Martian Manhunter #1 (DC Comics)
After the critical success of Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle, it makes sense that DC comics would want to replicate that success with some of their other characters. Stepping up to the plate is Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo, starting a new twelve part miniseries focusing on J’on J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Naturally the comparisons to King and Gerads’ series are going to be rampant, but so far it seems like Martian Manhunter isn’t going to be making anyone forget Mister Miracle anytime soon.
Bouncing between J’onzz’ investigation of a crime scene and his time on Mars with his family, Martian Manhunter presents the title character in an interesting light. Not entirely welcome in either world, but drawn to doing the right thing, J’onzz is a cop in both worlds, but that’s where the similarities end. The central mystery in both stories is interesting, but they’re both very weird, almost to the point where I don’t completely understand how the two stories match up just yet.
That’s not to say that Steve Orlando’s script doesn’t have some interesting moments though. Orlando does a great job of characterizing J’onzz, and showing how even on his home world he was a bit of an outsider. Despite being a part of the DC universe for decades, Martian Manhunter hasn’t ever really been that fleshed out, so Orlando’s got pretty much a clean slate to do with Jones as he pleases. That essentially means that Orlando turns him into a “by the book cop” type, which is fine, but not very interesting when he’s on our Earth.
Riley Rossmo has always been a “hit or miss” artist for me, and Martian Manhunter doesn’t do much to change that. In fact, Rossmo’s style bounces between “hit” and “miss” in a bunch of pages and panels throughout this issue. For every great splash page or layout, there’s a few weird panels that look so out there that it’s hard to really tell what’s going on. A series like this one can afford to have some unconventional panels and pages, but there’s so many here that it starts to distract from the actual story.
Those looking for another Mister Miracle with Martian Manhunter are probably going to be sorely disappointed, but there’s potential here for a pretty cool mystery if it starts to pan out in the next few issues. Here’s hoping the story comes into focus and the art starts to improve so we can find out.