Monday, May 7, 2007

manhunter 4

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

The contrite remorseful Kate Spenser we saw last issue is nowhere to be found in this issue. Also there is no mention of Ramsey, only an almost psychotic drive to make one portion of her divided life whole again (more on this aspect in a later posting). Once again the issue opens with the 1st panel highlighting a Batman villain, Two-face again. But unlike issue 2 he is not surround by Arkham escapes, but fodder for Blackgate, those no name helpers that are quickly smashed via Batman before taking about his main villain. Does Andreyko want to be writing Batman. Will Spenser somehow develop into female -- dare i say it??? -- Batwoman? I would say no, he is just establishing his characters in knowable contexts. Though this logic is immediately questioned by using Killer Frost and Black Manta as two other contextualizing villains. Oh, but that's right, DC only knows how to market itself to longtime DC comic readers. So anyone picking up this book will already know all three major villains. But who is this face in all three panels and why is Batman, Firestorm, and Aquaman kicking his ass? I guess Blackgate's doors open as liberally as Arkham's.

So we have the introduction of yet another major player in Manhunter's life, a "'Go-to' tech guy for psychotic killers and sadistic megalomaniacs," who is now in the witness protection program, of which Spenser help put him into. And Dylan's introduction is downright genius. We first unknowingly saw him in issue two, as he accidentally poured a milkshake down Spenser's suit. It was played for laughs, but it was here where Spenser realized who he was and that she could enlist him in being her tech guy. His more proper introduction is being beat by superhero after superhero and then browbeat by his wife. The 1st time we see him current day he is in full loser mode and mowing a very unkempt lawn and missing his old life. Here in his rundown home, with his disinterested wife, a bad haircut, and a wardrobe screaming for euthanasia, Dylan is shown at his most miserable. The genius comes in when Andeyko uses one of his sparsely used splash pages showing Dylan doing nothing but attempting to mow the yard. And by looking at the page, not doing a good job at that. In just a page we can see just what a malaise he is in. And while he is at his lowest point Spenser swoops in with an offer to give his life meaning again.

And with that offer Dylan's life changes instantly. His wife leaves him because "there is a part of your life you don't want to share with us, so I'm making it easy for you. I'm leaving." And out the door walks his mundane existence. He is ready to get back in the game. And while we are not really shown too much of his motivation, we can see that he is very different than Spenser. When his wife walks out with their toddler his only reaction is sarcasm and to watch them depart thinking to himself, "Well I guess that is over." And while he does not revert back to helping the criminal element, he goes back deep into his Metahuman tech role. This is the polar opposite reaction Spenser has when in issue 3 her ex threatens to claim full custody of Ramsey. She is willing to fight, Dylan is only able to revert back into a comfort zone he had been forced to give up. The difference in characters here (not to mention the already tense relationship) will likely lead to many moments of good fiction and a fun dynamic to watch.

While this issue seems mainly about introducing Dylan, and there is little action - hell, the Manhunter suit is only seen in the trunk of Spenser's BMW - the issue works quite well. It has nothing in it that will change the world, but it is a fun comic. If he is not careful, Anrdeyko is bound to create a highly sympathetic slime-ball in Dylan, as his ambiguous personality is so different that the rigid black/white perspective that the other leads take. Would he have gone back to the villain side if they approached him first? I would think so, as he is mainly interested in producing the tech. And for this it appears Spenser has found a boon like no other for herself.

The art again is much looser than issue 2 - what happened there anyway. And this issue ends with yet another rift on the darkness taking over Spenser's life. After enlisting Dylan we see Spenser in the DA's office looking up at large Metahuman's in near darkness. While she is silhouetted with only the light from the computer screen making her form visible, she hears 2 assistant DA's talk about how Shadowthief has killed Firestorm. And with this revelation the confidence is striped right off Spenser's face. Her inability to beat Shadowthief has lead to a death of a major - in powers, not in sales, obviously - hero. Her failure here has a direct effect just as her failure to put away Copperhead. And so the reader knows that Round 2 is coming.

I enjoy how this book is written with many story arcs meandering into one another and not for the trade paperback market. It has a very 80s story telling vibe to it in that way, but without the droning voice overs drowning it in verbosity. Anderyko really is excelling in telling a vibrant story about extremely flawed characters. So DC goes ahead and throws in an unneeded JLA appearance next issue. But more on that tomorrow....

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