of all the characters-- and given that the New 52 came along a few years later, there's no reason to not believe that these events won't come to pass in the year 2025 of the post-Infinite Crisis/pre-Flashpoint DC universe. Kate's some Ramsey is graduating from film school, but his graduation part is disrupted by the return of an old nemesis of Kate's... not to mention the fact that Ramsey himself wants to become a superhero! It's a cute, surprisingly upbeat snapshot of all our characters. I wish that this series had ever lived up to its potential, but this was a nice way to go out.

Every member of the recurring cast gets a nice moment in the battle, but I do feel like the whole thing is missing a cheesy group photo for the full effect.
from Manhunter vol. 3 #38 (art by Dennis Calero)

(Interestingly, the solicit text for the last two issues on the DC website describes a completely different plot, so the decision to go with this one must have been very last minute. Eight years later, though, and no one's ever bothered to update it!)

Next Week: We've heard a lot about the all-new Atom, but what about the all-old one? Join The Search for Ray Palmer!

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