Manhunter #1: Street Justice
by Marc Andreyko, Jesus Saiz (DC Comics, 2005)

Manhunter is a different sort of costumed vigilante.

A federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, Kate Spencer attempts to put the villainous Copperhead away for life -- or death, preferably -- for a series of grisly murders, even cannabalism. But after he gets off on a genetic quirk, then escapes and kills his guards, Spencer raids the evidence room for a costume and some sort of power-driven bo stick, hunts him down and carries out his execution on her own.

Character is what carries this book. Spencer is certainly not your typical kind of superhero. She's tempermental, a chain smoker, a divorcee and an indifferent mom. She is driven by a sense of justice that she feels the courts can't provide, and she has no qualms about imposing capital punishment on those she deems worthy of it. She is in some obvious ways DC Comics' answer to Marvel's homicidal antihero, the Punisher.

But I have questions. Having read only the first volume of Manhunter's ongoing series, I can't say whether or not they'll eventually be answered, but they should have been addressed during this origin tale. For instance, whose costume did she steal, and why does no one recognize it? What are its powers, and why wouldn't she figure that out before putting it to use? What the heck is that glowing stick, whose was it, what does it do, how is it powered? And how did she learn to use both suit and costume on the fly in time to take down a fierce, fast and strong adversary?

And how did a lawyer become such a kick-ass fighter overnight? Spencer's backstory doesn't suggest any kind of combat or martial arts training, but she certainly has the skills.

Questions aside, I enjoyed this book in part because it is so atypical among DC superhero tales -- and Manhunter to date doesn't seem quite as insane as the Punisher. The writing by Marc Andreyko is tight and fluid, with the beginnings of a very interesting character's story. The art by Jesus Saiz (inked by Jimmy Palmiotti) is similarly fluid, crisp and a pleasure to read. Spencer, as devised by this team, is a realistic-looking woman, attractive without being overly buoyant, if you know what I mean, and her costume is practical instead of revealing.

I'll be looking for volume two of the Manhunter saga soon.

review by
Tom Knapp

7 June 2008

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