Review: Jack Kirby 100: Manhunter Special #1

Confession time; I chose this book to review blind, thinking the Manhunter featured was going to be the robot law enforcers of the Guardian of the Universe.  So I was more than a little confused by this, the Paul Kirk precursor.

Paul Kirk was a big game hunter, way back when being so was considered cool.  Nowadays, he would be the villain, but hey this was the 40’s after all.  After watching his best friends murderer walk free, Kirk decides to use his superior hunting skills to take down a different type of beast; the criminal kind.

As with the previous New Gods book that came out a couple of weeks back, this book is pure nostalgia, with hokum dialogue that at times seems cringe worthy when compared to todays style of writing. Still, this book is not about compare and contrast, it is about the celebration of a writer/artist who created a wealth of characters and can rightly be called the first superstar artist.  To kick off the party, the book starts of on the right foot with a Bruce Timm cover, under which we have a story and layouts by Keith Giffen, art by Mark Buckingham and words by Dan Didio.

Giffen and Didio may not have the pull of say Giffen and DeMatteis, but you know what you are going to get with Giffen, at least.  I would love to see how much of the art was due to the layouts over the pencils of  Mark Buckingham.  Regardless, Giffen keeps the panel structure simple and those who are old enough to have read this style of comic the first time around, will totally buy-in to the homage element and reminiscence that all involved are trying to achieve. Despite how you view Dan Didio as either co-publisher of DC or as a writer, you cannot dispute his love for comic books.  Here he has turned his love into a respectful, nuanced laden dialogue that like the character’s origin, harkens to simpler times.

Upon Giffen’s layouts lay the pencils of comic book veteran, brit Mark Buckingham. It is said that Buckingham was so popular on books like Hellblazer (the Vertigo book – not the Rebirth version), that the UK named a palace after him!  Poor punchlines aside, Buckingham has worked in the industry for more than 30 years.  With this book, he has had to eschew his usual style and if imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Jack Kirby should consider himself very well complimented indeed.  Keeping with the “book of out time” nature of this issue, colourist Chris Sotomayor tries hard but unfortunately, todays coloring methods can’t replicate those of years gone by.

Also along for the ride, from Sam Humphries and Steve Rude is Etrigan the demon, although this time, there is no rhyme, just a story to be told, though looking new, the tale is old.  Whilst Etrigan is probably my favourite DC Kirby creation,  this story, again with elements of homage, doesn’t quite work for me.

In the case of my mistaking this book for another character, I have unwittingly become one of the target audiences that I think DC are trying to reach with these Kirby specials.  With no preconception to worry about, I can sit back and enjoy the slice of pastiche for what it is, smile at the explain everything dialogue and gaze fondly at the artistic leaning of one of the truly great comic book artists of all time.

Writing – 5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Colors – 3 Stars

Written by; Keith Giffen & Dan Didio with Stan Humphries
Art by; Keith Giffen, Mark Buckingham with Steve Rude
Colors by; Chris Sotomayor
Cover by; Bruce Timm
Published by; DC Comics

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