Monday, July 14, 2008

The Best Books You Aren't Reading: Manhunter

A few years back, Marc Andreyko, a rookie writer for DC, launched a book called Manhunter. It isn't the first book to bear that name - it's the third, in fact. But, while Andreyko made nods to the previous series', and indeed used many of the previous casts in his supporting cast, he and artist Jesus Saiz worked together to create a new person to wear the Manhunter mantle: Kate Spencer.

Kate Spencer smokes. Kate Spencer is a divorced, single mother. Kate Spencer is violent. Kate Spencer is fully-clad. In other words, Kate Spencer is everything you never expect to see in comics today. Hell, Marvel recently jumped through hoops vast, flaming, and cheesy to avoid having Spider-Man get a divorce, and most comics don't tend to deal with divorced single mothers. She's a lawyer on the West Coast, a famous prosecutor who loves to shut down the sociopaths and sickos of the DC Universe. But when Copperhead, a vicious cannibalistic murderer, gets off on a technicality, Kate takes justice into her own hand. She steals some equipment, blackmails a tech guy into helping her - does whatever is needed to get the job done. And what the job is, that first time, is putting a hole bigger than a fist through Copperhead's skull.

Kate may not be like the average DC character, but the tone and style of the book are pure DC. There's a deep sense of interconnectedness that Kate has with the past - one slow-burning side-plot throughout the series has to deal with her unknown father, and his past in the DCU. She's got connections to a number of bigger heroes, but she doesn't really care, in the end. All she wants is to stop these madmen from running loose.

The book has a solid, well-rounded supporting cast, ranging from her young son Ramsey to her co-worker's boyfriend, JSA's Obsidian. Mark Shaw and Cameron Chase are two old-school names that some fans might recognize, and they're both given a second life in the book, as is Director Bones.

Manhunter is a good book. It's not great, but it'll never let you down. It's violent, but fun, with more than a touch of criticism on the society that lets these people run free. But it never has that sense of "I MUST BE BAD-ASS" that pervades and often destroys the similarly themed Punisher books.

Manhunter just restarted. The entire first 'season', in a way, is collected in a series of four trades, and there are two issues out now in the second season, a perfectly fine jumping-on point, from the looks of it. Manhunter had a very near run-in with death a year or two back, as the book was on the verge of cancellation. An inordinately strong fan-campaign saved it, but good will and great fans only takes you so far, and the book deserves at least a shot.

Remember the deal? You buy an issue of one of The Best Books You Aren't Reading (just click on the tag below for a full list of 'em) and you don't enjoy it, I'll send you an MVL/DCL/MUN/promo EA or rare and I'll ask you to find some sort of contest to give the copy you didn't like away.

Sorry I don't have a plethora of images for you to enjoy on this one - I'll add 'em as I find 'em. As is, take it on my word: the art is good, the writing is good, the book is good.

Edit: Also, as a note, this was apparently my 75th post. Go me!

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