Review: Manhunter: Trial by Fire trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Collected Editions readers--why aren't you reading Marc Andreko's Manhunter? Diverse characters; great writing; sharp, consistent art--all the things Collected Editions supports. There's been some trade paperbacks that we've been on the fence about before, but Manhunter isn't one of them--this is the series you should be reading!

Manhunter: Trial by Fire is, admittedly, something of a departure from Street Justice. Part of twisted attraction of Manhunter is hero Kate Spencer's self-destructive tendencies, and in Trial by Fire we actually see Kate starting to turn her life around. The persecution Kate fears from other super-heroes never manifests, Kate manages a couple victories against big-time super-villains, and even Kate's relationship with her ex-husband and son seems to be on the mend. It's good for Kate, sure, but it does rob the story of some of its former drama, even as we know these good things in Kate's life are only the precursor of worse to come.

Instead, Andreko fills this "between time" in Kate's story with greater ties to the DC Universe. Nearly everyone who was ever called Manhunter gets a mention in this book, and Andreko offers some creative retroactive continuity that ties all the Manhunters (even the supernatural Chase Lawler) into the story of the most famous Manhunter, Mark Shaw, and positions Kate Spencer as his successor. Andreko also brings in to great appeal Cameron Chase of the late, lamented Chase series, figuring perhaps that a good cult-hit comics series deserves a cult-hit comics series supporting cast.

There's a strangely nostalgic feel to the Infinite Crisis tie-ins in this book. The first few chapters deal with a string of cookie-cutter villains in a vague tie to Villains United; similarly, the last half features a random OMAC attack that suggests ties between Maxwell Lord's Checkmate and the DEO. Infinite Crisis was not so long ago, really, to feel like a long way away, but the "pick a Countdown miniseries to tie-in to" era was a special time nonetheless.

My hope for the next Manhunter trade, in addition to more of Kate Spencer's trademark vim and vinegar, is that we begin to see some of the consequences of Kate's super-heroic actions. So far Kate's been lucky in that she's only been brought to kill Copperhead and the Monocle, and the one super-hero she's met, Firehawk, hasn't much cared. Kate has killed and essentially gotten away with it, and I think that contributed to the more free-wheeling (and more standard super-heroic) feel of this volume. In the next, hopefully the moral weight of Kate's decisions is more to the forefront.

[Contains full covers]

We continue reading the Manhunter trades with Manhunter: Origins, coming up next. Thanks!
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2 comments:

  1. You know, I keep hearing about all the titles that people aren't reading. This necessarily leads me to ask: well, what the hell are you people actually reading? I hear rumors about All-New Atom or Blue Beetle getting the axe, so exactly what are you reading if not those gems?

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  2. @BlackmarketPies: The big titles probably eat up a lot of people's comics spend - I know they do it for me. Things like JLA, Batman, Outsiders, Avengers, etc...

    Plus we've all seen interesting smaller heroes in innovative new series that never make it past issue 30 and we don't want to invest in a character who will be turned into a joke or cannon fodder after the 'good' writer leaves the hero ends up in a crappy book like Eclipso:) I used to like the Mark Shaw manhunter and look what happened to him:)

    Having said that this series is a cut above all the rest - I've just picked up all the trades and added #30 to my pre-order. I've not read such a good book since James Robinson's Starman!

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