Martian Manhunter #2 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Riley Rossmo, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Alien. Yet Human
Ray: After the first issue’s inventive reinvention of the Martian Manhunter mythology, I was questioning whether Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo’s maxiseries was going to be a true masterpiece or a flawed experiment. Based on Martian Manhunter #2, signs are looking good for the former. This is a brilliant visual feast that gives us one of the best displays of an alien civilization we’ve ever seen in a comic book. The issue continues to split the focus between two distinct timelines – the height of Martian civilization, and J’onn’s earliest days on Earth when he was undercover as a policeman. The former storyline is where the series really shines, from the opening segment where J’onn and his future wife commune psychically in the presence of a giant organic telescope. Orlando manages to make this civilization truly alien in a way that’s very hard to pull off. The fluid nature of Martian bodies and their constant psychic link adds some really fascinating wrinkles to the way they live.
Equally fascinating are their traditions, and the way they eventually pick their final forms. J’onn’s sweet relationship with his daughter grounds these segments nicely, but the scenes with him as a policeman are incredibly intense. There’s an ongoing subplot involving a mysterious plague that causes Martians to spontaneously combust, and J’onn’s evil brother is namedropped more than once.
But the present-day storyline doesn’t fall down on the job either. A tense, fiery segment that puts J’onn’s life in peril as his true identity is revealed to his police partner, it gives us some key information about the man whose life he took over. This is a slow-burn mystery that brilliantly combines high-concept sci-fi with classic detective noir, and Riley Rossmo is putting on the art clinic of his life in a surreal style that brings Mars to life like never before. This is easily one of the DC books to watch in 2019.
Corrina: For so long, the loss of the Martian civilization and J’Onn’s more personal loss of his family simply felt like something in his backstory. No longer. This book brings it all to life, a visual feast that provides perspective to how much J’Onn has lost. It also makes the Martians, particularly his wife and daughter, far more than indistinct figures to mourn.
In so many ways, the theme of the first two issues has been the search for identity. J’Onn even has a dual nature on Mars, where he separates his work from his family. He’s doing the same on Earth, keeping himself closed off from his human partner until she’s forced to confront what he is–which makes him confront who and what he is too. I hope this does not end badly for her.
Continuing the theme of identity is the Martian coming-of-age, where young ones finally choose their identity, a custom that is celebrated as a special rite. It’s hard not to contrast that with the difficulties encountered by those who want to become their true selves on Earth, especially if their true identity is genderfluid or in the LGBTQ.
On the art, Rossmo makes J’Onn’s daughter basically an oval blob but she’s the most adorable blob ever. He also imbues the fire with true menace, flames licking the car, trapping J’Onn. His stylistic approach is perfect for showing how all the shapeshifting bodies morph, depending on circumstances.
And now, we have a plot connection between the Martain plague with the murder mystery on Earth. Perfect.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.