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Manhunter #31

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2008
By: Shawn Hill

Marc Andreyko
Michael Gaydos
DC Comics
"Forgotten" (part 1)

Plot: Someone is preying on female migrant workers in the maquiladoras (sweatshops) along the California border? Not on Manhunter’s watch!

Commentary: Time has passed (three years since I last wrote a review of this title, in fact) but not much has changed for Kate Spencer. Well, she now works for the D.E.O., meaning she’s come to accept a bit more that her mission to punish evil superhumans has made her into a superhuman as well. Now she defends them good and bad, for her “sort-of-boss” Mr. Bones. She also continues to pursue her own agendas off the clock, and struggles with trying to raise her child and have some sort of life, too.

She still has ex-con Dylan at her beck and call as her costume technician (since her powers come from confiscated technology), but her list of allies has grown beyond her faithful servant. Chase, the Birds of Prey, Obsidian, even the JLA have come calling in times of Crisis. She’s much more connected to the larger DC world than she was pre-hiatus, which is a smart move. She’s an exciting and unique character who augments that world.

These new connections have made her more prone to having guest stars, a common strategy for new books, struggling books, or books about super-heroines. Looks like next month’s friend/foe will be Blue Beetle. Certainly the murder mystery is the freshest part of this renewed title this month; Andreyko doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects like NAFTA, migrant work conditions, sexism or racism, and that’s good, because neither would his heroine.

Manhunter always jumps right into the midst of battle, and gets hurt along the way. But after each of her setbacks, she’s come back stronger, usually with major upgrades. She’s clearly picking up this super-hero thing, even if for her it’s never going to be about praise.

Her mission is more creature-of-the-night and based on fear, like Batman’s. She’s got psychological scars (or, as she says this issue when meeting her grandfather, “My history with men in this family isn’t pleasant”), and rather than make her depressed or suicidal, they’ve made her angry. She can’t stand to witness injustice, and she’ll do whatever it takes to end it.

Gaydos, a welcome new addition to the Manhunter team, has dealt with struggling anti-heroes before, both with Daredevil and with Jessica Jones. But while Jones, in her post-“Jewel” private eye phase was equally determined to succeed despite frequent setbacks and missteps, Kate’s approach is not so fraught with insecurity. If anything, her greatest dangers come from her recklessness -- she takes on the big boys, whether she’s ready or not. She’s a trained lawyer, after all. Who knows, she might just get lucky. I’m sticking around in hopes it never runs out.



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