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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 11/12/8

New Secret Six, old Action Comics, Hitman, ‘Mazing Man, Starman, and Hunterman Manhunter.

Employee’s Pick

Hitman 9

[DC] Hitman #9-14

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: John McCrea

Ennis sure likes his strawmen. We have crooked cops who are gutless cowards, superheroes who are a mix of naive and stupid, and goverment agents with crap for names and less for brains. It’s almost annoying, but most of the time I’m too busy laughing to care. If I thought Ennis were trying to give a fair and balanced account here, I’d be incensed, as anyone Ennis deems unworthy becomes a caricature, a bloated target for Tommy Monaghan to triumph over in the most embarrassing way possible. He also takes more subtle digs at Monaghan and friends, part of his love/hate relationship with America. Ennis loves the ideal of America and hates what is often its reality. So we get bits about how great honor and friendship and all that are, alongside stuff like cheeseburgers bigger than your head, 90% of cops being totally corrupt, and anyone British or Irish being of superior stock.


The four-part Local Heroes sees Tommy bury his best friend and gain a new enemy to replace the one he’d vanquished in the previous arc. The government comes calling, and they want Tommy to kill supertypes for them. The main government guy, the mastermind looking to employ Hitman is… wait for it… exactly like what called itself Max Lord in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Yes, I’m on that again. Brand new character, or he was about a decade ago, with the built-in motivation that Lord never had until it was pasted onto him. This could’ve been the guy, or someone new just like him. It’s so easy I can’t stand it. Hates superheroes, thinks they need to be controlled, willing to go to any lengths to do it. No character assassination necessary.

Speaking of, Kyle Rayner, new Green Lantern on the block, shows up here so Ennis can make fun of him. I’ve never cared for Kyle, and this was a big part of why. In retrospect, it’s a completely unfair portrayal. Morrison and Millar were fairer to him in Aztek, where he still comes off as hotheaded and a bit dense, but in a more charming way. Here, he’s a couple levels above a stick figure for characterization. I doubt it’s coincidental that he looks exactly like Nightfist when he first appears. Short of going around saying "durr hurr im Gene Lanturn" and opening doors with his face, Kyle gets about as poor a showing as possible. It’s like Ennis wanted to see how badly he could treat him without DC cracking down. Kyle’s in a situation where he could easily handle the whole thing with no loss of life, yet he barely contributes and a bunch of people (all bad guys, but still) die. He also gets in a standoff with Monaghan, which is faintly bizarre. Guy with nigh-omnipotent magic ring vs. Guy with a gun. Uh… huh.


After Tommy finishes making a fool of GL and dispatching his latest nemesis, there’s the two-part comedic tour de force, Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium. Little to explain here. Zombie penguins, zombie seals, zombie dolphins. Comedy gold.

New-Type Books

Secret Six 3

[DC] Secret Six Vol. 4 #3

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Nicola Scott

Ah, I see. Bane’s attempt at becoming a father figure to Scandal has shifted from potentially creepy to comic relief. It seems Bane’s idea of fatherhood is based entirely on cliches, so he tries to tell Scandal it’s her bedtime or that she needs more fiber in her diet. There are several ways this subplot could evolve, but right now it seems firmly entrenched in running gag territory. Maybe Bane will think of other fatherly duties, like protecting the vulnerable. Maybe it’ll backfire, maybe not. I do think Scandal could use a father figure, as her own is sorely lacking, but Bane is probably not it. That was a big theme in Simone’s Birds of Prey run, particularly with Barbara and Jim Gordon, so it might go into more heartwarming territory still. I’d like that.

And the shocking new member of the Secret Six is… Um, I have no idea. New character, I guess. I might be disappointed if there had been any real hype for this reveal. Was fun speculating, anyways. Still another issue before we meet her properly. My initial impression is negative, but if she’s as good a character as Junior’s turned out to be, I’ll love her. Simone has completely sold me on the "mysterious villain you’ve never heard of who’s been around for years and terrifies other bad guys and pretty much everyone he meets." Dude is creepy awesome.

Junior 1

I love this plot, too. The last page reveal… Well, there are ample clues leading up to it that you know what’s coming, but the last line still has impact. I’m afraid of what this’ll mean for the team, but it’s a good fear. Next issue’s sure to be amazing, putting it roughly on par with the first three. One quasi-complaint. The Secret Six Five fight a trio of villains this issue. One’s Cheetah, as anyone could tell, and the others? I’ve no idea. Cheetah’s the only one mentioned by name. The internets inform me that the other two are Bolt and Black Spider. Yay, internets! Would’ve liked to get that info from the comic, although it’s not essential to the story.

Back Issues

'Mazing Man 8

[DC] ‘Mazing Man #8

Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciler: Stephen DeStefano, Fred Hembeck

I was starting to soften on this, but then I had to suffer through another Zoot Sputnik tale. Counting Denton Fixx’s lowest common denominator comic, there are three stories in this issue. The other two are standard sitcom fare. Annoying relative wants to move in and Maze catsits. In both cases, conflict is neatly avoided with little effort, all enjoyment of the story coming from relief that disaster didn’t strike after all. Consequences? Feh, we have no need of those.

Starman 80-Page Giant

[DC] Starman 80-Page Giant
Writer: James Robinson
Pencilers: John Lucas, Mike Mayhew, Steve Sadowski, Wade Von Grawbadger, Dusty Abell, Tim Burgand

Eighty pages of new stories for five bucks. Not bad. This’ll hopefully be collected in one of the Omnibuses, as it never was in trade. The framing sequence has Jack Knight hunting Ragdoll, who’s wielding a peculiar ancient knife. This knife has a long history involving many of the series’ characters, and we get to see that history as we wait for the present day story to conclude.

It starts with The Shade and Scalphunter in 1894, investigating a disappearance that turns out to be a murder. This is the only time I’ve seen Scalphunter, aka Brian Savage. He’s mentioned often in the series, but being dead and all he doesn’t get many chances to appear. He also predates every one of the many Starmen, so only his connection to Shade and the fact that one of the characters is his reincarnation keep him relevant at all. What I see here lives up to the hype. Wouldn’t mind learning more about Shade and him’s adventures.

The knife moves on as a family heirloom, and the Golden Age Starman finds it involved in one of his cases. Another death, and we jump ahead to Jake Bennetti fighting the Starman of 1951, who rather closely resembles a chicken. Bennetti inadvertently steals the knife, which I should mention is part of an ornamental statue, in a bank heist. It winds up in the hands of a junk collector, which is where we see it next in a story starring the O’Dare family as kids. D’aww. The last story, not counting the second part of the framing sequence, is the weakest. Mikaal Tomas in the 70’s, high on pills as he narrates a fight scene. Then back to Jack, struggling for his life, coveting that statue.

The art’s a mixed bag. Several different styles. Abell uses an animated look for the O’Dare story. The rest are more realistic, some murkier than others. Nice, clean lines on Mayhew, Sadowski, and Von Grawbadger’s work. Not big on Lucas’ art in the framing sequence, but he has good material and does well with it, stylistic quibbles aside. Love his portrayal of Sadie.

Action Comics 490

[DC] Action Comics #490
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciler: Curt Swan

Hmm. Clark Kent, newscaster. I don’t think they use that angle much anymore. Might have something to do with a line from this issue, directed at Clark: "You’ve been suspected of being Superman so often, everyone jokes about it." Good old Silver Age. Characters pulling crazy stunts all the time, continuity struggling to hold up under the weight of it all. It’s never been the least bit believable that people couldn’t tell Clark was Superman. Joking’s about all you can do, unless you finally drop the pretense, and the almighty secret identity is too important for that, yet not important enough to logically safeguard. I liked how Kurt Busiek answered that question in Astro City, giving his Superman analogue Samaritan more to distinguish between his identities than glasses and a spitcurl.

After not bothering to defend his ID, as it’s no longer necessary, Clark scurries from the room mid-broadcast, ducks in a supply room, and dives out the window as Superman. Then he wrecks a building, utterly demolishes it. It’s OK, though. He was supposed to do that. Scheduled demolition, only a day early. It has the nice side effect of solving his problem, temporarily. Through some truly bizarre, implausible science, Superman has been Super-messed-up by staring directly into the light from the death of Krypton. Instead of going blind, he loses control of his powers, because that makes sense. I know whenever I stare at a bright light too long, I start flailing about and burning off excess energy like I just ate a pound of sugar.

Superman sucks

His second attack, triggered by viewing the Aurora Borealis, leads Superman to create rainclouds and expertly direct them toward a dry area of California. That’ll bite him in the ass later when the butterfly effect causes typhoons in Asia. Hee. It’s a fun issue, in and out of context. Bates frequently teases Superdickery without making Supes out to be a jerk like many Silver Age stories did. Oh, and behind it all? Pantsless Brainiac!


[DC] Manhunter Vol. 1
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Penciler: Jesus Saiz

Here’s yet another cancelled comic. This one’s special; it was cancelled twice before I got around to checking it out. You may have heard. Then again, maybe not. Wouldn’t surprise me. After the first cancellation, the book returned from an extended break with no relaunch and little fanfare. Picked up where it left off, which would just barely be acceptable for a high-selling book or cult favorite indy comic. Mainstream comics need more than a cult following, so after a handful of issues and no gain in sales, it’s finished again. I don’t expect it back this time, which is a shame as it’s a perfectly good series starring that endangered species, the strong female character.

Manhunter reminds me of… Well, several things. A little Gotham Central, a little Deadpool, a… Wait, I just realized what this is. It’s Hitwoman! Rough-edged, no nonsense type, smokes, terrible with the opposite sex largely due to a reprehensible job (one’s a hired killer, one’s a lawyer), and the central conceit? Kills supervillains. But there’s not much of a series in "what Z-lister can we off this month?" so that’s only the premise in name. Gets you in the door to tell the real story.

This first trade collects the first five issues, and the only death so far is in the first. It’s a mercy killing, a once interesting villain reduced to a nigh-mindless monster before he’s put down. Anyways, this book is about Kate Spencer’s life, including but not limited to her after hours exploits as the vigilante Manhunter. Ms. Spencer is a prosecuting attorney in Los Angeles who somehow finds herself in cases against supervillains. Like She-Hulk, without the sleeping around. After a slimy defense attorney gets his client off on a variation of the insanity plea and said client promptly murders the guards escorting him to a research facility, Kate decides it’s up to her to stop him, permanent-like. Why? I’ve no idea. Nor do I know how a lawyer gets to be so athletic. Her costume, a sort of armored suit without so much apparent armor, boosts her reflexes, but she still has to be in good shape and know a thing or two about fighting to have the kind of success she does. To even attempt superheroing, you need that or to be very stupid, and Kate’s not dumb. Andreyko explains little, leaving me feeling like I missed something despite starting at the beginning.

She has a supersuit and a high tech bo staff/blaster. We learn what those do in issue five, and see where she gets them (stolen from what appears to be an evidence locker full of supervillain paraphernalia), but not where they’re from originally. Maybe later? It’s nice to not be drowned in exposition, but this series is trying to ground itself as firmly in reality as a comic can be in the DCU, and five issues in I have no idea how this woman can be a superhero beyond "she wants to." I’m sure the answer will be as simple as martial arts training in her youth, but there was ample opportunity to mention that. It comes across as faintly silly at times because it walks such a thin line between reality and fantasy. It’s at least as believable as Batgirl’s origin, but I find it harder to accept.

After her equipment is damaged in a fight, Kate blackmails a tech guy who used to work for supervillains into becoming her Weasel. It starts out as another "have I missed something?" situation, but this time things eventually clear up. Andreyko has a habit of asking his readers to be patient, and I can’t help thinking that contributed to the series’ demise. There are so many factors, though, it’s easy to see problems where there are none. Certainly, impatient readers weren’t needed. You have a weak brand; Martian Manhunter has a hard time holding up a solo series, and Manhunter has but a fraction of J’onn’s star power. Female protagonists rarely last long. Mature, pseudorealistic books tend to get more critical praise than sales. The art here has a similar look to Gotham Central and others of its ilk. Dark, moody. Subdued colors and little exaggeration in physique or physics. It isn’t pretty and doesn’t try to be, though it’s not hard on the eyes. Aside from the superhero elements, the costumes and special effects that aren’t as flashy as in other titles, it looks like an adaptation of a movie or TV show.

Overall, I respect it, but I don’t like it. It’s a good comic, it shouldn’t be cancelled. There’s an audience out there somewhere who would enjoy this. It’s not for me, though, and I’ll only continue reading because I can do so for free. I want to see what happens next and I enjoy the ride enough to keep going, but as of now, I wouldn’t run out and buy an issue in the hopes of staving off cancellation. We’ll see whether future volumes change my mind, but Andreyko’s introduction in this volume suggests he’s targeting an audience that I’m almost but not quite a part of.


Hitman – Hilarious, albeit meanspirited and lopsided at times.
Secret Six – So good. So very good.
‘Mazing Man – Boring.
Starman – Good value. Not essential to continuity, but fills in background on several of the series’ characters.
Action Comics – Cracky, but pretty good if you don’t mind bad science.
Manhunter – Too good to be cancelled, like so many others.


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