Through Carnage to Joy
In the depths of his own subconscious, J'onn J'onzz and Detective Meade embark on a psychic mission to confront J'onn's darkest fears within his hermitage as a means of unleashing his full telepathic potential. It is the only way he'll be powerful enough to persevere against the monstrous Charnn!
To persevere, J'onn must defeat his inner avatars of shame, anger, and duty!
Despite being a creative watershed for DC in general, Martian Manhunter hits some bumps in the road in issue ten. The idea that J’onn must confront his innermost fears so that he can step up and defeat Charnn isn’t exactly a novel concept, and writer Steve Orlando’s execution is as straightforward as it gets – lending to this issue a feeling of tedium right when the pace should be accelerating for the big finish.
It also would have helped if Meade’s response was more heartfelt rather than turning into a gung-ho video game character, but she glides through the insane goings-on without blinking a weirdly almond-shaped eye. There was a moment for genuine tenderness when she witnessed the deaths of J’onn’s wife and daughter, but the opportunity came and went and Orlando was on to slaying the big mental beast. Anger, shame, and duty as psychic monsters to be overcome is a bit too on-the-nose for a story that’s excelled at beneath-the-surface storytelling, so such an approach seems to betray the story’s strengths for the sake of expediency. Sure, J’onn needs to to get whole so he can defeat Charnn, but did his path have to be so hackneyed and cliched?
Artist Riley Rossmo similarly falls short of his usual heights this issue as well. It may have been a conscious choice to lean into his own occasional tendency toward balloony cartoonishness since the majority of the issue takes place in J’onn’s mind, but the end result looks rushed. Gone are the lush, intricate canvasses of weirdness from past issues; in their place is are a bunch of balloon-animal landscapes. It still has a uniqueness to it that defies easy categorization or comparison, though – especially thanks to uber-colorist extraordinaire Ivan Plascencia – but lordy, it’s looked so, so much better.
Martian Manhunter #10 hits a narrative skid this issue and is over-reliant on well-worn storytelling tropes to be truly effective. It's payoff isn't necessarily earned as a result, cheapening it as a reading experience. With only two issues to go, it hopefully isn't too late to recover before the big finale. It would be a shame if such an inventive, imaginative series were to end with a whimper instead of a bang.
Martian Manhunter #10 (of 12): Cleaning Out My Closet
Writing - 6/106/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 6/106/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 6/106/10
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