Posts tagged ‘Manhunter’

Detective 443 – Batman and Manhunter fight together

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It’s the big finale to the Manhunter saga in Detective 443 (Oct./Nov. 74), as Batman joins forces with Paul Kirk in this Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson spectacular, with a cover by Jim Aparo.

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An assassination gets Batman involved in the case, and on the trail of the African weapons expert that Manhunter works with.  Batman is also hunting the Council because he believes them responsible for the death of a police friend, Dan Kingdom.

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Manhunter explains his story and their mission to Batman, as he meets Christine St. Clair and the rest of Kirk’s crew.  Batman decides to join forces with them, but in an unexpected twist, Manhunter refuses, explaining that this is a killing mission, and Batman doesn’t kill.

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Killer or not, Batman still reaches their destination first, and proves a big help as they assault the Council base.  He also finds Dan Kingdom, not dead, but now a Council assassin.

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The story climaxes with Paul Kirk sacrificing himself to destroy the Council base and it’s leaders.  This was mind-shattering. Heroes did not die, and back-up series did not reach big conclusions like this one.

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There was no such thing as a mini-series in comics at this time. Stories about heroes were meant to be open-ended, to be continued if audience response and sales warranted.  Manhunter was always written as a series with a finale, that told one tale.

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True, the clones did present an opening, and they would be brought back, with clone versions of Paul Kirk in the line-up of Secret Society of Super-Villains a couple years down the road, and also in Power Company a decade or two away.  But as neither was meant to be the Paul Kirk who died in this issue, it kept this ending sacrosanct.

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More than 20 years later there would be one final Manhunter story by Goodwin and Simonson, published shortly after Goodwin’s death, which brings back Christine St. Clair, and manages to be a worthy sequel story that didn’t tarnish the original.

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Detective 442 – Biplane Batman, and Manhunter faces his master

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Detective 442 (Aug./Sept. 74) features another Aparo cover, but it’s Alex Toth art on the Archie Goodwin story.

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The story is a murder mystery, with a World War 1 biplane used as a weapon.  It was viewed as a follow-up to the Batman/Enemy Ace tale from a few years earlier, but has no direct connection.

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It’s fairly straightforward, and the villain’s identity is obvious, but it’s the Toth art that carries the tale.

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The penultimate chapter, and last solo story, for Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter series sees Paul Kirk in Japan, hunting down the man who trained him.

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The best page of the story has Christine’s father pulling a gun on her, but unable to use it.  She walks out on him, and the lower half of the page is wonderfully evocative as he heads to his doom.

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Manhunter battles his master, Asano Nitobe, to a standstill, trying to convince him to join his crusade against the Council, but it’s Christine who flies in with the evidence to convince him.

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This marks the end of the Manhunter solo series, as the story concludes next issue in a Batman team-up.

Detective 441 – Batman faces judgement, and Manhunter goes to church

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Jim Aparo does the cover again, for Detective 441 (June/July 1974), but the Archie Goodwin Batman story inside has art by Howard Chaykin.

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This story also features the debut of Harvey Bullock, a Gotham police lieutenant who is not impressed with Batman or his methods at all.  His role is quite small, just at the top of the story, the set-up that leads Batman to the house where he faces Robin’s kidnapper.  Bullock would not appear again for almost 10 years, but eventually become a solid supporting cast member for Batman.

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The bulk of the story has Batman in a trap-filled house, facing a self-appointed judge who has passed sentence on Batman, blaming him for his daughter’s blindness as the result of a mugging, which he failed to prevent.

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The daughter does not blame Batman, and tries to stop her father.  Unwittingly, she succeeds when her blindness leads her in to one of the traps, which kills her.  Heart-broken, her father gives up to Batman.

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This issue contains absolutely the best chapter of Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter saga, taking place entirely within a crumbling church in Istanbul.  Every person I know who loves this series, picks this chapter as the high point.

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Using information from Damon, Paul Kirk and Christine St. Clair come to Istanbul to infiltrate a gathering of the Council, but what makes this tale great is the American tourist family, exploring the same church at the same time, completely oblivious to the other plot.

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We see that all is not well with the outer members of the Council, who find there always seem to be reasons to keep them out of the precious inner circle.  Christine St. Clair’s father is also introduced, a high ranking member of the outer circle, encouraged to stop his daughter’s investigations.

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Of the tourist family, only the boy sees the battle that occurs between Manhunter and his clones.

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The story has such a great ending, as the boy saves Paul with his toy gun, and his clueless parents drag him away, complaining that all churches are the same.

Detective 440 – Batman and the hillbillies, and Manhunter on the run

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Jim Aparo provides the cover for Detective 440 (April/May 1974).  As well as the Batman and Manhunter stories, among the reprints is Simon and Kirby Manhunter reprint from the 40s.  Curious that they did not reprint more of his tales during his run in this book.

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Batman’s story, by Archie Goodwin, with art by Sal Amendola and Dick Giordano, has him coming to the rescue of a girl from a rural mountain community who has come to Gotham, but is being dragged back by her brothers.

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Her family intends her to be a sacrifice, to lift a curse they believe is on them.  Essentially, though, what they intend is to feed her to a big bear.  Batman prevents this, and beings her back to the (relative) safety of Gotham.

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The Manhunter story, by Goodwin and Simonson, has Paul Kirk and Christine St. Clair on the run from her boss, Damon Nostrand, as Paul continues to relate his tale.

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The Council was formed of the greatest thinkers after World War 2, determined to prevent another one from occurring.  Over time, this group became corrupted and controlling.  They run a huge, international organization, with many people of power and influence among their number.  Paul was revived to be the leader of their clone army, but is less than impressed with the organization.

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His first assignment was to kill Damon Nostrand, but instead he goes there to warn him.  Of course, it’s a test to see if Paul will kill him, and he fails miserably.  He flees to Africa, and seeks out the son of a weaponeer he had worked with.

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And thus, he acquired his Manhunter gear.  Ironically, though he began his new career by refusing to kill Nostrand, he and Christine wind up leading him to his death in this tale.

 

Detective 439 – Batman goes berserk, and the secret of Paul Kirk

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Batman loses control in Detective 439 (Feb./March 1974), in a Steve Englehart story, with art by Dick Giordano, who also provided the inks for Neal Adams’ cover.

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The story opens with a simple robbery, but the gunman shoots and kills a woman in front of her young son, which Batman sees.

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After a brief flashback to his own parents’ deaths, Batman gets enraged, and spends the rest of the story in relentless pursuit of the man and his associates, despite their constant attempts to kill him.

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Batman does not speak a lot in this story, which helps convey his singularity of purpose.  I really love the scene where he dangles the criminals car keys in front of them.  The nervous chatter of the hoods, compared to Batman’s silence, also boosts the mood to the piece.

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Perfectly told, this story is fairly simple, really, but still very powerful in execution.

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The final page, of him unmasked and crying in front of his parents’ portrait, is a crushing denouement, but the perfect coda to this tale.  The vengeance will never heal the grief.

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Christine St. Clair meets the wounded Manhunter face to face in this chapter of Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter saga.

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Paul fills her in on his backstory, and we see a montage panel reflecting his stories from Adventure Comics.  We learn that after the end of World War 2, seeking danger and excitement, Paul went big game hunting in Africa, which didn’t go exactly as planned.

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Squished by an elephant.

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His body was retrieved by a secret organization called the Council, and cloned.  The clones trained in martial arts by a supposedly dead master, Asano Nitobe.  Paul himself was eventually revived, intended to lead his clone army, but disagreed with the extreme domination plans of the Council, and has been fighting them ever since.

But is Paul really the revived Paul Kirk, or just a clone who believes he is the original?

Detective 438 – the monster of Wayne Manor, and Manhunter goes to a bank

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Detective Comics goes to 100 page size with issue 438 (Dec./Jan. 73).  It’s mostly reprints, and between this and the similarly sized Batman comic, they reprint the Outsider and Zatanna sagas over the next few months.

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The lead story, by Archie Goodwin, with art by Jim Aparo and a cover by Mike Kaluta, deals with reports of a monster seen lurking around the, currently abandoned, Wayne Manor.  Bruce and Alfred are, for obvious reasons, extremely reluctant to let anyone go poking around there, especially a ghost hunter who has just arrived in Gotham.

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When Alfred gets attacked, Bruce has no option but to allow an investigation.  We see the monster at this point, and it’s clearly a human, with something very wrong with him. The monster is, in fact, Ubu, the henchman of Ra’s Al Ghul, wounded after his last encounter with Batman, and seeking vengeance.  And Batman’s suspicions about the ghost hunter also prove to be correct, that he is entwined with the League of Assassins as well.  Ubu kills the ghost hunter, but is captured by Batman.

Ubu’s near death state in this story, followed by his hale and hearty appearance when next seen, is the first indication that Ubu is likely a title, rather than name, and that there have been a few of them.

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Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter continues in this issue, as we meet Damon, Christine St. Clair’s boss.

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This chapter details more of the observations Christine has made of Paul Kirk.  He went to a bank in Swizerland to withdraw money from an account dormant since the 1940s, looking much like he did back then.  He seems to be being followed by ninja assassins, although he consistently defeats them.

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To make things even more puzzling, his attackers wear similar costumes, although blue instead of red, and all look like Paul Kirk as well.  And while Christine is on the up and up, we see that there is more to Damon, who burns her report at story’s end.

Detective 437 – the Deathmask, and Manhunter begins

 

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Jim Aparo does his first work in Detective Comics with issue 437 (Oct./Nov. 73) on this Archie Goodwin story.

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The story centres around a giant mask on display at Gotham’s museum.  Encrusted with gems, the mask comes with dire legends and warnings, which seems to come true, as people start getting killed.

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The backstory to the mask gives Aparo reign to show ancient and foreign lands, something he particularly excels at.

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While the solution to the murders has nothing to do with the curse, it’s simply being used by the killer as a distraction from his real motives, the story ends with a nicely ironic touch, the mask itself killing the killer.

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With little fanfare, the Manhunter series by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson also begins is this issue, putting the rotating back-ups on hold.  Paul Kirk, not seen since Adventure Comics from the 1940s, returns, in new garb, but no older than he was back then.

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This globe-trotting story follows agent Christine St. Clair as she hunts down the Manhunter.  In this first chapter, she listens to the tale of a monk, who witnessed Manhunter’s defeat of a number of trained assassins.

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Every single page of this saga has exceptional art, and the story is captivating.  The reader, like Christine, is left unsure as to Manhunter’s motives and the bigger picture at this point.  But the reader does get a chuckle at the end, with the revelation that the narrating monk is really Paul Kirk, which Christine remains ignorant of.

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