Martian Manhunter #3 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Riley Rossmo, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: From J’onn to John
Ray: The first two issues Martian Manhunter stood out due to Orlando and Rossmo’s incredibly inventive vision of life on Mars, but as we all know, J’onn’s time on his home planet was limited. So inevitably this series literally comes down to Earth and becomes a bit more conventional, if still highly compelling. When we last left off, a wounded J’onn was exposed to his human police partner as an alien, and she reacted with shock and horror. In Martian Manhunter #3, he tries to piece himself back together after being exposed to the fire. He explains to his partner how he came to take the place of her previous partner, the long-dead John Jones. His story begins when Dr. Erdel’s machine calls him to Earth against his will, stranding him far away from his family. In a cruel twist, it seems to have displaced him in time, leaving him on Earth as Mars died. It’s not a surprise that his anger and confusion causes Dr. Erdel to have a heart attack, ending J’onn’s hope of reversing the process.
Orlando and Rossmo do a fantastic job of capturing the confusing nature of J’onn’s first few weeks on Earth. He wanders the earth mostly invisible, grasping for remnants of the life he used to know. But when he stumbles upon a crazed cultist who has been kidnapping people for ritual murder, he reveals himself and spirits away the mortally wounded detective who tried to stop the killer.
The idea that Martians take on the form of the deceased to provide comfort to their family is fascinating and adds a logical reason for why J’onn would take on a dead man’s face. His desire for belonging explains why he kept it up long after the traditional mourning period, but his story doesn’t seem to have won over Jones’ partner. The issue ends on a downer note, with the two partners splitting and she’s still not sure whether to expose his secret. This feels like a slow-burn noir with some fantastic character work, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Corrina: Martian Manhunter #3 backtracks a bit to show J’onn’s traditional origin of being snatched from his home, plus Erdel’s heart attack from J’onn’s monstrous (to him) transformation. But it also lovingly fills in the background of how he assumed an Earthly identity. That the original John Jones was a good person is so clear, as is the bond he must have had with his partner, Diane. In that day and age, a female cop and a Black detective would have been a somewhat unusual team.
Which likely explains why his partner doesn’t fully accept the truth or trust J’onn right away. That’s a number of shocks in a row. One, the man she cared about is dead. Two, the man she’s been working with has been a completely new person. Three, that completely new person is an alien. That’s rather a lot to take in and while it would be nice if she was won over quickly, it’s not realistic that she would be. Especially after seeing J’onn’s transformations after being shot, which is another thing the art team does wonderfully.
However, these murders on Earth seem connected to J’onn’s past life on Marsh, so the two cultures are due for a further collision.
This remains a tremendous book.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.