Comic Review: Martian Manhunter #1

DC Comics
Steve Orlando
Riley Rossmo
Ivan Plascencia

J’onn J’onzz aka The Martian Manhunter is a superhero’s superhero. Since arriving on Earth in Detective Comics #225 (1955), this red planet native has helped save his adoptive blue rock time and again, earning him a place on the Justice League as well as the respect of champions from around the globe.

The newest maxi-series from DC Comics is bringing one of the greatest unsung heroes of their Multiverse to life: The Martian Manhunter! This first of 12 issues gives us a horrific look at the detective’s life on Mars through a series of flashbacks as he investigates a homicide scene in Colorado with his human partner, Diane. The memories seem to connect with his current investigation, however, and the parallels trigger something similar to a PTSD event with a detrimental outcome. Something has him rattled – the presence of “fright foam” on the Earth.

The publisher has done a terrific job of forcing their readers to question what they thought they knew about the straight-laced Martian Manhunter up until this point. Insinuations that J’onzz may be a corrupt cop on the take push against the grain of our psyche in a way that any telepath would pick up on from a block away. Depictions of J’onn dealing with the seedy underbelly of the Sehne’mhoo’t slums will further congeal the crooked visage of our hero. We find an egocentric Manhunter shaking down drug peddlers, doling out beatings to the insolent with no apparent restraint. Implications of prostitution, betting on illegal fights, money laundering… the narrative does not leave much of a good name to besmirch.

The intimate look into martian home life shows us that families mean the same thing on Mars as they do Earth. J’onn tries to leave the darkness of his career outside the walls of his home, but when you hail from a telepathic species your wife knows when you’ve blocked her out of a section of your mind.

The mastery of Rossmo’s artistry becomes apparent in this book. Not just in the subtle dichotomy of the subdued tones and vibrant colors, but his ability to bring entirely alien concepts to life. The jaw-dropping, face-squinching scene of J’onn making love to his wife M’yri’ah in the kitchen is straight out of a horror film. And it’s freakin’ awesome!

Make no mistake, the book finishes asking more questions than it answers, but the questions are far more exciting than the answers you received. Orlando’s creativity is expertly executed by the pacing of the story. He doesn’t let you wade too far into the waters of uncertainty, throwing you just enough line to get you back to the next “what the heck” moment. If the first issue is any indication, this series is going to build up to some amazing stuff.

SCORE: 10/10

Just because Harvey owns The Multiverse doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about. Most of his good ideas end up as silly songs he sings for his kids once before being lost forever. Whatever’s left, well, ends up here.


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