“Trial By Fire pt. 4: Disorder in the Court”
Writer: Mark Andreyko
Artists: Javier Pina (p), Palmiotti and Blanco (i)
Manhunter’s crusade for justice (not to mention Kate Spencer’s prosecution of the captured Shadow Thief) hasn’t just attracted the attention of heroes. The villains are organized these days, too, and they’re starting to take note of the threat she offers.
If there was ever a book that was ready for the changes Identity Crisis and now Infinite Crisis are wreaking in the DC universe, it’s this one. Manhunter’s Punisher shtick is already as dark as things are going to get. Unlike the other DC heroes, she has no comfy moral high ground from which to fall. By day a DA, by night she captures, subdues and kills the criminals the system (the system she herself serves) lets get away. Career criminals have NO rights to Kate, and Manhunter doesn’t dispense due process.
This is a conflict she has yet to fully resolve in herself, and so far it’s repressed to manifest only in scary visions; of being judged by the heroes she idealizes, and of endangering her possibly neglected child. However, as a costumed hero, she had an intense learning curve and rose to mastery quickly. Assembling her super-suit out of impounded parts, she is a DC-made heroine from the ground up. And unlike some more peaceful or team-oriented types, when she needed support, she didn’t go begging for help from geniuses. Rather, she conscripted her own high-tech servant, making a minor criminal an offer he couldn’t refuse. Lucky for her, he’s good at his work. Keeping her tech in working order turned out to be his life’s calling.
This issue, as her trial of the murderous Shadow Thief continues, the Calculator has sent Merlyn, Phobia, and the Monocle to take him out before he endangers them. Kate’s not much use against the kinky Phobia, but Manhunter holds her own against all three.
Phobia makes an interesting foe for the “butch” Kate. She has all the signs of a traditional femme fatale – she’s smart, stylish, kinky, sadistic and French. Since her debut she’s always reminded me of an escapee from a thirties sci-fi serial or an old Buck Rogers movie. She’s got that dragon lady, Madame Sin, exotic spidery quality. And why not? Some girls are more evil than others, after all.
Pina’s art is serviceable, but not up to the usual standard of Jesus Saiz. Palmiotti’s familiar inks help maintain a sense of dark, realistic continuity, but Blanco’s are a bit more sketchy. Still, these revitalized players are all familiar from their IC incarnations, and this is the perfect book to give them a memorable workout.
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