Martian Manhunter #2 Is Two Halves That Don’t Quite Make A Whole

by Tony Thornley

There are two very different stories happening in Martian Manhunter #2. One is about his early days on Earth. The other his last days on Mars. Reconciling them is not as easy as it might seem.

Steve Orlando, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Deron Bennett bring us this issue. It’s a fun follow up to the first issue, but I’m not entirely sure it’s successful.

In flashback, we see more of ancient Martian society, and learn about growing up, love and their fascination with Earth. It all hinges on the fact that within a “mega-cycle” all of it will be coming to an end. However, in the present, J’Onn stands revealed to his partner, Diane, and has to scramble to win back her trust.

I’m going to get this out of the way first–the art in this issue is fantastic. Rossmo brings ancient Mars to life in a stunning way, with an alien world that truly feels alien, which is unique in so much of science fiction. He’s also able to convey so much in facial expression and body language, both on Earth and on Mars. Plascencia adds to that, giving Mars so much life through bright colors and brilliant light, and casting Earth as it’s dark contrast.

As for the story, on Mars it absolutely sings. I don’t know if we’ve ever gotten such a great look at J’Onn’s life before Earth, but Orlando creates a vibrant and exciting locale. It’s so brilliant that the Earth sections of the story actually feel kind of dull and rote in comparison, especially when it treads ground we’ve seen in past Manhunter stories.

And that’s where the story falls short. J’Onn as the outsider and the alien has been done over and over again in his history. It doesn’t feel like anything new in this issue, and that’s to the issue’s detriment.

Orlando is a very skilled writer, though, and I hope he turns this around. Retreading the “stranger in a strange land” trope that has dominated J’Onn’s past would be a mistake. The strange detective stories theme of the first issue would keep me engaged, and I hope that’s where it’s going from here.

So even with that said, I’m still interested to see where the story goes. If it course corrects, I’m in.

Martian Manhunter #1 is available now from DC Comics.

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