Pullbox Reviews: Manhattan Manhunt, a sci-fi action-thriller set in the Big Apple

Amidst a bitter New York City winter, an alien-hunting vigilante desperately searches for a deadly otherworldly monster.

Hot on his tail is an FBI agent looking for answers.

Struggling for belonging in a metropolis of millions, the vigilante finds himself in a battle with the monster, the agent, and his own perception of humanity- for the fate of the city itself.

Manhattan Manhunt is, what we in the biz call, a hidden gem. A diamond in the rough, this freshman outing for comic creator Enzo De Palma is a tribute to the city in which it takes place, the City That Never Sleeps, the Big ol’ Apple herself: New York City. It was that distinction taken with the fast-paced action on which the story rides that pushed it over the edge.

While reading Manhattan Manhunt, I ran into a couple of speedbumps. It might’ve been just a matter of personal preference, but at times I felt like there was an abundance of narrative that took me out of the story. In one panel, Manny gets surprised by his enemy’s laser breath, he explains how he was surprised by the laser breath, and then goes on to explain how lucky he is to have an energy shield (you can see the panel on the fourth page previewed below). In De Palma’s defense, he’s on the record as saying that he’s got a deep connection with 80’s comics. The indulgence in exposition that gave me pause in this book was bread & butter in older comic book writing.

 So what kept pulling me forward in this book?

<quote> “Because even though this story is nominally about Manny (the protagonist of the story), it’s really about his namesake. New York is a place that thrives on energy. That energy is everywhere- but it can be hard to figure out how to tap in. Even in the company of 8.4 million people, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. Manny’s journey from loneliness to acceptance mirrors that of many residents of Manhattan, myself included.”

I wholeheartedly fell into the layered nature as De Palma presents two parallel characters in Manny & the city of New York itself. Every story needs to have a hook, the thing that grabs a reader’s attention and holds onto it. When all was said and done, it was the attitude in that love letter to New York City that won me over. Massive congratulations and a virtual high five to creator, writer, colorist, & letterer Enzo De Palma for finding that way into his story.

Even though he took on more hats than your average comic creator/writer, De Palma didn’t bring Manhattan Manhunt to life on his own, and it’s fitting that this double-sized comic would have two interior artists. Joshua Swaby & Diego Albuquerque were a matched pair from the start, not one taking over for the other at the halfway point. Their work is scattered throughout, each taking on pages in batches. In a lot of cases, that kind of division could break up a comic’s dynamic. In this case, however, I’m more than happy to report that Swaby & Albuquerque are the chocolate in Manhunt’s peanut butter. They’re both able to capture the subtlety of Manny’s underlying conflicts, and the dynamic action when things get kicked into high gear. It goes without saying, so I’m gonna say it, that with De Palma’s colors, any division in art is brought together in a unified palette.

It’s nothing new. I’m generally into stories that lean into more of a “show, don’t tell” approach to the narrative. De Palma had two fantastic artists helping to tell his story, and he could have let them carry more storytelling through the artwork. But that wasn’t the story De Palma wanted to tell, and I sure haven’t written a comic of my own so my personal preferences shouldn’t push you away. In the end, Manhattan Manhunt is a great read, an outstanding action story, and a character study with hidden levels.

Final Score: 11/13

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