Comic Book Review: Martian Manhunter #4

I saw Death Cab for Cutie this weekend. I’m a big fan of the band, after all a man cannot live on a diet of Reggeaton alone. They were absolutely insanely good live. They tore up the stage. Death Cab is way more rocking live. I was totally impressed. Those guys gave every ounce of passion and energy into their show. What does this have to do with comics? Not much other than the fact that the bassist for Death Cab is a huge comic book fan.

All right, let’s talk about Martian Manhunter. The last issue was rather weak. It was slow and not nearly as interesting as the first two issues of this mini-series. Hopefully, Martian Manhunter #4 will be a much more enjoyable read. If nothing else, I can rely on the fact that Barrionuevo will deliver more great artwork. Let’s hit this review.

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

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: The issue begins with the military scientists showing off their new weapon based on Martian technology. Basically, it takes advantage of Martians’ weakness for fire by implanting atoms which react to the psionic frequency of the Martians. The inert atoms rapidly increase in temperature and ignite. It then burns the Martian from within.

We cut to Alex Ferguson’s girlfriend, Sara Moore at work. She is informed that Alex is dead. That the news is reporting that Alex set off a bomb in an office building. Sara refuses to believe that Alex is dead. The mailman then delivers a package to Sara.

We shift to Ms. Ferdinand in the hotel room that Alex was staying in. She orders her technicians to conduct a search in a ten block radius for anyone who may have ever known or worked with Alex.

We cut over to J’onn telling his fellow Martians that they must remained cloaked while in public. That their Martian appearance will frighten humans. The Martians say that humans hate them just for looking different. J’onn says that humans aren’t trusting, but that they are good people and this is a good planet. J’onn says he will teach the Martians that this is a good planet.

J’onn then talks with J’orneel, who is the elder Martian. The other Martians have stormed off because they are sick of hiding. J’onn tells J’orneel that he is afraid that he is losing the other Martians. J’orneel tells J’onn that the others are warriors and that they will come around. J’onn then apologizes for not finding and rescuing his fellow Martians earlier. J’orneel tells J’onn to not be so hard on himself and that he did save them and that they are grateful.

We shift to Sara opening up the package from Alex. It is the camera and video he recorded earlier in the story. Alex tells Sara that if she is viewing this then that must mean he is dead. Alex then tells Sara that she can’t go back to her apartment and that she is in danger.

We cut to Ms. Ferdinand and her soldiers discovering the address of Sara and that she was Alex’s girlfriend. Ms. Ferdinand and her soldiers bust into Sara’s apartment, but she is already gone. Ms. Ferdinand’s technician rapidly sets up a program to link to a satellite to track down Sara. We see Sara calling Mr. Dyer. Sara gets the message machine and leaves a message for Mr. Dyer saying that she knows he had Alex killed and Alex told her everything and that she is going to the news with the entire story. During this phone call, the technician gives Ms. Ferdinand Sara’s location.

We see Sara get off the phone and pull up in front of the local news station. Ms. Ferdinand tells her that they have a snipe rifle trained on her right now so she should just come with Ms. Ferdinand without a fuss. Suddenly, Martian Manhunter swoops in and flies off with Sara. Sara passes out.

Sara wakes up and sees Mr. Dyer at her bedside. Dyer tells her that he was trying to help save Alex. Dyer tells Sara to come with him and he will show her what Alex found. Dyer leads Sara into the other room where all the Martians are standing disguised as humans. Suddenly, they all drop their disguises. Sara then passes out at the sight of all the Martians.

We then see attack helicopters outside of J’onn’s building. They launch a couple of rockets at J’onn’s condo. During the fight, J’orneel gets killed by the military’s new Martian frying rifle. We see J’onn and the rest of the Martians escape along with Sara. End of issue.

The Good: Martian Manhunter #4 was a very ordinary read. I did dig the cool new weapon that incinerates Martians from the inside. Damn the U.S. military and their devious gadgets! With the soldiers armed with this new weapon, I think we can expect to see several more Martians to get roasted.

Lieberman did a nice job providing a rather action packed and exciting ending to this issue. If it weren’t for the ending, I might have totally slipped into a coma.

Lieberman’s dialogue was solid. Nothing great, but certainly not bad. I like how Lieberman writes J’onn. Lieberman retains plenty of that pacifist and compassionate side of J’onn along with his love for Earth, but manages to spice it up some with J’onn’s new hint of an attitude and Martian pride. I like it. Lieberman’s J’onn is a bit more complex and appealing than how this character has been portrayed before.

I dig that Lieberman is playing up the fact that it is so important to J’onn that he is finally not alone. I hope that some of the Martians survive this mini-series. If Superman can have a couple of Kryptonians still alive to keep him company, then I think J’onn deserves the same.

Barrionuevo provides plenty of nice artwork. I like his unique style. His heavy lines and thick painting style of art may not appeal to everyone and I can understand that it may be too static for some people. However, I think it gives this title a nice distinctive look. Barrionuevo is a bit inconsistent. Some panels look very average while others look incredible. All in all, the art is enjoyable and is pretty much all that kept my interest while reading this issue.

The Bad: Martian Manhunter #4 was average at best. The story started strong with the first two issues, but has really bogged down over issues #3 and #4. It seems that Lieberman has lost his focus and slammed this story into neutral. I wouldn’t have such a problem with Lieberman’s slow and steady pace if this were an ongoing monthly title. However, Martian Manhunter is only an 8 issue mini-series. When you only get eight issues to play with the writer can’t really afford to waste two issues meandering around with no purpose.

This story seems to lack a direction. It seems that Lieberman came up with a cool concept for this mini-series, but failed in properly plotting it and executing the story. It feels like we have been running in circles over the past two issues. Lieberman has failed to progress any plotlines. I also disliked that Lieberman teased us with the JLA at the end of issue #3, but didn’t deliver them at all in this issue. Instead, we are going to see them in issue #5. If you are going to tease the reader with an ending like that in issue #3, then you’d better deliver in the following issue.

Ms. Ferdinand and the military are also appearing to be rather one-dimensional villains. I don’t find them particularly engaging at all.

Overall: Martian Manhunter #4 was a middling read. Barrionuevo’s distinctive style is enjoyable and is about the only thing that has captivated my interest over the past two issues. Lieberman started out hot with the first two issues and has seriously wilted over the past two issues. We are now at the halfway point of this mini-series and Lieberman really needs to step up his game and get this story moving in a definite direction.