Manhunter #1

Written by Marc Andreyko
Penciled by Jesus Saiz
Inked by Jimmy Palmiotti
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I have a confession to make. A couple of months ago, I saw the solicitation for Manhunter while writing Things to Come for Ninth Art and I almost completely wrote the series off. Then I took a look at the creative team and I had to reconsider. Marc Andreyko’s writing on Case Files: Sam & Twitch and The Lost is rated high with me, and the Jesus Saiz and Jimmy Palmiotti art team was strong on Midnight, Mass and 21 Down. So I promised to take a look at the series and see if these three could make me a believer.

Assistant D.A. Spencer just lost a court case, the super-villain Copperhead getting a verdict of not guilty… and mere hours later, he’s killed more innocents. Now Spencer, ready to snap, makes the decision to take the law into her own hands. But how far will she go in her pursuit of Copperhead now that she is the new Manhunter?

With more and more books being written at a slower pace with eventual collections in mind, it’s refreshing to see Andreyko jumping right into the story with Manhunter #1. The book moves at a crisp pace, introducing Spencer and letting us see her in action both in the court room as well as in her new identity as Manhunter. It’s important for Andreyko to show the conflicted two sides of Spencer early on; this is a woman who’s sworn to help uphold the law, but has chosen to also to ignore the law when she feels wrongs have been done. It works well that Manhunter #1 is giving us her first experience in the role, because there’s a lot of story possibilities for the next issue—and Andreyko isn’t afraid to have her step well into the deep end from day one. My only request is that we keep learning about Spencer (heck, a first name would be helpful!); the snippets we’ve seen, like her personal phone calls or her dealing with co-workers, have been interesting but there’s so much more we need to know about her. It was an important sacrifice to make sure that Manhunter #1 hit the ground running, but let’s definitely see more in upcoming issues.

Saiz and Palmiotti’s art is even nicer than I remember it being from before; they’ve got such a nice way of drawing characters, both normal and fantastic. There’s a fantastic contrast on display in the court room, with Spencer in her business clothes addressing the jury while Copperhead is in a prisoner’s orange jumpsuit and with a special mouthguard attached to his face. You can see the disdain on her face, even as she keeps her words controlled and her stance professional. Meanwhile, Saiz draws Copperhead in prison as truly chilling, with his eyes looking almost dead as he just stares at his accuser, the hatred simmering below the surface even as he just waits for the moment where he can drop the facade and strike out once more. This is fantastic art, both in figurework and in storytelling. I love how the first couple of pages build from a far-away establishing shot to zooming in and focusing on the carnage and debris of Copperhead’s escape. It’s an almost cinematic feel to the book, keeping the reader’s eye moving through exactly everything they want it to. My only complaint is that the new Manhunter outfit is a little… dull. It’s extremely functional, something that I give Saiz a lot of credit for. But it’s essentially a red kevlar/leather bodysuit; I’d like to see Saiz give it a little more flare—just some sort of splash of another color into the mix would go a long way. (But please, keep the long sleeves and pants. It’s just so nice to see a female character’s outfit that was designed logically rather than “sexy”.)

I thought Manhunter #1 was a strong opening, but so much will now depend on the second issue. Andreyko, Saiz, and Palmiotti really kept the pace moving and I like the basic setup. If they can follow up with the right mix of stuff in and outside of the Manhunter suit, well, I think they may have a real hit on their hands. This is a tough marketplace to launch a new series, but I hope that they succeed.

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