Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Manhunter Oversize Special #1 Review and **SPOILERS**


You Can Take the Man Out of the Jungle

The Manhunter in “Bring Me a Dream” 
Story and Layouts: Keith Giffen 
Art: Mark Buckingham 
Words: Dan Didio 
Colors: Chris Sotomayor 
Letters: A Larger World’s Dave & Troy 
Etrigan the Demon in “The Demon and the Infernal Prisons” 
Storytellers: Sam Humphries & Steve Rude 
Colors: John Kalisz 
Letters: Todd Klein 
Back-ups: Jack Kirby 
Cover: Bruce Timm & Steve Buccellato 
Cover Price: $4.99 
On Sale Date: August 23, 2017


Of all the Jack Kirby celebratory one-shots this month, Manhunter is the character about which I know the least. I know a little about the Golden Age version, but I don’t think I’ve ever read Kirby’s take on the character—and frankly, I know him best from that Justice Society of America arc where it turned out Mr. Terrific was the Ultra-Humanite in disguise, or whatever it was. “The Golden Age,” I think it was called? Anyhow, I don’t let my naiveté stop me from reviewing a comic book, and it shouldn’t stop you…from reading my review of Manhunter Oversize Special #1 right here!

Explain It!

It’s not just Eric Shea that doesn’t like Jack Kirby, I often see folks online wondering what the big deal is about this guy who drew faces that looked more like fish than people much of the time. There’s no law that says you have to like Jack Kirby. Indeed, many of his contemporaries didn’t like his work (though whether it was artistic criticism or jealousy, I can’t say in every instance), and DC used to deride it as “bad art” when he and Stan Lee were creating the Marvel Universe across the street. Truly, some of his Bronze Age concepts could have benefitted with some editorial oversight—but if you pick apart the specifics of his work, then you miss the point of Jack Kirby’s impact on comic books (similarly to how you can miss the point of the Image Revolution if you focus solely on Rob Liefeld’s inability to draw feet.) The fact is, you can segment comics history at 1962, calling the prior years Before Kirby and the following After Kirby. And at that point, he’d already been in the comics business for twenty-five years!
What Jack Kirby brought to the table was a new way to deliver the comics language. He didn’t create it, or even perfect it, but he explored new ways to tell stories that simply weren’t done before. Characters exploding from panels, the use of photographic transparencies and extreme line detail that pushed the boundaries of print registration in those fast and loose days of pulp paper comics—the things Kirby invented are simply part of the comics lexicon these days, and it’s easy to take it for granted. And I suppose, if you want to take Jack Kirby for granted, you’re welcome to it. But you’d have proved yourself as ignorant as one Eric Shea, and who wants to stoop that low?
So by this point in the one-shots for Jack Kirby’s birthday month, DC has dropped the pretense of featuring a singular character in each issue, instead offering a Manhunter story, and Etrigan story, and the back-ups are a random Jack Kirby story from DC’s horror anthology Tales of the Unexpected, and two more from Real Fact Comics, something I’d never heard of before this. The first story features work by noted Kirby-philes Dan Didio and Keith Giffen, and it is an interesting look at a character I knew not very much about. The second story is a pitch-perfect take on Kirby’s Etrigan—that would be different than Alan Moore’s Etrigan, who likes to rhyme—and it’s also a good look at the character. And the back-ups were pure Reggie bait, I loved them for their silliness as well as some particularly excellent plotting in the horror story. Your mileage may vary.
For the first time during this series of Jack Kirby homages, I can say that interested neophytes might want to pick this one up. The Manhunter and Etrigan stories are fairly well-constructed for those new to the characters, and the back-ups are general enough to be understood and appreciated by anyone. Personally speaking, I think this was my favorite overall issue of the month, though I think the first story in the Sandman issue was more fun. If you’re a Jack Kirby fanatic, you put these comics on your pull list already, so what am I going on about?

Bits and Pieces:

This issue is more of a Kirby sampler than the previous one-shots, and it seems all the better for it. Our dear co-publisher Dan Didio pens the first story, a rare showing of his writerly chops, and the second story featuring Etrigan is pretty compelling for the short space that it occupies. Kirby fans will already buy these comics on principle--but here's one you may want to actually read before bagging!


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