DC continues to roll out the new titles as a part of their DCYOU campaign. This time we have Martian Manhunter #1. I have always love J’onn’s character. However, the New 52 interpretation of J’onn’s character has left much to be desired. Hopefully, DC will treat us to a more classic interpretation of J’onn’s character with this new title. Let’s hope for the best and check out this issue!
Words: Rob Williams
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira
Colors: Gabe Eltaeb
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with narration about how aliens are among us. We see some kids approaching an old abandoned building. Inside of it sits an old alien with the sign around his neck that says “Mr. Biscuits. Only wake in case of emergency.” The kids are too afraid to go inside and wake up Mr. Biscuits. One little girl says she is not afraid to go inside and wake him up and give him the bag of biscuits that they have for him. She walks in and wakes up Mr. Biscuits. Mr. Biscuit holds his hand out and then snatches the bag of biscuits from the little girl. Mr. Biscuit then performs a magic trick and pulls a coin out from behind the little girl’s ear. The little girl asks if Mr. Biscuit is good. Mr. Biscuit replies “I don’t know.”
We cut to a plane with engine failure careening through the sky. Martian Manhunter shows up on the scene. J’onn sends out a telepathic message to his fellow JLA’ers that the Epiphany is here. That multiple terrorist attacks are being carried out across the entire globe at this very moment. That the JLA’ers must go save as many people as possible. J’onn cannot slow down the plane by grabbing it out of fear that the speed of the plane will tear it apart in his grasp.
Martian Manhunter phases through the plane and enters inside the cabin. J’onn telepathically calms everyone and puts them into a peaceful sleep. Suddenly, one of the sleeping passenger’s eyes turn red and they look at J’onn and tell him that he cannot deny who or what he is. That J’onn is a poor excuse for a super hero. But, J’onn is a fine weapon. That J’onn needs to accept what he is and join them.
Martian Manhunter says “You are wrong.” and phases back through to the outside of the plane. J’onn thinks how he was created by the Martians to be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction in the Martians’ quest to conquer Earth. J’onn thinks how he is not a super hero. That he is a Martian and god help everyone on Earth. J’onn transforms into a giant green dragon and grabs ahold of the plane.
We hop over to the Justice League Watchtower where Superman, Flash and Cyborg all talk about J’onn’s psychic message that he just sent them. They look at a globe of the Earth and talk about the war zones and terrorists attack that have erupted across the entire planet. Cyborg says that they need to call in everyone.
We shift to Dubai. We see a female cat burglar outside the window of a rich prince’s luxury condo. She is there is steal his “excess wealth.” She sees a man in a suit walk into the Prince’s condo. The man in the suit transforms into a white Martian. The Martian kills the Arab Prince. The Martian then walks up to the window and says that he sees the cat burglar. The Martian says that he know who she really is and that if she wants to play this game then she had better run.
We zip back to the damaged plane. We see that J’onn safety landed the plane. The passengers are streaming out of the plane. Martian Manhunter in his natural Martian form is lying on the ground unconscious. A little boy walks over to Martian Manhunter. J’onn regains consciousness and begins to transform back into his humanoid shape. J’onn says that the boy is safe and that J’onn is a member of the Justice League of America. The little boy is terrified from seeing Martian Manhunter’s true form. The little boy runs away yelling that there is a monster and it made the plane crash.
Martian Manhunter flies away looking said and says “I am not a monster.”
We slide to a residential neighborhood in Washington, DC where the FBI has been called in to investigate a murder. A boy who has been confined to a wheelchair and has no use of his limbs has supposedly strangled his mother to death. The FBI agent thinks that this is impossible. The FBI agent talks to the boy. The boy says that the woman was not really his mother. The FBI agent says the birth records show that she was his mother. The boy says those can be faked. The boy says he killed his “mother.” The boy says that the epiphany is coming.
Suddenly, there is a massive explosion outside of the house. The boy’s eyes glow red. The boy asks the FBI agent if about all of the bad things that are shown on the news that people cannot believe humans would actually do. The boy says what if those bad things weren’t actually done by humans.
We zip over to N.A.S.A. headquarters in Florida. J’onn approaches Helen Demoff and tells her that he needs her help. Martian Manhunter says he needs Helen to kill him.
We hop back to the little girl with Mr. Biscuit. Mr. Biscuit hands the little girl the coin from his magic trick. The little girl then leaves. Mr. Biscuit then says “Biscuits good.” as he starts eating the biscuits.
The Good: Martian Manhunter #1 is a difficult issue to grade. I am incredibly conflicted over this debut issue. The conflict stems from how utterly unimpressed I am by DC’s editorial mandated decisions since the New 52 reboot. However, I cannot penalize the writer for the sins of the editors. On one hand, I despise the darker interpretation of Martian Manhunter. I am less than impressed with him being a weapon of mass destruction designed to bring about the destruction of Earth in the Martian’s quest for expansion. I am also not thrilled with the continued theme of J’onn being treated like a monster and being angst ridden over his place on Earth as a Martian. However, on the other hand, I cannot deny that Martian Manhunter #1 is a well written issue.
Rob Williams does craft a quality read with this issue. Martian Manhunter #1 is technically well constructed. The story is well paced and plotted. The story’s flow moves at a quick pace but never feels rushed. Williams hits the ground running with the “Epiphany” breaking out across the globe. I love that this debut issue eschews the normal dull approach of many first issues of a new series where the writer engages in lots of back story and foundation building. Williams actually does an impressive job giving just enough back story on J’onn in context of the current story arc without engaging in long narration or flashback scenes. New readers get a clear sense of J’onn’s back story and personality without having to get a flashback scene or a long narration from the writer. It is perfectly done.
By weaving J’onn’s back story into the initial story arc it allows Williams to step on the gas pedal and get this opening story arc moving with a clear purpose and at a fast pace. The Epiphany breaking out across the globe ratchets up the intensity in this debut issue. Williams covers so much ground in just this issue. It is amazing how much plot progression we get in this issue. This issue has plenty of depth. Martian Manhunter #1 is the antithesis of the thin decompressed single issue that we see often.
I found the Epiphany to be a fascinating plot. Williams certainly hooked me with this story concept. I am curious to see where Williams goes with this plot line. What was also enjoyable was the incredible sense of dread that Williams conjures up with the Epiphany. Martian Manhunter #1 brings the reader to the edge of their seat. Williams gradually increases the tension throughout this issue until it is at an absolute crescendo at the end of the issue. The tension and dread in this issue is absolutely palpable.
Williams dials up a good balance of action and drama. There is enough action to keep the story lively. However, the foundation of this issue are the strong dramatic scenes where Williams introduces the reader to the Epiphany. The dialogue is also well done. The dialogue has a pleasant flow. Obviously, Martian Manhunter receives the only real character development. And Williams does a solid job with J’onn’s character and personality. I found that J’onn had a well-defined external voice and the reader got a good sense of his personality and his internal struggle to adapt to Earth and become a hero.
I enjoyed the intro scene and ending scene to this issue that both centered around Mr. Biscuits. These two scenes had this weird William Burroughs vibe to them. His clothing and speech were delightfully odd. These two scenes succeed in giving the reader a queasy uneasy feeling. They were both well done. I have no idea where Williams is going with this character, but I like it. I am curious to see where this goes. I love quirky and strange characters and plot lines. Mr. Biscuits definitely is my kind of character.
Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira combine to deliver plenty of solid artwork. Barrows is a classic super hero artist. He draws a great looking Martian Manhunter. Barrows also does a good job conveying the emotions of the various characters.
The Bad: I am not a fan of the concept as J’onn as a weapon of mass destruction to be used in the Martians’ plan to take over the Earth. This darker direction to J’onn’s character feels like a holdover from the New 52 and it is not appealing at all. I am also less than thrilled with the idea of seeing J’onn be full of angst over who he is and how he is viewed by Earthlings. J’onn has always been a character who has an incredibly zen view of life. J’onn was always the moral rock that the Justice League was built upon. J’onn was the spiritual center. The calm in the storm. There was something so reassuring, peaceful and positive about J’onn’c character. It is something that you do not see often in comics and it made him unique and original.
Now? This current gimmick? J’onn full of angst over his purpose and over how Earthlings view him and his role on Earth? We are already getting that with Superman. Not every character has to be tortured, conflicted and full of uncertainty about how they are and their role in the world. Not every character needs to question if they are a hero. We already get enough of that with characters like the DCYOU version of Superman, Aquaman and others. Hopefully, Williams can move past this interpretation of J’onn’s character after the Epiphany has been dealt with. Then at that point, maybe we can get a more classic interpretation of J’onn’s character complete with its much more positive vibe.
Overall: Martian Manhunter #1 is technically a well crafted debut issue. And I do think that this issue will appeal to many readers. Williams does deliver a high quality product with this issue. If only DC’s editorially mandated direction with J’onn’s character didn’t taint the product. It would be great to see this title break free from the New 52 interpretation of J’onn’s character. Williams’ writing is strong enough that I am willing to give this title a chance to see what Williams can do with J’onn’s character.