Review Date: 10/31/2008

 Title: MANHUNTER #35
Story by: Marc Andreyko
Art by: Michael Gaydos, Carlos Magno
Colors by: Jose Villarrubia
Letters by: Sal Cipriano
Cover by: Liam Sharp
Publisher: DC Comics

     DC Comics has had many different Manhunter superhero personas over the decades.  I'm personally most familiar with the Jack Kirby-drawn Manhunter presented in First Issue Special back in the 1970's.
     The current Manhunter is the first superheroine to fill the role.  Kate Spencer is a Federal prosecutor who wears the superpowered Manhunter suit that gives her enhanced physical abilities.  Now up to issue #35, Manhunter has been critically acclaimed but has had a spotty and very erratic publication run, with DC twice announcing its cancellation then staying the execution. 
     With DC announcing that issue #39 will supposedly yet again be the last issue of the series, I thought I'd check-out the current issue to see if its worth getting on-board for the last 5 issues and/or checking out back issues or any future graphic novel reprint compilations.
     Issue #35, written by Marc Andreyko with art by Michael Gaydos and Carlos Magno, is part 5 of an ongoing storyarc entitled "Forgotten-Happy Hunting Grounds."  The main storyline is a high action plot in which Manhunter is rescuing several women captives from a facility in the Mexican desert which is manned by a small army of bad guys, each of whom has super-enhanced battle abilities.  Carlos Magno draws these pages, while Michael Gaydos draws the pages of a sub-plot involving Manhunter's family back home and her Federal agent ally Cameron Chase.
     This was an interesting issue that held my attention for a few reasons.  First, it was really easy to understand the basic plot, even though this is the fifth issue in an ongoing storyline.  I'm constantly complaining in these reviews that few single comics in multi-issue story arcs stand alone in allowing the reader to understand the ongoing plot, so its nice to come across one that actually is easy to enjoy as a single issue.
     Secondly, I really enjoyed the way Andreyko seamlessly wove other DC Universe characters in and out of the story.  The Suicide Squad and Birds Of Prey come into the story at key times, and fit well with Manhunter and her supporting story cast.  Third, the Mexican compound battle sequences are detailed and enjoyable.  Carlos Magnos's art for those pages has a very nice 1980's retro feel to me, which just seemed right and comfortable for the particular pace and action going on here.
     All in all, a nice, fun comic that seems to blend some old school and current style in an enjoyable way.  I can see why this comic has been the critic's darling to a large degree, and I personally hope that it gets another deserved stay-of-cancellation.  At the least, it deserves a graphic novel reprint in the near future.  So hop onboard with issue #35 in case this is the last segment of the series, and think about checking-out those back issues!

Issue Number: 1-SHOT
Title Story: New Krypton
Publisher: DC
Creator: Siegel & Shuster
Writer: Geoff Johns, James Robinson & Sterling Gates
Artist: Pete Woods, Gary Frank & Renato Guedes
Inker: Pete Woods, Jon Sibal & Wilson Magalhaes
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Steve Wands
Price (USD): $3.99
Release Date: NOW ON SALE
Genre: Super Hero

    DC is kicking-off the "New Krypton" storyline concept this week with a one-shot Special, written by Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates, and drawn by a team of eight artists.
     Picking-up from the recent storyline events in Action Comics, Superman has defeated computer villain Brainiac and rescued from him the famed shrunken Kryptonian bottled city of Kandor.  Located in the Arctic near Superman's Fortress of Solitude, the city is restored to normal size, immediately introducing a population of 100,000 potential Superman and Superwomen (along with Super dogs, cats, lizards, snails, etc. to Earth, come to think of it!) onto our planet.
     This intriguing World of Superfolks concept is enjoyably and effectively introduced in this one-shot issue.  Geoff Johns and his creative team partners deliver this fresh concept very well.  While a few sub-plots nicely weave Superman's Earth friends and family into the story, the main focus here is on Superman and Supergirl reuniting with Supergirl's Kandorian parents. 
     The landmark family reunion seems a bit brief and light on emotion.  However, Johns and partners do an excellent job of using the family reunion to focus on the quickly developing dilemma of how to integrate differing human and Kryptonian societies onto one shared planet.  With a very effective example of super Kryptonians just not getting how life on Earth works, they present the dual points that the two societies are extremely alien in thought processes to each other, and that no one will be able to halt the inevitable upcoming clash between the two races.
     Much credit is due to DC for introducing this enjoyable new spin on the traditional Superman/Krypton comic society.  The second issue of this multi-issue storyline continues in the upcoming Superman Issue #681.

"Haunted House, Chapter One"
Written by: Joshua Dysart
Illustrated by: Alberto Ponticelli
Colored by: Oscar Celestini
Lettered by: Clem Robins

     DC Vertigo has just issued a reinterpretation of the classic Unknown Soldier comic book series.  I still own my "Origin Of The Unknown Soldier" issue from the early 1970's, when the Unknown Soldier was set in World War II.  Vertigo's issue #1 is written by Joshua Dysart with art by Alberto Ponticelli.
     In the new version, we learn in issue #1 that the Unknown Soldier is Moses Lwanga, a pacifist doctor who returns home in 2002 to Northern Uganda from life as an expatriot in the U.S.  Along with his physician wife, Moses tries to bring a small amount of peace and humanity to atrocity-torn Northern Uganda.
     As Moses settles-into his wartorn humanitarian role, the reader learns of the tribal conflict history and ongoing civil war atrocities that make-up this struggling African land.  The plot then shifts to Moses struggling to maintain his pacifist outlook, while his subconscious begins to manifest a more violent reaction to the genocidal horror that surrounds him on a daily basis.
     This internal struggle comes to a head when a local boy is mutiliated by rebels; Moses snaps and in retaliation kills a child rebel warrior, and in an act of self-loathing physically mutilates himself, setting himself on the road toward becoming the 2008 version of the Unknown Soldier.
     This is a tough comic to read, full of graphic depictions of brutality and horror that unfortunately accurately reflect much of the civil strife within Northern Uganda and other war-torn African regions.  At the same time it is a necessary story, updating a classic DC storyline of one man trying to maintain his ideals of humanity and decency while trying his best to survive a violent wartime reality.
     This type of comic isn't created to be read for graphic entertainment, but rather for the reader to be moved by a graphic representation of the human condition in the worst of real-world circumstances, and how one person tries to maintain their own humanity in the face of such an unfathomable situation. 
     In this regard, Dysart and Ponticelli's reinterpretation of DC's Unknown Soldier comic series is a worthy modern successor to the previous generation's version of this comic, interpreting the human condition on a par with Art Spiegelman's graphic novel Maus or the highly-anticipated upcoming Holocaust comic Judenhass, from Cerebus creator Dave Sim.
     As such, the good DC reader should give both this comic's subject matter and the creative team's quality effort the respect they deserve and buy a copy of Unknown Soldier #1.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

To end this week's column on a much lighter note, the latest contest challenge was to create your own "couch potato" superhero, one who has a unique power that doesn't save the world, but instead makes life a little easier in a lazy-ass, Homer Simpson, couch potato way.

We received some interesting and creative submittals.  Mike Dooley gives us "The Palm Piloteer," whose power is to appear when needed to those too clueless to work their Palm Pilot and remind them of whatever said Palm Pilot would if the fool could work it. 

Dave Gordon (for the sake of disclosure, my brother) gives us "Neo-Relative Man," who with a wave of his mighty hand can make you instantly unrelated to any relative you can't stand.  Also for the sake of disclosure, he was not inspired to create this superhero due to being related to me!

And finally, we have our winner (drumroll, please)...Joseph Sawyer's unnamed mundane hero who has the convenient power to "convert" any beer he drinks to gasoline.  Joseph elaborates that this power is particularly mundane, in that said hero can pee no more than one gallon of his wonder elixer per day, and as such only uses it to gas up the car to go get more beer, pizza and chips.  Lends a new meaning to comedian Mike Myers observation that "you don't buy beer, you just rent it!"

Congratulations to you, Joseph, I think the best superhero name that your unnamed mundane hero deserves would be "Homer Simpson"! Stay tuned for a new contest announcement in an upcoming review column!


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