And now, on to DC’s ongoing series that sturbornly refuses to go away; Manhunter.This is one of the first comics to really test me as far as accessibility goes, because I know very little about it other than the basic premise (the main character is a lawyer by day, vigilante by night). Unlike Spider-Girl, I haven’t followed it before. Unlike Usagi Yojimbo, it isn’t a straightforward, done in one story. Unlike Justice, it isn’t an old school story bout the Justice League (even if it does feature Wonder Woman prominently). And unlike Rex Mundi, it doesn’t have an extensive amount of “Story so far” material.Â All it has is aÂ clever Blue Beetle cover(even if he’s sporting some ugly crosshatching corteousy of Howard Chaykin) and a thematic link to Spider-Girl in that it’s survived cancellation.
But how’s the story, you say? Well, you know, it’s not bad, but I can’t really see how it’s gained such an adoringÂ audience from this issue. Which isn’t really fair, as it’s in the middle of a storyline, but that is, as they used to say in the Senate, tough titty. Especially because that cover might very well attract new readers who haven’t been following the title.
There’s a fair amount going onÂ in writer Mark Andreyko’s story. The main plot involvesÂ Wonder WomanÂ being tried for the murder of Max Lord. You’d think that this would be something they’d mention on the cover, even if being an Infinite Crisis spin-off is a bit passe by now, but I guess they figured Blue Beetle would be enough of a selling point. As far as that goes, he doesn’t show up until the end (and yeah, he shows up), so it does at least give people who bought this issue for him (I’m probably assuming that’s a bigger number than it probably is) what they were looking for, even if it took a whole comic they may not have ever been interested in reading to get there. Pretty sneaky, Andreyko!
Anyway, back to the non-Blue Beetle bits. The Trial of Wonder Woman stuff is competently done. I wasn’t a big fan of Andreyko’s Diana, but I’m not sure if he’s just going with the flow of how other writers are portraying her or if it is as out of character for her to be this naive and alien to American culture as it feels to me. I’m not a purist on these things, but her characterization kind of bugged me.
The courtroom scenes were sparse, which is fine by me. I don’t have much interest in lawyer fiction in other mediums, and there hasn’t been enough of it in She Hulk for me to tell if I like it in comic form (of course, I’m very far behind on my SlottÂ She Hulk reading, and I imagine he’d handle any extended court room scenes with the kind of lightness of touch that I wouldn’t mind them).
As far as factual accuracy, I checked over at Suspension of Disbelief, and Loren didn’t seem to be tearing it to shreds or anything, so I guess it passes the test. He’s
anal retentive thorough enough to deconstruct this kind of thing. Of course, my eyes glaze over after any extended period of time reading anything about stautes and what not, so maybe I missed it.
There are a fair amount of subplots in this issue. None of them really get much explanation. What I’m particularly interested in are the pages devoted to the Chase subplot.
I was able to follow them perfectly well, but then, I’ve read Chase. Given that it was cancelled many years ago, after nine issues, and has yet to be collected in to trade format, I’m willing to be that a good chunk of the audience hasn’t. So I have no idea how accessible that would be to readers who had no idea who Chase was. You some information on her dad’s superheroing days, you learn she has powers, you find out why she’s in Gotham,Â you even learn a little bit about her boyfriend. ButÂ I still have to wonderÂ how lost anyoneÂ who has no clue who Chase is might be.
There’s also what looks like an ongoing sublpot with some guy I’ve never heard of named Mark Shaw, which seems to be referencing Azrael continuity. Why I should give a crap about Mark Shaw is never really established.Â Â Andreyko even shoves in aÂ short interlude setting up a Checkmate crossover/guest appearence, probably for next issue, that gets overshadowed a bit by Blue Beetle showing up on the last page.
The art is fine. Tells the story well and all thatÂ jazz. I feel like I need a really poorly drawn comic to cleanse my palet, because there are a lot of good,Â not flashy but still workmanlike pencillers out there, and it gets boring trying to describe their work, and since I’ve read some amazingly well drawn comics (from the mainstream, even!) lately, I think I really need a bad one.
Fernando Pina and Robin Riggs did capture a great facialÂ expression from ChaseÂ in on particular panel that reallyÂ cracked me up.Â TheyÂ didÂ do facial expressionsÂ pretty well, and the reveal of the Beetle was well done, but otherwise,Â I wasn’t flooredÂ by their work. They did a lot right, but I can’t say anything really superlative about their work here. Their rendition of Wonder Woman is a good example. Perfectly well done, a different face and body type than Kate Spencer or Chase, not exploitive in the least, but I will forget it in like a week.Â Of course, this may be the leastÂ dynamic comic ever to feature Wonder Woman, so it’sÂ not likeÂ they had a chance to show off.Â
I didn’t find Kate Spencer a compelling character, but again, that could be because I am a male chauvanist pig. Or I like my female superhero lawyers green and funny. It’s kind of interesting that she didn’t do any superheroing the whole issue, and I didn’t find that particularly objectionable (even if other people might be disturbed by the distinct lack of anyone named Manhunter running around, or any connection to the previous rendition of Manhunter at all). That said, it might have helped, as she didn’t come across as much more than the driven, cynical lawyer stock character transferred fromÂ Law and Order or Boston LegalÂ to comics.
All the Chase pages made me realizeÂ was that I wish there were still a Chase comic, but Andreyko had a good enough handle on her (and that last page appearence of ol’ TedÂ Kord) have me just interested in this one enough toÂ at least consider picking up the next issue.Â
AsÂ far as jumping on points go, there could probably be a better one than this for this series. I did notice that there’s a new trade out, so maybe you’d do better in picking that up than a mid storyline single issue. I’d actually be interested in seeing how accessible others found this, especially with all of the Chase stuff.
Next time: The most popular comics anthology in the world! If I can actually get through an entire issue of Shonen Jump without my head exploding.Â Even odds there, I think.
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