Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Back Issue Bin: Manhunter #1

I continue my deep dive into Mark Shaw's character in anticipation of the upcoming Leviathan Checkmate mini-series. Our next stop is the Manhunter series from the late 80's. 

Today I will cover Manhunter #1 as a solo post. The point of this deep dive is to look for historical clues in Shaw's life that might lead him down the path to Leviathan. I don't know if every issue will contain enough to be it's own post so I may cover several at a time. 

But given this is the first issue and sets up the title, I thought it deserved the space. And honestly, I have only read the first two issues of this back when it came out. So I will be discovering this along with you. 

Manhunter was part of an explosion of new titles coming out from DC in this time period.  Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale with art by Doug Rice and Sam Kieth. Sam Kieth!

Ostrander was writing Suicide Squad at the time, a sort of darker take on the underbelly of the DCU. Unlike that book, Manhunter looks like it will have a more jovial nature. Shaw here seems to be more of an easy-going, wise-cracking hero. So it will be interesting to look forward and see if things change in tone.

Rice and Kieth bring a sort of manga style action to the proceedings here. There is some pizzazz here, some energy which very well with the action.

From Manhunter to Privateer to Star Tsar back to Privateer and now back to Manhunter. Let's get ready for this chapter of the character!

We start out with a nice splash page and a nice quote from Moby Dick, talking about the masks men wear.

We hear Shaw say how he was a hero, a villain, and a hero again. But now he is a hunter. 

This is the first time we see this Manhunter costume in an issue. It is a nice mix of the Paul Kirk, wide-shouldered, Walt Simonson costume and the original red Manhunter costume. 

But the shoulders, the boots, the color scheme, the Electra fabric ties, it all works.

Shaw is now a bounty hunter. 

It is interesting to hear him call the Manhunter mask his 'business face'. You wonder if he still has some ties to that as his real self.

And he is armed with the Manhunter power baton, albeit with some modifications.

Now he is the Manhunter.

This bounty was on retrieving a precious necklace, The Roc's Egg.

No surprise, given its bird name, that the Penguin grabbed it.

Funny to see Manhunter break in when Cobblepot is in the bathtub. And funny response when Penguin asks if he can put on clothes. This is that wise cracking persona I talked about.

I do like how Penguin knows who Shaw is. He knows Shaw went to prison. He tries to tempt him. It is clear that Manhunter doesn't have a secret identity. People know him and who he was. After all, he doesn't like secrets.

After seeing Shaw in action, seeing some of the baton's power, we meet our first supporting cast member.

Lieutenant Best is a tough cop who has to deal with Shaw's bounties.

You get the sense here that Best is a 'by the book' guy who doesn't care about costumed folks. And Shaw's 'I come here because it is on my way home' jokiness probably doesn't go far either. 

While Shaw represents the 'good side' of bounty hunting or mercenary work, 

We see a drippy faced killer named Dumas assassinate Reverand M'Butu, someone striving for equal rights and cut down by order of a Mr. Van Damm.

And much like Shaw, we see Dumas also has a mask. So now we have our foil.

And now we meet more supporting cast, Shaw's family.

Shaw sneaks in as one of the help so he can enter the house safely.

We meet his sister Eleanor, who just passed the bar. We meet Eliot and Rose, his parents.

And we meet James, the half-brother, Eliot's son from another woman, who is angry about the shame that Shaw's new profession and persona is bringing upon the family. 

We know a lot about Shaw. But we don't know his family. So this is all news. And the idea that his bounty hunting makes him a target, and therefore his family something of a target is intriguing given the Leviathan eventuality. Maybe there are some reasons for secrets?

We do know about Mark's uncle Desmond, the prior Manhunter and the man who brought him into the cult.

Ostrander and Yale then give us a very nice 2 page primer on Shaw and his past. From the 1st Issue Special to the Justice League of America stories to the Suicide Squad, we learn the past.

I really like that all the pre-Crisis stuff was left intact given Shaw a true history. 

And Rice kills it on these pages. 

With the history lesson over, Shaw leaves to take in a Cubs game.

Perhaps most interesting is how he says he isn't a super-hero. He considers himself a businessman.

Does this jibe with Leviathan? I certainly don't think Leviathan considers himself a super-villain or a super-hero. He considers himself a citizen trying to do what's right.

But that delineation will be something to watch closely.

Shaw went to the Cubs game because he knew Captain Cold is a Cubs fan and a gambler. 

Cold is a bounty. And after a chase, Shaw catches up to him and beats him. 

The news is on hand. And while the Penguin knew who Shaw was and while he was worried enough about others knowing that Shaw sneaked into his own house, this reporter doesn't seem to know the secret.

Maybe it is a somewhat known identity?

The humor keeps coming as this reporter keeps asking about Paul Kirk. 

Now that's funny.

Shaw media coverage grabs the attention of Olivia Vancroft, a rich woman in a mountain mansion who has a penchant for masks. Honestly, how could she get Batman's cowl? Or all the others?

And a special section for Manhunter masks? Including the Golden Age Dan Richards' one? And the old school mask? Now that is showing a sort of deep respectful acknowledgment of the history of the character. 

This is a very solid opening issue. We get not one but two interactions with our protagonist taking out super-villains. We meet the cop he'll work with and his family. We meet Dumas, the other side of the coin. And we get dazzling art. 

So this just works,

Now how you go from this free-wheelin' fun-lovin' bounty hunter to the grim, jaded Leviathan is beyond me. Maybe this series will give me some clues. But his lack of a secret identity certainly lines up nicely.

Overall grade: A


William Ashley Vaughan said...

You'll love the rest of this series. Ostrander is in top form throughout.

Martin Gray said...

I never tried any issues of this, now you have me wanting a collection!

Anj said...

Pretty fun so far.

And a nice little side project!

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