Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Martian Manhunter #2 Review and Spoilers

Excursions Into The Past

Written by: Steve Orlando
Art by: Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia
Letters by: Deron Bennett
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 9, 2019

DC's second twelve issue series in a row featuring characters whose initials are 'MM' trundles on this week. After a quite frankly bizarre first issue which mixed noirish sensibilities with an (at times very) intimate look at pre-catastrophe Martian society, will things settle down this issue or will the madness keep on coming? There's only one way to find out…

The first issue ended with J'Onn losing control of his body (and thus his disguise as John Jones) after driving his car off the road and into a tree. The resulting conflagration appears to melt J'Onn's body like wax and his detective partner is, quite understandably, horrified at the mess he's making on the driver's seat. This issue starts with a flashback to a younger J'Onn's romantic Earthgazing with the woman who will eventually become his wife and whose parents don't approve of him. Which is both touching and oddly superfluous, although the dialogue-led transition back to the car wreck is very nicely done.

What isn't quite so well done is the inner dialogue J'Onn has with psychic representations of Ashley Addams – the girl whose disappearance and parents' murders J'Onn is meant to be investigating and his protoplasmic daughter K'Hym. Because it looks like he's regained control of his form and is able to have an internal conversation with the two girls, it looks as if the danger has passed, but later pages make it clear that this is not the case, as his partner Diane has to pull his decidedly unstable form out of the wreckage. That the girls are acting as representations of his darker impulses – urging him to mindwipe Diane and find another dead cop to impersonate – is, to be fair, an interesting idea, and it highlights J'Onn's desperation and inner struggle very well.

J'Onn's partner is, as might be expected, not taking the revelation that he's taken the identity of someone to whom she was very close particularly well. The tension builds here and Orlando does a good job of filling in the blanks of Diane's relationship with the human John Jones.  The scene is interrupted, however, by another trip down J'Onn's Martian memory lane and the same problems that afflicted the last issue (that Rossmo's colourful, bizarre art is somewhat at odds with the sleazy, noirish script) are present here. Some important revelations are dropped in about H'Ronmeer's Curse (his hot holy fist is thankfully not mentioned this issue) and the contrast between J'Onn's idealized family life and his work as a bent cop is once again highlighted.

The issue ends with a cliffhanger that is not all that different from last issue's. The plot has moved very slowly onward, but its impact is dulled by the simple fact that absolutely everything in this story is a flashback. Ending an issue with J'Onn's life in danger is, apart from Rossmo's admittedly impressive art, something of a damp squib. There is, to be fair, some mileage in seeing how J'Onn got from his character in this story to the one we see regularly in Justice League and there are some intriguing ideas here – about J'Onn's character and Martian society more generally. There's not, however, enough substance to this issue to make me desperate to read the next one.

Bits and Pieces:

While Riley Rossmo's art is a little more restrained this time around and Orlando's Mars continues to offer moments of interest, the story itself is moving glacially. The relationship between J'onn and Diane, the issue's ending notwithstanding, is promising, but things need to start gathering pace and quickly.


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