Comic Book Review: Martian Manhunter #5

Martian Manhunter is another mini-series, like Trials of Shazam, that has been headed in the wrong direction with each and every issue. I enjoyed the debut issue of Martian Manhunter, but each issue since then has been just a little worse than the one preceding it. We are now quickly approaching the final issue of this series. Hopefully, Martian Manhunter #5 can get this story back on track and Lieberman can supply us with an exciting finish to this series.

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

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We being with Giggs’ helicopter getting taken down by an unknown energy blast. Giggs survives the crash. We then cut to rural Pennsylvania, three days later and see Kewell being radioed by DEO control asking him if he lost the package. Kewell fires some shots at an unknown assailant and is then killed.

We shift to J’onn and the Martians arriving at a housing development that is isolated and abandoned. J’onn owned the development and it is the perfect place to hide. J’onn places Sara in a room by herself and locks her in it. The other Martians tells J’onn that they don’t trust her. That she could be a spy. J’onn says that she isn’t a spy, but even so that it would be all the more reason to keep her close. J’onn then tells the other Martians that he is going to find Sy’Rann’s body so that it can be purified before his spirit is banned from entering the Spirit Well.

We cut to the Department of Homeland Security. Rio tells Mr. Keane that Giggs is dead. Keane says that if Giggs is missing then it would only be because he chose to go missing. Keane tells Rio that Giggs has gone rogue.

We shift to J’onn searching for Sy’Rann’s body. J’onn thinks how Martian custom dictates that Ter’Ya’Moa must be completed within seventy-two house of death lest the deceased be banned from the Spirit Well of their ancestors.

We shift back to J’onn at the housing development. He has Giggs tied up in a room. J’onn asks Giggs where Sy’Rann’s body is. J’onn threatens Giggs with unimaginable pain.

We then shift to the other Martians arguing about Sara. One of them found a transmitter on her. That is how the government found them at the Tower. Sara swears she doesn’t know anything about the transmitter. J’onn walks in and says that the woman that he rescued Sara from could have planted the transmitter on Sara. J’onn then tells the Martians to come with him.

The Martians all go into the room where J’onn has Giggs captured. The Martians proceed to use physical coercion to get Giggs to tell them where Sy’Rann’s body is located.

We cut to J’onn flying to an empty warehouse. J’onn doesn’t sense any other heartbeats from the warehouse so no one else is in the building. J’onn thinks how he is the only person who hasn’t thought that this was a trap. J’onn enters the warehouse and finds Sy’Rann’s body. Suddenly, several fire canisters are launched and J’onn finds him surrounded by fire. Till’All suddenly flies in and saves J’onn.

We cut back to the housing development. The other Martians tells J’onn that it was a trap. J’onn asks if Giggs is still in the basement. The Martians say yes. That means that Giggs couldn’t have contact his allies and told them J’onn was coming. J’onn says he trusts Sara so he knows it wasn’t here.

J’onn points out that whoever it was knows about their Martian laws and customs. These are things that only they know. J’onn then shows the other Martians what he discovered about Sy’Rann. That Sy’Rann was infected with H’Ronmeer’s, the plague that wiped out their people. J’onn thinks that the Martians were experimented on in order to create a strain that would work on J’onn. That certain individuals on Earth know that J’onn survived an extinction-level event back home. That whoever brought the Martians here is trying to figure out how to do it and then they will use it against them.

The Martians then realize that the antidote to this plague must also exist in them. The Martians then says that the longer they remain on Earth the more danger they are in. That this is not their home. That they should leave. J’onn says that Earth has a lot of good people who he owes a duty to protect. J’onn orders Dal’En to try and formulate a theory for an antidote. Dal’En says that he is not capable of synthesizing a working antidote. Sara then walks in and says she knows someone who can help them.

We cut to J’onn flying with Mica’Kel and Telok’Telar. J’onn realizes that to know all about Martian customs and personal knowledge of J’onn and his background then the government must have talked to Scorch. Scorch is the only person on Earth with that type of information about J’onn.

We shift to J’onn and the other two Martians at S.T.A.R. Labs Eastern metahuman detention/research facility. J’onn tells the other two that Scorch is gone. That DEO transferred her last night. Suddenly, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan flavor), Green Arrow, Vixen, Black Canary and Zatanna arrive. They tell J’onn that they want to talk to him. That they believe that the group J’onn is protecting pose a serious risk to national security. J’onn responds that he is not protecting them that he rescued them. Vixen says that J’onn leaves them no choice. With that Vixen impulsively attacks J’onn.

The fight happens off panel. J’onn mentions that it was very short and he and his two fellow Martians took them down easily. J’onn hopes that his JLA teammates can forgive him. J’onn says that he has no choice. That he must find Scorch in order to end all of this.

We then cut to J’onn having tracked down the two DEO agents responsible for transferring Scorch. Both agents are now dead. J’onn examines them at the morgue. J’onn realizes that the two DEO agents were killed by a green Martian.

We shift back to J’onn’s residential development. Giggs manages to escape from the basement and goes running through the forest. There, Giggs comes across Mr. Keane. Giggs is happy to see Keane. However, Keane then transforms into a green Martian and stares menacingly at Giggs. End of issue.

The Good: All right, Lieberman managed to rebound with this issue. Martian Manhunter #5 was a pretty good read. Lieberman really started to crank up the intrigue with this issue. Lieberman finally gets himself focused and gives us a well plotted issue that actually advances the main storyline.

Lieberman keeps the twists and turns coming at the reader one after another. We see a DEO agent being attacked and killed by an unknown assailant. We have no idea what the package is. We then learn that whoever captured the Martians has been using them to create the plague that killed off their people. But, not just any version of the plague, one that is specially designed to kill J’onn. And on top of all that we learn that whoever captured the Martians also knows all about their culture and customs and also knows all about J’onn’s past. That certainly all got my attention. However, Lieberman wasn’t quite done with the surprises.

Lieberman then throws in Scorch as being the person who could have told the government all about J’onn and then reveals that Scorch was the package from earlier in the issue. And then to top it all off, Lieberman ends this issue with a massive bomb. Mr. Keane is a green Martian! Wow. My jaw was on the floor with that ending. Wonderfully done. Lieberman shocked me and most definitely hooked me with this ending and now I can’t wait for the next issue.

Lieberman came back strong with Martian Manhunter #5 and after a couple of lackluster and meandering issues; he hit the reader with surprise after surprise. Lieberman completely re-captured my interest in this storyline. I am interested to see just who is Mr. Keane. Obviously, he is a green Martian with a serious axe to grind with J’onn. I am excited to see how all of this fits together.

This issue had an excellent flow and steadily increased the tension as the issue progressed. Lieberman delivered a wonderfully structured story that rhythmically built up to a startling ending. I felt myself becoming more and more engrossed with the story with each page that I turned.

This mini-series has done a nice job further developing J’onn’s character. Lieberman has struck an interesting balance between J’onn clearly not identifying with humans nor viewing Earth as his home with his respect for many humans and his gratitude for all the good Earth has given him and his self imposed duty to protect the good people of Earth. Lieberman has given J’onn an edge that he has never had before as evidenced by how harshly he handles Giggs. However, this edge is tempered with J’onn’s unfailing trust in Sara and his desire to try and resolve things with a minimum amount of violence. It is quite a nice blend and it makes J’onn more complex than he has ever been before.

Lieberman has really done an excellent job accentuating the fact that J’onn is not human and really exploring that aspect of J’onn’s character. I feel that I have a much better feeling for J’onn’s character than I have ever had before. It is nice to see a character actually experience quality character growth in a mini-series. Usually, I find most mini-series to be a waste of time.

Barrionuevo supplies more solid artwork. However, I did find this issue to be Barrionuevo’s weakest effort to this point. I think part of it is that I’m being a bit more critical of his work the more I see how he draws non-Martians. Barrionuevo certainly can draw some wickedly cool Martians. However, his humans look odd. They have this strange flat and lifeless look to them. It is slight creepy.

The Bad: The “fight” with the JLA members was pathetic. Lieberman broke a cardinal rule that binds comic book writers. If you continually tease readers about an upcoming battle between heroes then you had better deliver. Lieberman first teased the reader with this showdown at the end of Martian Manhunter #3. Lieberman failed to deliver that fight in the next issue which was disappointing. Lieberman then teases the readers with the cover of Martian Manhunter #5 which features J’onn brawling with Green Lantern and Green Arrow.

The reader finally gets to see the showdown near the end of this issue and what happens? The entire fight and I mean the ENTIRE fight takes place off panel! And on top of it, J’onn states how the fight was very short as he and his two fellow Martians easily dispatched the JLA’ers.

I had two problems with this so called fight scene. The first being how easily J’onn and the two Martians dispatched these five JLA’ers. I know that Martians are very strong and tough in a battle, but c’mon, you are talking five Justice Leaguers. Yeah, Green Arrow isn’t going to stand much of a chance. Vixen isn’t all that powerful, but she isn’t a total pushover. Black Canary’s sonic scream alone is a very dangerous weapon. Zatanna is a powerful magic wielder who would cause problems for any Martian.

And on top of it all you had a damn Green Lantern on the scene. Green Lanterns are arguable some of the most powerful people in the universe. I know that you are talking three Martians, but Green Lanterns simply do not go down easy, much less the greatest and most powerful Green Lantern of them all in Hal Jordan. That was just way to unbelievable.

However, here is my biggest problem with the handling of this massively hyped showdown: it took place off freaking panel!! That’s right, after being teased over and over again; Lieberman has the entire fight take place off panel. That is absolutely incredible that Lieberman would do such an idiotic move. You simply cannot continually tease the reader with a much anticipated showdown and then have it all take place off panel. That was a massive mistake that an experienced and talented writer just wouldn’t make.

Overall: Martian Manhunter #5 was a good rebound issue. Lieberman turned in a good effort and got this mini-series back on track. I am definitely looking forward to the remaining three issues. I think we are in store for a pretty wild finish.