Martian Manhunter #11 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Riley Rossmo, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: The Choices Between Good and Evil
Ray: With Martian Manhunter #11, there’s only one issue left in Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo’s martian noir tale, and if it sticks the landing it could become as much of a classic as fellow character spotlight Mister Miracle. Equal parts detective thriller and sci-fi horror tale, it’s taken its time getting J’onn and Detective Meade on the same page, but now they have a new level of trust – just in time to face the biggest threat of their lives in the martian psychopath Charnn.
Charnn’s experiments on Ashley, the girl kidnapped at the start of this series, have turned her into a martian hybrid – which is exactly what Charnn plans to do to a much larger group of the citizens of Middletown. That sets off a tense penultimate issue as Meade and J’onn are forced to split up and fend off an army of goons known as the Vultures – as J’onn battles to keep his sanity in one-on-one combat with their evil martian.
Charnn is a very good example of how to write a complex villain. He’s unambiguously evil, a criminal from long before he was frozen in his current form. But at the same time, the Martian criminal justice system was corrupt and inhumane, and it’s not hard to see how he became far more twisted than he originally was. You could pity him if it wasn’t for the fact that every issue Orlando makes him more terrifying and monstrous than the last. The psychic battle of wills between J’onn and Charnn that ends the issue is one of the best action scenes of the series, and the psychic imprints of J’onn’s former life that haunt him through the issue are incredibly effective. It still seems like there’s a lot of story to tell here with only one regular-sized issue to go, and that’s my one hesitation about the story. This is so good that it could easily sustain a few more years of stories, and I hope it’s the prelude to more stories from this creative team.
Corrina: This has been my favorite series of the year because it delves into one of my favorite aspects of noir: the choices one makes that makes you either a hero or a villain. And it’s not just one choice, it’s a series of choices.
Throughout the whole series, we’ve seen J’onn struggle with the corruption on Mars, how he was inspired by the late John Jones to become a better person, and how he’s trying to not make the same compromised choices that he did on Mars. His family died without knowing all he truly was. But now his human partner knows the full truth of who he was and accepts him, as he accepts her.
Meanwhile, Charnn also did evil. He had a choice on Earth too but he veered in the other direction. Instead of letting good humans show him the way, he’s corrupted them instead. This is a great thematic mirror, which is why the story works so well. The conclusion is poised to show the ultimate choice for everyone.
The other reason the story works so well is Rossmo, from the imaginative landscape of the original Mars, to the mind-scapes of Charn and J’onn, and the horror in the tanglible world. I can’t imagine this series without Rossmo. His style is a perfect fit to the themes.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.