R.I.P. Manhunter -- We Hardly Knew You

by Chris

They say that the third time is the charm. Apparently, this isn't the case for Marc Andreyko's Manhunter from DC. He announced on his Facebook page earlier today that DC has pulled the plug on the title as of issue 38. This is the third time that the book has been cancelled and it's doubtful we'll ever see any more issues. This makes me very angry and not a little bit ashamed that comic fans won't support a book like this. Despite critical praise, a rabid fan base (they got the book un-cancelled twice), and support from none other than Dan Didio himself, the book never sold enough to stay in publication. Superhero comic fans seemed unwilling to take a chance on a book by a writer who really isn't a big name and a relatively unknown artist in Jesus Saiz and starring a brand new female character as a new incarnation of a B-level DC character. This book had numerous strikes against it to begin with, but it should have sold better than it did.

The book stars Kate Spencer, a federal prosecutor working in Los Angeles. After Copperhead goes free, she decides that enough is enough, breaks into an evidence locker, and takes various super villain paraphernelia in order to hunt him down, thus becoming Manhunter. What made this book so good wasn't the superhero action, it was the character drama. Not that the action wasn't good. It was very realistic in that we saw Kate stumbling through these fights since she didn't really know what she was doing. You were never sure if she was going to come out of an encounter safely and sometimes she didn't. The action was secondary to the book, however. Kate was a single working mom with a tense relationship with her ex-husband. So we see Kate trying to juggle her work and her family life as well as trying to justify her own actions as a vigilante when she's also working as a lawyer.

The book was tied into DC continuity, as well. Not tightly, mind you, but enough to make it interesting. She's recruited by Cameron Chase to work for the DEO. She discovers that her grandmother is Sandra Knight, the Phantom Lady, and that her grandfather is Iron Munro. She defends Wonder Woman in her trial for
murdering Maxwell Lord. Oracle recruits her for jobs with the Birds of Prey. Obisdian makes several appearances as the boyfriend of an ADA that works in Kate's office. Her costume consists of a Darkstar uniform and the guantlets worn by Azrael when he was Batman. Her staff is a Manhunter staff, tying in to previous Manhunter continuity. The continuity wasn't used as a crutch, but more as a tool to make the stories that much more firmly set in the DCU. You could read the stories without knowing who the other characters were, but the experience was enhanced if you did.

There is plenty of stuff here to make DC continuity buffs happy, enough superheroics to shake a stick at, and enough character drama to tie it all together and make for a very enjoyable book. Andreyko wrote the hell out of this book, making all of the characters three dimensional and causing the reader to become emotionally invested in them. This was one of the best superhero books on the stands, but, due to the unknowns (new character, relatively unknown writer and artist), though, fans just weren't
willing to take a chance on the book. DC has taken three chances now and it's probably gone for good. Good-bye, Manhunter. We loved you.


Brandon said...

I guess I'm part of the problem; I had never heard of this book. Sounds neat, though.

Chris Ware said...

Well, now you know what a good job DC did of promoting it.