Monday, May 7, 2007

manhunter 3

DC Comics
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Pencils: Jesus Saiz
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Letters: Phil Balsman
Editor: Joan Hilty

After the let down of issue 2, issue 3 is a rolling good time, with some nice pumping action and tons of emotion that was totally void last issue. The set up here is that there are two streams of story to track, one eight hours ago, Ramsey at the hospital, and one right now, Manhunter and Shadowthief, round one. Andrekyo uses some deft footwork to bounce back and forth from each story to make the change overs flow extremely well, all the while leaving the reader with a strong desire to get back to the other action.

The cover of this issue is superb in capturing the darkness overcoming Spenser's life. It is obvious that it is Shadowthief trying to muzzle her, but the stark contrast between the red of Manhunter's outfit and the creeping darkness plays extremely well to the of the challenges Spenser experiences in the 3rd act in this story. Truly inspired.

And where issue 2 lacked any action, the first page here blasts forth with no less than a "KABOOM" from Manhunter's staff, firing off into the night. This echoes the explosion at the conclusion of issue 2 and her frustration with Ramsey's hospitalisation, that the reader is unaware of when just opening the book. But her inner monologue, far better this issue, does state that "an innocent child is fighting for his life." This is the 1st time Andreyko opens with the traditional splash page front and center, And here he uses comic book convention to aid his story in the best possible way. In fact he has been using the splash page quite judiciously, as a to focus on a jarring shift in point of view of a scene and to close both books with a violent bang. The reverberations of her attack here plays off these ending slash pages of so well. We see exactly what was able to pierce Copperhead's thick skull and just how badly injured Ramsey might be.

The next two pages provide us with the beginning of a great fight scene. As Manhunter rests on the top of a building, Shadowthief finds her and marvels at the notion that a woman killed "our friend" (for those who don't know, he is a bit deranged and talks to the many voices that live in the shadows he controls). The banter between these two characters resonates with a crisp bristling pulse that sets this issue apart from the previous two. Yet right as it seems he has her down for the proverbial count, we jump 8 hours previously to the Ramsey's ambulance arriving at the hospital and it is obvious that Spenser's concern has drowned out the confidence that will not swell again till she faces Shadowthief hours later. The expressions on her face as she realizes that she is helpless in helping her son are fantastically conveyed. I also like how Andreyko sets up a situation that more than resembles Spenser's powerlessness upon hearing Copperhead's not guilty verdict. Only this time, she has nothing to go get to make the situation 'right'. And thus the darkness from the cover begins to streak over her face, as her world comes close to collapse.

This also works to Andreyko strength of creating questions in the reader. Will he be ok? How will the take charge Spenser react to her helplessness? What is her ex going to say? etc... But before any of these questions can be addressed the reader is taken right back to the fight. As the punches fly back and forth, Andreyko makes light of one of the basest and damn near convoluted comic conventions ever, oh so smart verbal sparing as Manhunter thinks to herself: "The witty banter is hard to come up with on the spot. Maybe i should take an improv class at the Groundlings?" This is a damn neat perfect response to what is such an excepted fact of comic scripting. It is such an expected fact that, Andreyko does nothing to try and diminish the tit-for-tat, but just his sly comment on the act shows the reader than the writer knows this would never happen, but a fight in a comic without it just does not work. I also like to think that Andreyko uses this as a metaphor for Spenser's smoking. I mean how is she able to climb up buildings and go multiple rounds with Metahumans, all the while her lungs screaming for more air. But i have been known to project before....

And so after being nearly taken out by Shadowthief, Manhunter uses her staff as a flashlight to take away his shadows. And while i guess Hawkman should maybe just carry around a really strong flashlight, this would be a very bad ending to this fight. And Andreyko obviously understands this, and has the ever dastardly Shadowthief throw knifes at her to make her move her million dollar flashlight. And just like that, the action turns. Manhunter loses her staff and she precariously hangs on to the roof with just her fingers. So of course, a shift in the action to the equally compelling joust (verbal) with her husband at the hospital. And while their animosity for one another percolates at a ferocious pace, the best part of this scene is how Spenser's eyes are almost swallowed by darkness. You can see the guilt radiating off her face in every panel and the distress of not being able to do anything to help Ramsey is very evident. And when the Doctor states the injures and his unknowing if Ramsey will be ok, only prompts the darkness to overcome every space that Spenser is in. In fact when she and her ex are looking in on him, she is presented in almost silhouette. The art just stands out and makes this just such and emotionally compelling read. The art team does such a better job here than with the 2nd issue. The lines are not as thick and life nearly vibrates off the page, or sinks into it when it is called for. And as Spenser leaves the hospital her life seems to brighten up when she states: "at least someone likes me," as she reads a headline with those who approve of Manhunter's methods, 68 - 30%.

While she can not effect any change on Ramsey's condition, she is able to flee the scene and hope to do more good as Manhunter. Which leads up right back to the fight with Shadowthief, and Manhunter hanging on with just finger tips. And as he is quite sadistic, Shadowthief begins to remove one finger from the ledge at a time. Not a real original move by a villain, but one that surly drives a sense of urgency for Manhunter. But then Andreyko does something totally unexpected. And while he uses a massive dues ex machina coincidence to do it, it works ever so well. As Shadowthief's power is to command darkness and shadow, he can extend his limbs in much the same way Plastic-man can. Only as he removes Manhunter's fingers from the ledge, a searchlight form a helicopter separates his hand and fore arm from the rest of him. And Manhunter grabs it trying not to fall the many stories to the ground. And the best part about the next page is that Manhunter is falling off the building and Shadowthief is moving through the shadows down the building just as fast. But it is unknown who is screaming "AAAAAGGHHHH" as they move closer to the ground. It is such an effective way to convey the terror both must be feeling.

Yes, Shadowthief gets his hand back, and Manhunter does not go splat on the ground. She falls hard, "SMASH," on a sign jutting from the wall. And as Shadowthief scrambles to recover his hand, he tells her that she almost has his "respect, " but she "better be dead." But in proper James Bond villain fashion rather than making sure, he just leaves her on the sign. This is the worst part of this issue. At least make it seem that he could not fight anymore, rather than he is just too stupid to check. But Manhunter is alive, and banged up along with her staff: "my weapon is toast." The reader finds that she knows about as much about her outfit as s/he does as she states: "At least now i know the costume is armored." This continues to show Spenser's arrogance. She just jumped into fighting crime without even considering how it would effect those around her. The last page of the book (not a splash page) shows that she is forced to think about that now, as she looks in on Ramsey's hospital room window from an adjacent roof and a tear finally runs down her face.

Yes she killed Copperhead, but she lost her case against him. She nearly lost her son. She nearly lost her life against Shadowthief. Not much good has happened to Spenser and she ends this issue with something that is likely foreign to her, she needs to ask someone for help. She is obviously not used to failing, but she did it on such a grand scale in the first 3 issues of this book that she is practically succeeding at it.

This was such a better issue than number two and captured so much more emotion than the first issue. By far the best so far and it will take some mighty good writing to better this. And just who is she going to look to for help repairing her damaged equipment?

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