Current Reviews


Manhunter #1

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2004
By: Shawn Hill

ďShedding SkinĒ

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Jesus Saiz (p), Jimmy Palmiotti (i)

Publisher: DC

A district attorney, angry that criminal meta-humans arenít being put to death, takes the law into her own hands as a costumed vigilante. Her access to the policeís cache of confiscated meta-weaponry helps.

Yeah, thatís a pretty conservative premise, one that Iím somewhat surprised to be enjoying so much. I suppose itís almost a basic one when it comes to super-heroes, as they have operated outside the law and in the service of their own version of justice since the genreís earliest days. Then they had plenty of Nazis, followed by Russkies, and ultimately alien foes to fight. Now, in the context of the DC-verse as it stands, Ms. Spencer has multitudes of meta-villains to take down. This series is reminding me a lot of Chase, actually, an earlier attempt by DC at a somewhat meta-human heroine involved in policing some of the darker elements of the criminal underworld, then at work for the Department of Extranormal Operations.

Ms. Spencer has not even the premise of an official organization to hide behind, however, as her agenda is strictly personal and singular. Itís always ironic for a DA to take the law into her own hands. Itís the very opposite of what her job is meant to be, and I hope Andreyko (whom Iím unfamiliar with) has the chops to explore that angle. Thus far, this issue is so rudimentary in its set-up, itís hard to tell where itís going to go.
But there are hints of many possible directions. The police procedural side is solid, and the method used to involve us in the story is somewhat similar to that going on in Identity Crisis now: shocking violence. Saizís Copperhead is a rampaging animal with no hint of humanity remaining. If his trial, detainment and escape are a bit by the numbers, his extreme portrayal as a non-human is shocking and intense.

Also interesting:
If Drew Johnson ever leaves Wonder Woman, Saiz would be a suitable replacement. He possesses a similarly clear and effective version of the DC ďhouse styleĒ (which to my mind involves anatomical accuracy, sensual contours, and drama provided by clear masses of shadow and light Ė Ivan Reis achieves this as well). Itís a shame Jae Lee isnít doing interiors as well as covers, as his style is far more singular and creative, but thereís certainly nothing wrong with the art. Itís sufficient to carry the bare bones story that I hope deepens over time.

Still interesting:
Iím curious enough about the main character to wonder what motivates her. What dark secret from her past sets her so against the super-criminal element? Thereís not even a hint of an answer yet, but there should be if the series is going to build momentum and interest. The old way to do a series of this type was to have volumes of interior monologue as the main character works her way through her problems. This issue is fully second-person, and barely omniscient narrator at all. Still, at least this is not an example of ďdecompression,Ē in that we spend half the book watching the hero decide to take an inconsequential action. This Manhunter acts quickly and decisively, as if coming to a decision long in the making.

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