Martian Manhunter #1

Written by, Steve Orlando
Art by, Riley Rossmo
Colors by, Ivan Plascencia
Letters by, Deron Bennett

The issue begins, J’onn J’onzz is in Midleton, Colorado, working as a CSI investigating a brutal murder scene with his partner, Diane. Flashback to before, The Martian Manhunter is on Mars. He goes home to have dinner and spend time with his wife, M’yri’ah. They have a disagreement over the trajectory of their family. The story makes its final transition, showing J’onzz as he drives with his partner. She attempts to make conversation but his mind is in another place. It’s in this distracted state, absorbed in the events of the day, that J’onn sees something on the road ahead of him and swerves to avoid danger leaving the reader with a cliffhanger for the start of the next issue.

Orlando sets up themes, J’onn questioning his goodness and missing home, and establishes the world where the story will unfold. Placing J’onn on earth as a CSI is brilliant and a nice set up for a dramatic crime noir story. In addition, the portrayal of J’onn as absorbed in thought of what previously happened on Mars, while also utilizing his super-powers to solve crime seems accurate. J’onn can sense people’s thoughts and with all the sensory data he would have to process in the course of a day, it makes sense that he would also be distracted.

In addition, showing J’onn with his wife, having dinner together and then being intimate is risky yet fits with the gritty feel of the story. J’onn is portrayed as a real person, in the real world, and with real needs. However, it’s his flashbacks to his former life and his time with his wife that increased the intrigue for the reader. For example, when his wife reads his mind, sensing that he wants to add to the family, it raised the emotional intimacy of the story tenfold. J’onn has closed a part of his mind off from his wife which triggers her. J’onn claims to be keeping secrets to protect his wife. M’yi’ah implores J’onn that he can trust her with his burden. This message seems to conflict with J’onn’s internalized belief that haunts him: The Martian Manhunter is not a hero.

The Riley Rossmo art fits perfectly with the tone of the book which is brooding, cryptic, and drenched in emotional weight. Concurrently, the depiction of Mars, The Martian Manhunter, and the home he left feeling like how Mars would feel. And the little things make sense. For example, J’onn having a large protruding forehead and big eyes in his human form fits with his capacity for perception and seeing what most cannot.

Overall = 10/10

Final Impressions

This was one of my favorite books of the week, if not my pick of the week. I have a love for crime noir and for crime dramas to have a realistic criminal element. The bloody crime scenes mixed with the brutal violence displayed by The Martian Manhunter in his former reality paint a harsh picture of J’onn’s reality. He is torn by his belief that he is not a good person while he works a job where he fights crime to make the world a better place. I’m sure a lot of readers can relate to this dilemma, and it makes for a compelling premise for this story. I highly recommend this book to fans of The Martian Manhunter and of DC comics.