In the pantheon of DC’s heroes, it’s impossible to argue that J’Onn J’Onzz is among the top tier. It’s also impossible to argue that J’Onn has really gotten the A-list treatment that he deserves. Martian Manhunter strives to change that.
Coming from Steve Orlando, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Deron Bennett, this series redefines and recontextualizes the Martian hero. It also gives us a story of corruption, redemption and murder.
J’Onn’s story unfolds on two timelines–an indeterminate time before he’s drawn to Earth while still on Mars, and years later while impersonating a Colorado police detective. On Mars, J’Onn is a corrupt but competent cop who is balancing job and family. On Earth, we see J’Onn struggling with his past until he’s drawn into a case that may have ties to Mars…
Some of my favorite work by Orlando has been in noir-filled Batman stories at DC. He is able to capture a very similar feel but on a different scale. It’s full of sci-fi trappings and weirdness, but it’s still a detective noir at heart. Set a few years before the modern DCU, it also sets up the arc as a hero’s journey, leading to J’Onn becoming the hero we see today.
This issue is the first time we’ve seen the notion that J’Onn was corrupt as well. The best part of that addition to his backstory is that it doesn’t take away from his sympathetic side. It actually adds a bit of a redemptive arc in his Earth-set storyline.
Rossmo is quickly climbing the ranks of my favorite artists. His style is expressive and cartoony, but also extremely weird. His human figures are exaggerated and full of life. His Martians are a fluid species, with each individual taking a different form, a first that I’ve personally seen, but it makes perfect sense.
This comes together in a package that’s engaging right away. We’re invested in the mystery right away, but then Orlando adds the incredibly engaging twist that something alien is afoot. We also see and read J’Onn’s process incredibly well in a perfect marriage of art and script, making his detective work instantly believable.
This makes for a supremely weird, but incredibly good debut for this maxi-series.
Martian Manhunter #1 is available now from DC Comics.