Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Martian Manhunter #7 Review and Spoilers

Bringing Home The Bacon

Written by: Steve Orlando
Art by: Riley Rossmo
Colors by: Ivan Plascencia
Letters by: Deron Bennett
Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 24, 2019

After last issue's more straightforward re-telling of J'onn J'onnz's final day on his home planet and, hopefully, the jettisoning of Mars-based flashbacks that, more than anything else, were distracting in their lurid excesses, I have tentative hopes that this series might become what its earlier issues promised: a noir-tinged hero's journey for a much-beloved character unexpectedly tarnished by corruption. This issue, we'll find out if those hopes are justified. So, what are we hanging around here for, then?

Well, that's a truly disgusting cover. If pigs ever unionized, they'd probably sue Riley Rossmo for some form of species defamation. There's more pig action inside, for those of you who are interested in that kind of thing. Before you head there, though, you might want to check out the Joshua Middleton variant which is ridiculously good – as, to be fair, all his variants for this series so far have been. Once we get past whichever cover tickles your fancy, it's time to get down and dirty with J'onn (in his human guise) and Meade as they head a raid on a pig farm which is acting as cover for some kind of trafficking ring. And this is… good.

The raid is split into two sections: the opening which deals with the poorly armed scum guarding the pig farm, and a much more fraught section in which Meade and J'onn fight off better trained and equipped bad guys in the farm's basement. The two sections are connected by Meade and J'onn talking in a goods (or livestock, in this case) elevator, which builds up a nice bit of tension.

There are problems here. Orlando's worlds tend to be populated with good guys who speak someone cryptically and bad guys who spill their guts with gay abandon even when being shot at by heavily-armed SWAT teams. This is the case here. But, for all the human trash's unexpected verbosity, there's a lot to like in this section. For one thing, artist Riley Rossmo demonstrates that he's more than just a practitioner of the weird. Although Diane Meade's hairdo remains easily the most impractical and downright bizarre of any (human) law enforcement officer I've ever seen, Rossmo's action sequences are satisfyingly dynamic and easy to follow. The sequence of panels in the elevator leading to J'onn and Meade stepping out into a mostly dark environment is impressively tense, too. (Plascencia's addition of strips of light that move position from panel to panel is a very nice touch.)

When Meade and J'onn enter the 'other room', the sense of the pair of them facing much superior opposition compared to the previous pages is clear. Similarly, there's a real sense of excitement when J'onn starts to use his alien powers to get himself and Meade out of their predicament. In terms of plotting, I really don't have anything to complain about. It's tense, involving writing, let down only occasionally by moments when characters are too verbose.

The discovery of Charnn's failed experiments is suitably horrific and it's only in the issue's final few pages – particularly when we return to Charnn's lair – that Orlando's dialogue tics become prominent enough to affect my enjoyment of the issue.

Dialogue problems aside, I really rather liked this. Meade is becoming a genuinely interesting, three-dimensional character – as is Ashley Addams. J'onn using his powers during the fight in the basement is an impressive, memorable moment, and the developing relationship between him and Meade is beginning to feel like a proper friendship. There are problems with dialogue and an over-long section involving Charnn, but Orlando and Rossmo are getting much more right than wrong here. Those hopes I mentioned earlier might just be blossoming into something approaching actual optimism. Hurrah!

Bits and Pieces:

All in all, this is a solid issue, featuring clear, straightforward storytelling with, for the most part, tightly controlled dramatic beats, and some effective and engaging characterization. Rossmo's art is mostly excellent and delivers some real impact during action sequences and this issue's big horror reveal. The excitement tails off a bit towards the end of the issue, but this is nevertheless interesting stuff.  I was down on this book in its first few issues, but this is much better.


No comments:

Post a Comment