DC continues with their dive into Jack Kirby with a return of Manhunter. Though he is oddly dressed like one of the Manhunters that preceded the Green Lantern Corps of Oa, this is actually the Manhunter known as Paul Kirk, another of Kirby’s creations.
This Manhunter is most known for the actions of his clone, who was responsible for the creation of the first Secret Society of Supervillains, a ploy intended to draw out Darkseid. At the time, the Lord of Apokolips was planning another invasion of Earth.
The first story has the Manhunter busting up a gang, only to have the Sandman and his sidekick, Sandy, intervene. Sandman disapproves of the Manhunter’s needlessly brutal methods, and the two have a duel of wills and ideologies. This one was brought to us by Keith Giffen, Dan Didio, Mark Buckingham, and Chris Sotomayor.
The artwork for the fight scenes especially invoke the Kirby style, with a lot of swinging of fists and crashing blows. Buckingham and Sotomayor do a fantastic job of capturing the kinetic energy and impressive forms of the King himself.
The second story brings back one of my favorite Kirby DC creations, Etrigan the Demon, the hellspawn eternally connected to the former knight of King Arthur’s Roundtable, Jason Blood. He has met up with a disgraced man of the cloth who promises to be able to separate Jason from Etrigan. However, the clergyman has ulterior motives. This one was done by Sam Humphries, Steve Rude, and John Kalisz.
Rude and Kalisz stray a bit more from the Kirby aesthetic with this story, but the art still has a classical feel. They play with shadows well, and it gives a gothic atmosphere which matches Jason and Etrigan perfectly.
The Kirby Grabbers this time include a romance-mystery story called “The Face Behind the Mask,” done with Ed Herron, and some sci-fi-futurist-world-of-tomorrow fair called “Just Imagine,” which he did with fellow comics legend Joe Simon (these two men created Captain America together, for those keeping score).
The Manhunter story is probably my least favorite headliner of these stories so far. While it is by no means bad, it doesn’t exactly capture a lot of the free-spirited fun of a Kirby comic. It’s a bit more grounded and delves into Daredevil-vs.-Punisher-esque philosophizing about the definition of justice. It doesn’t really go anyplace new or interesting with that premise, either.
However, Manhunter pounding the crap out of the thugs is fun to see, and the slug-fest between he and Sandman is still pretty fun. It’s just that the Sandman and New Gods one-shots were far more fun and satisfying reads.
The Demon followup does make up for some of Manhunter’s lackluster storytelling. It’s a very short episode, but it still manages to capture a lot of what makes Etrigan such a cool character. It shows the struggle between he and Jason, and it shows Etrigan’s ruthlessness in dispatching his foes.
“The Face Behind the Mask” is an odd choice for the Grabbers. It is about as far removed from Kirby’s signature style as possible. In fact, he didn’t even write it. It seems odd in all the Manhunter, Kamandi, Demon, OMAC, etc. they could have chosen, they go for a relatively subdued romance-mystery tale.
“Just Imagine” is about what you would expect from a Tomorrowland-esque setup like this, but it’s still fun. It’s like looking at the world the Jetsons lived in. Kirby didn’t write this one either, but it better showcases his artwork than “the Face Behind the Mask.” It shows his unique flare for the fantastic.
On the whole, this was another fun read from DC’s Kirby homage series. While overshadowed by the likes of the Sandman and New Gods one-shots, Manhunter still provides a compelling read that honors one of comic’s greatest legends. Give it a read.
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