Comic Book Review: Martian Manhunter #1

The Revolution has been interested in this new Martian_Manhunter mini-series. J’onn is a great character with a long history. He has been part of the “serious” JLA and the “bwahahaha” JLU. To me, J’onn is one of the pillars of the JLA. Martian Manhunter is a great character who definitely deserves his own mini-series. I am not familiar with Lieberman so I have no idea how well written this mini-series will be. On the other hand, I love the artistic talents of mi hermanos Barrionuevo and Bit. So, at the very worst, I know I’ll at least get a nice looking issue.

Creative Team
Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Penciler: Al Barrionuevo
Inker: Bit

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: This issue starts with Martian Manhunter discussing how there were only four humans on Earth when the first murder was committed. Cain killed Abel. J’onn mentions that he always thought that he would be immune to the ways of humans. That he would be safe from anything too human infecting him. J’onn goes on about how horrible the past year has been since Infinite Crisis.

On this dark and stormy night, J’onn is searching for a voice who has been calling out for his help. That voice is scared and weak.

We then cut to thirty minutes ago where we see a green Martian escaping from a top secret laboratory. We see the Martian hiding in the streets of New York. The soldiers from the lab sweep the surrounding streets, but fail to find the Martian.

We then shift to a meeting in the laboratory between the three scientists running the lab and a woman named Ms. Ferdinand. Ms. Ferdinand reminds the scientists that when they were retained, they were told that any breaches would have dire consequences. Ms. Ferdinand tells the scientists that she is calling in Giggs from psy-ops. One of the scientists protests this move. Ms. Ferdinand shoots that scientists in the head and appoints one of the remaining two scientists as the head of the project.

Giggs then enters the room. Giggs says that they have maybe forty-five minutes to apprehend the Martian. Ms. Ferdinand comments that if the Martian makes contact with Martian Manhunter then they won’t have any time to clear out their lab and hide the evidence. Giggs says the tracer implant should help them locate the Martian. Ms. Ferdinand says that she wants the Martian back at the lab or dead within thirty minutes.

Giggs then calls an agent named Gerrard to meet him and Ms. Ferdinand. Gerrard appears and Ms. Ferdinand then whispers a protocol sequence into Gerrard’s ear in order to “activate” him.

We shift to J’onn still searching out the Martian. J’onn tells the Martian to stay where he is and that J’onn is on his way. J’onn arrives at a new building that is being constructed where the Martian is hiding. A government robot sent to “collect” the Martian arrives at the construction site at the same time. J’onn takes out the robot. J’onn then continues to search the new building that is being constructed. J’onn enters a room that is empty except for a phone. There is a person on the phone who begins talking to J’onn. The voice tells J’onn that he must know that none of this was personal. That J’onn should not take offense to the work they do. The voice then asks J’onn to join him. That they can do great things together. That J’onn has power that rivals and maybe surpasses Superman. That J’onn has a unique chance to help save Earth from itself. J’onn responds that if the Martian is hurt then he will do everything to destroy this mystery person. J’onn realizes that the escaped Martian has been a trap.

J’onn then finds the escaped Martian. J’onn then leaps in front of an energy last meant for the escaped Martian. The energy blast sends J’onn flying out of the building. J’onn realizes that the energy burst was a psionic pulse exactly like the kind that he can produce. What any green Martian, under enough duress, can produce. That whoever is behind this plot has devised weapons based on Martian physiology.

J’onn crashes into the sidewalk of a busy street. The people in the street look terrified of J’onn. He tells them that he is the Martian Manhunter and is a member of the JLA. J’onn can feel the fear from the crowd. That they expect him to save them and protect them as long as they don’t have to see him. That if he was Superman, then they would all be applauding and cheering for him. J’onn is currently in his “true” form because it is who he is.

J’onn then takes off and finally arrives at the escaped Martian. J’onn can’t believe his eyes. He is finally not alone. The Martian introduces himself as “Roh Kar.” Suddenly, an energy blast rips through the chest of the escaped Martian. The dying Martian tells J’onn “Do not rust…others…There are others like us…”

J’onn then pursues the attacker. It is Gerrard. J’onn kicks butt on Gerrard. J’onn then realizes he is filled with one human emotion he never thought he was capable of…Hate. J’onn is scared because if he can’t control his hate then no one on Earth can. End of issue.

The Good: Martian Manhunter #1 was a good issue. Lieberman turned in a better story than I was expecting. This issue was nicely paced. Lieberman did a fine job mixing just enough action with the drama and character development. Lieberman crafted some solid dialogue. The best part of Lieberman’s writing was J’onn’s inner thoughts as he was searching for the Martian. Lieberman did an excellent job fleshing out J’onn’s character and putting his own stamp on this character.

Lieberman’s Martian Manhunter is wonderfully complex, sad and admirable. The reader is impressed with J’onn’s strong faith in humankind and his incredible self-control and desire to be a true hero. However, Lieberman then shows how J’onn is having a crisis of faith. By the end of the issue, J’onn has completed his transformation and given into hate for the first time since coming to Earth. The depth and complexity that Lieberman gives J’onn’s character was enjoyable. I thought that J’onn’s inner dialogue has such beautiful rhythm and flow. Lieberman really turns in an excellent effort in that area.

I also enjoyed Lieberman’s presentation of J’onn as the realistic version of Superman. Both characters are the last of their people. Both are extremely powerful aliens. That is where the similarities end. Martian Manhunter doesn’t conveniently look like a normal human. While Superman looks human and was raised by humans as an Earthman. Superman knows he is Kryptonian, but he is also an Earthman and has a special connection and fondness for Earth. J’onn does not. He was raised as a Martian and didn’t come to Earth until later in life. J’onn is a total outsider here on Earth. He views Earthlings as flawed creatures who commit numerous atrocities. J’onn has hope that the good in humans will win out in the end. Unfortunately, that hope seems to be mostly a good part of naivety on J’onn’s part. Lieberman spends this issue deconstructing J’onn’s faith in humankind.

The dark tone of this issue appeals to the cynic in me. I do think that humans are naturally evil and are in general useless pieces of garbage that can be counted on to do what is only in their own best interests to the detriment of those around them. So, I am enjoying the deconstruction of J’onn’s faith in humans.

I found the various plotlines to be rather interesting. It was cool to see another Martian. Unfortunately, Roh Kar didn’t make it past the end of this issue. However, we are left with several intriguing plotlines. Just who is behind the testing on Roh Kar? Who was the mysterious voice that offered to team up with J’onn in order to save the planet? And is J’onn suffering a complete breakdown? Are the events of the past year combined with the death of Roh Kar going to finally push J’onn over the edge? Will the character that has always exemplified such extraordinary self control finally going to lose it and unleash his fury on his enemies? Has J’onn finally lost his faith in those around him? So many fascinating questions. Lieberman certainly has laid a solid foundation and created enough interesting plotlines to get me hooked and ready for the next issue.

Barrionuevo and Bit turned in some very nice artwork. This is a very nice looking comic book and Barrionuevo’s dark and heavy lined style meshes nicely with Lieberman’s tone and mood.

The Bad: I’m just not a big fan of J’onn’s “true form.” The cone head look just looks dorky to me.

Overall: Martian Manhunter #1 was a solid read. Lieberman served up a well written story with several interesting plotlines. Barrionuevo delivered nice looking art. This made Martian Manhunter a well balanced and enjoyable read. I’m glad to see J’onn getting a mini-series that is actually well done. I’m looking forward to the rest of this mini-series.