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Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Boys #1, Manhunter #25 

The Boys #1:

Garth Ennis does not like superheroes.

This isn’t a revelatory statement to anyone familiar with his work. Chances are that if Ennis has written a title that in any way features superheroes, the caped boys and girls will get rough treatment. I’m all for it, personally. The amount of reverence given to these fictional characters just begs for someone to come along and knock them down a peg or two, and if it can be done in a clever and funny fashion, more power to him. Typically, Ennis only takes swipes on his way to other storytelling ambitions.

But The Boys is something like a perfect storm of Ennis contempt. The eponymous Boys are a five-man team of normal (if sadistic) people contracted by the CIA to keep superheroes in line. Violently, if necessary. In that one high concept is a perfect distillation of themes Ennis has been writing on for over a decade. Superheroes as overpowered bullies? Check The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. Secret government organization designed to keep heroes distracted and tame? That’s in Hitman. Men driven to violent jobs out of dangerous, predatory hatred? I can think of half a dozen Ennis works that fit that bill, just off the top of my head.

But that perfect culmination could go either way. Is it horribly derivative, an obvious retread of old ideas Ennis just can’t let go? Or is he finally ready to deliver his master thesis?

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Manhunter #25:

Manhunter #25 ends big.

Manhunter has, until now, mostly sidestepped involvement in oversized company-wide crossovers. Yes, there was that OMAC bit, but by and large the world of Kate Spencer has been allowed to build on its own. A mythology was created. Indeed, by placing her in Los Angeles—magical, mythmaking L.A.—Spencer was as geographically removed from mainstream superheroes as she was philosophically.

Not anymore. A letter-writing campaign saved the life of this much-loved title, and now writer Marc Andreyko and artists Javier Pina and Fernando Blanco have had a big fat pile of Continuity dropped in their laps. For circulation numbers, at least, this could bring the title the number of readers it deserves. Kate Spencer, both as a person and as a character, has hit the Big Time. DC, it seems, will pull out all the stops to make sure their investment pays off.

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