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Manhunter #4

Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2004
By: Shawn Hill



“Secret Identities”

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

Publisher: DC

Plot: It’s “a day in the life” of your average ex-criminal stooge, and when a certain hardass DA tracks him down things take a turn for the worse … or do they?

“So, super-strength is, like, one of your powers?”

“Not that I know of. You’re just a wuss.”

What’s interesting: I’m reminded here of one of my favorite issues of Grant Morrison’s Invisibles (vol. 1), a sad tale of a soldier’s last day, as he was unlucky enough to enlist with the bad guys that tried to take down King Mob. But Andreyko works some interesting changes on this notion of super-villains’ minor henchmen, as “Dylan Battles,” hilariously placed in protective relocation after turning in some super-evidence, finds he’s just not liking his new life that much.

He’s got a girl and a kid, but Saiz’s strong, moody art depicts a menschy-looking every guy who’s really nothing special. He dresses poorly, he’s scruffy, he cheats on his hot wife (so none too bright with the ladies), he’s just going nowhere as a bad waiter in a shitty house in a poor part of town.

In fact, the only thing he had going for him was the tech skill he sold to criminals, and he even misses the humiliations and defeats of that lifestyle. It’s almost poignant; here’s a smart guy (brought to distinctive four-eyed and fuzzy individuality by Saiz), not driven enough to actually hatch any nefarious plots of his own, but not moral enough to refrain from helping others in theirs (his only motivation seems to be self-interest), and actually quite talented at working with high-tech weaponry and other super-tools.

Yeah, he’s the perfect patsy for the latest superhero on the block, the even more morally compromised but (importantly) so much more driven Manhunter. So when she singles him out as HER tech support choice numero uno (after her recent “work-related” damage to her super-suit), basically not giving him a choice in the matter and ruining both his cover and his love life in the process, even after roughing him up for little reason … it’s basically the best offer he’s had since going straight.

Yeah, this is how the road to hell is paved, which I imagine will come into greater contrast when Kate confronts the JLA next issue for the first time. J’onn is likely to see right through her. But this walk on the seamier side of the DC-verse, so far, is refreshingly frank, and while Manhunter is pretty much already a criminal herself, her unwavering confidence is a pleasure to read.



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