8.03.2006

Best Title Nobody's Reading

Manhunter #1-24 (DC): Kate Spencer is a Federal Prosecutor. She lives in LA. She's a Mom. She's divorced. She believes in the criminal justice system. But, the system is fallible. Sometimes guilty individuals successfully walk. She has a Darkstar suit, a Manhunter's staff, and Azrael/Batman's gauntlets. But she's *not* a superhero, just ask her. Marc Andreyko, Jesus Saiz, and Jimmy Palmiotti (with Jae Lee on covers) kicked off this layered, humorous, and introspective work. The thing about Kate is that she's new at this. She makes mistakes. She's navigating her way through tenuous moral ground as she faces Copperhead, the Shadow Thief, Cheshire, Merlyn, the list goes on and on. She's attempting to invent a moral code for herself that allows her to cope with life. She gives the justice system a chance to work, if it doesn't she ensures justice, not for revenge, not because she enjoys it, because it's the right thing to do. She's fallible, and we watch her as she struggles to deal with her son, her ex-husband, her reformed techno-gadget supplier Rich/Dylan, and all the while... she's troubled. She's troubled in a way that reminds me of Jessica Jones in Alias. Maybe Andreyko picked up some of this angst from Bendis early on, but it manifests itself here in a very engaing ride. There are guest stars galore, JLA'ers, Firehawk, Director Bones, and one of my most favorite inventions of all time, DEO Agent Cameron Chase. Cam is in the majority of this book, a recurring character that is deeply involved in Kate's life. I don't want to give away all of the secrets, but this book really reminds me of Starman, suffice it to say, Kate is deeply connected to the superhero community through her family. Manhunter's ongoing ability to weave itself into established DCU continuity and make connections with previous generations of characters is really well done. The creative team is able to take little used scraps of information and create a rich fabric of story for us to enjoy. We look at old characters in new ways, perk up at familiar names and events, and are delighted by the new journeys that fresh characers are placed in. In a recent issue, Executive Editor Dan DiDio tells us the story of how Manhunter was saved from cancellation. Thank God. It is imperative that we all support this book. For my money, long runs of stories like this (and Starman by example) are where DCU continuity is really built. Where DCU history is really made. It's not the big events, tie-ins, and spin-off series. The shock and awe of those fade with time. Real continuity is built by displaying the arc of a character over months or even years, laying the groundwork for other authors to explore and expand upon. Books like this become self-perpetuating phenomenon. The more that history building runs of books like Starman and Manhunter and Sandman are allowed time to thrive and develop, the more creators are encouraged to riff on them and weave their own ideas into the mix. It's books like these that inspire additional content for future generations of comic book readers. Grade A-.

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