Martian Manhunter #1 (of 12) Review
Times like this I hate being a noob to a bulk of DC history and mythology. I know Martian Manhunter as the weird alien member from the Justice League cartoon and not much beyond that. This issue was unexpected.
It's interesting that this Maxi-series comes so close to the end of the Mister Miracle series. It covers a slice of life of this character and also seems to be giving us an origin along with a larger mystery. These deep dives into underrated characters and their histories are an appreciated detour that add flavor the landscape of the DC universe.
On Earth, John Jones is a detective working a homicide in which an entire family appears to have been murdered. On Mar's J'onn J'onzz is a crooked Manhunter offering protection to criminals. In both lives, Martian Manhunter keeps secrets from those who know him best. This is a man burdened by the regrets of a past life that he will never be able to return to while being forced to hide amongst those that will never accept him for what he is.
This is a fascinating premise for a series and although it may be an old hat to long-term DC fans the story is presented as mature and intelligent. J'onns is extremely empathetic which it helps him in his role as a detective but it contrasts deeply to his life on Mars where he's presented as a very morally compromised character.
I'm not sure how public this information is but I was genuinely shocked to see that Manhunter was a crooked cop prior to coming to earth and becoming a hero. In fact, everything on Mars is weird. We even get what may be the most imaginatively weird sex scene I've ever seen on a comic panel. It harkens back to classic science fiction where anything was liable to happen when aliens got freaky.
J'onzz is a loving husband, an officer of the law, and running a protection racket involving money laundering. It's hard to reconcile but the exact same scenarios happen every day in our society. Script-wise Steve Orlando knocks it out of the park.
The art comes from Riley Rossmo and as mentioned above its weird. At first, I wanted to say that its ugly. It's not ugly, it's stylized. The good is that when we're on Mar's the art is amazing and extremely imaginative. This has got to be one of the best sci-fi settings I've seen in years. The colors from Ivan Plascencia are gorgeous and bright and contrast nicely against the ugliness to which our lead characters find themselves.
On earth the art doesn't really connect with me and feels mildly unsettling John's human look bothers me, something seems off. The entire issue actually feels unsettling and I think that may be an underlying point. We're looking the story from the perspective of an alien and one issue deep I can't offer concrete critique on this aspect of the comic.
I am intrigued to see where this story goes. It appears we're going to be in for a emotional rollercoaster if this issue is any indication.