Kate Spencer’s patience has long since snapped. The vicious metahumans she works so hard to put behind bars are back on the streets, often before a verdict is reached. It’s not that she has failed as a federal prosecutor, but that the system she has put so much of herself into has too many cracks. So, like others before her, she’s decided to don the mask and take justice into her own hands. Menacing metahumans will no longer prance about ignoring the law and slaughtering innocent people; they will have to answer to Manhunter - judge, jury, and executioner.
As a masked vigilante, she is a force to be reckoned - sometimes - but then again, she’s just starting out. She is naturally going to experience some glitches, including wardrobe malfunctions, bruises, and broken gadgets. Making a name for herself on the streets of Los Angeles, she has a long way to go before she can apply for membership in the Justice League, but in this first series, covering issues one through five, she does cross paths with them.
As an ongoing series, Manhunter proves exciting and enjoyable, with some curious subplots that will prove interesting as they play out. The ensemble cast of questionable, humorous, and annoying characters will certainly keep the dialogue and plots dynamic enough for readers to see our heroine in a variety of circumstances, both in costume and in court.
Now what follows in the next few paragraphs is a sharp criticism of the intentions claimed by the author of this series. The writer, Mark Andreyko makes some proud boasts in his introduction about Manhunter, but unfortunately his remarks fall short of his creation. To read his introduction, you would think he has created a strong female character whose sexuality isn’t a point of emphasis as it is with so many other female superheroes. His claims that he is presenting a “flawed, somewhat unlikeable, fully-clothed, average-busted woman” fall short of the actual character. Essentially, Andreyko claims he’s making a female lead who is substance not superficial, but while she may have a supposedly “average bust,” the way in which that bust is emphasized in profile drawings still flaunts her as a sexual object. This defeats his attempts at legitimizing her and equating her with male icons. Of course, her prancing about her apartment in a tight tank-top and undies further undermines this supposed aspiration to equality.
Without this introduction, the story might be more easily appreciated as a representation of strong normative female superheroes, but the contradictions created by Andreyko’s words hit hard when considering that an all-male team composed this series. The lack of female input in this regard weighs heavily at any time on egalitarian effort made on Andreyko’s behalf. In fact, an inversion of Andreyko’s words can be found throughout this graphic novel, including the super-heroine’s name, “Manhunter” permeating and resonating with the typical media depiction of feminists as “man-hating.” Our heroine is also virtually dependent on men from who she seeks appraisal (Batman) to whom she depends on for training and weapons.
These criticisms may seem harsh, but the misogynistic tendencies of mainstream comics can’t be remedied by titles that are mere machinations of men’s perceptions of what females should be or should want to see. To consider a series like this a step forward for equality in the field of superheroes is a facade and should be identified as such.
This aside, Manhunter still engages readers with the rough and ready mask of a vigilante on par with Daredevil, Green Arrow, or, potentially the Punisher. She has potential for growth despite the remarks above. While readers should consider picking up this title, they should do so with a grain of salt and consideration about representation and its effects.