Manhunter #36

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Ray Tate

Ray Tate:

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Michael Gaydos, Jose Villarrubia (c)
Publisher: DC Comics

"Forgotten" (part 6)

Kate Spencer, alias Manhunter, the post-Crisis Huntress, and the post-Crisis Lady Blackhawk fly out of the violent aftermath of Kate's investigation into the mass disappearances occurring along the US and Mexico border. The Suicide Squad pulls aces out of their collective sleeves while Cameron Chase moons for Dylan (Kate's ex-con tech support), who is fleeing from his former employer, the Joker.

This issue of Manhunter exemplifies the dangers of walking a tightrope between science fiction and realism. The case on which Marc Andreyko bases his story is real. Over four hundred women last seen near the US-Mexico border have been reported missing. Like any good writer might, Andreyko took that nugget of reality and placed it at the centerpiece of his fiction. The trouble is that his story is set in the DC universe--and he emphasizes that fact within his story--which creates irreconcilable internal conflicts.

The Crime Doctor wiped out the Suicide Squad last issue through the use of nanites. However, we learn in this issue that the Squad already had nanites in their bloodstream which "kicked the ass" of the invaders.

The DC universe has nanites, and nobody thought to use them to fix Barbara Gordon's spine! My comment here isn't tangential. Andreyko juxtaposes cameos of Oracle along with HIV positive sidekick post-Crisis Speedy to the nanite-infested Squad. It's a preposterous proposition, and it's fair game for me to note.

If nanites exist, why aren't they being used to destroy viruses like HIV? I realize that Andreyko isn't responsible for crippling Babs Gordon nor the depressing creation of an HIV-positive superhero in a world where Superman can break the bonds of gravity. However, Andreyko is guilty of a misstep by bringing attention to these ridiculous anomalies. The emphasis on nanites breaks my willing suspension of disbelief.

These are not the only examples of jarring contrast. A reporter states:

Interpol and the European Union Nations are suspending Vesetech's operations throughout Europe. This is another blow to the already fragile U.S. Economy.
The many ways Babs Gordon's spine can be healed through imaginative implementations of science fiction have been ignored by DC's powers-that-be for decades. I expect no resolution even when in reality such advances as stem cells may be used to treat paralysis. However, you cannot ignore the reason why the US economy is in the toilet: eight years of an incompetent president.

Bush is the reason why the economy tanked. The war in Iraq uses up ten billion dollars a month, and the Iraq War is a prime catalyst for the economic turmoil. The deregulation of financing is added causation, and all of this was ushered in by the Presidolt.

George Bush isn't in the DC universe. Therefore, there cannot be a fragile economy in the DC universe, at least nothing so dire as our current affair.

Andreyko has Kate stage a press conference accusing Vesetech for the crimes--and it's good, if a little wordy, until he starts drawing in the DC universe:
The economic reverberations are far-reaching as well. Since Vesetech has close working relationships with multibillion-dollar businesses such as Wayne Industries.
No. Absolutely not.

I can accept that Batman did not solve the crimes at the US-Mexico border. Andreyko had the idea. So naturally he would use that idea as a vehicle for his character, Manhunter. That's the reality, but no way would Batman work with a sleazy corporation like Vesetech.

Retrofitting collusion between Wayne Industries and Vesetech is unacceptable and unforgivable. Batman is "the world's greatest detective," and he would definitely investigate the companies he does business with as Bruce Wayne. You may as well suggest Batman would work with Haliburton or Philip Morris.

Apart from these collisions, Andreyko's story suffers from rather poor characterization of the guest cast. Try as he might, he fails to convince me that the post-Crisis Huntress is anything more than cardboard. The attempts he makes are rather blatant, and he might have done better with a few subtle clues or hints at personality.

For instance, on page two, Kate asks Huntress, "You have any of your schoolteacher clothes I can borrow?" The phrasing is extremely awkward, and it's only there for hammering a foreshadowed teacher-thread later in the book--which also mentions Huntress's mob connections. I mean, what?

If DC hadn't wiped out the bona fide Huntress during the Crisis, and if she took her pale shadow's place in this adventure, would Kate have asked, "You have any of your lawyer clothes I can borrow?" It doesn't make sense.

Apparently, because this issue of Manhunter doesn't involve punching or kicking, Michael Gaydos illustrates the complete chapter. He does his best job to date, and the quality of his work doubles my sadness over the cancellation of this worthy title.

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