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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.