Once upon a time, a Martian cop named J'onn J'onzz ran secret errands for a local crime boss, unbeknownst to his wife M'yri'ah and daughter K'hym, and learned a terrible secret...
Martians are dying in secret of a fast-spreading, immolating disease known as H'ronmeer's Curse, and within a year, it will consume their entire race!
Meanwhile, life continues apace for the J'onzz family. J'onn and M'ryi'ah reminisce about being young and in love, and together with K'hym, visit an exhibit on Thu'ulc'andrans (a.k.a. Earthlings) and we learn that Martian culture once had a sweeping fascination with them, informing aspects of their society from the decision to walk on two legs to facial features:
...But in the back of his mind, J'onn can't shake the unease he feels about the looming threat of H'Ronmeer's Curse.
And in present day, a car crash and its ensuing flames blow J'onn's cover as an Earth detective!
Let me say this up front: there’s a segment of fandom that’s going to absolutely hate this miniseries.
It’s already a bold enough move to make J’onn J’onzz, long one of the DCU’s standard-bearers of moral rectitude and temperance, a dirty cop while he was still on Mars. But add Riley Rossmo’s idiosyncratic, rubbery balloon animal art to the mix…? Well, let’s just say there’s going to be some unhappy voices screeching on the ‘net.
What Steve Orlando is doing here – and Rossmo is so capably rendering – is crafting a fully-realized Martian culture, complete with annual holidays for choosing “social shapes” (K’hym hasn’t picked hers yet, which is why she’s stuck as a floating glob of goo until she’s old enough to change) and a seedy underbelly where transgressors are threatened with being sent to a “quiet tube.” Martians “plug in” to a type of long-range telescope capable of viewing all the way to Earth (sorry, Thu’ulc’andra) and reveal the faddish, fawning relationship their society had with early humans.
It all serves to build up the world just so Orlando can inevitably tear it down when J’onn eventually becomes the last Martian. It’s a tragedy unfolding in slow-motion, a world built for us to care about and become invested in just in time for it to be laid low.
About that art: Riley Rossmo is the spirtual heir to fellow singular talent Kelley Jones in that there’s no other artist quite like him. His lines bubble and bounce all over the page, forming a kind of spastic cartooniness that’s tethered by a grimy overlay. The Earth scenes, where J’onn writhes and decomposes in the face of flaming death, are particularly disgusting and disturbing in their detail. Ivan Plascencia’s bright, eye-catching colors pull the whole thing together, positively glowing from the page.
My chief critique at this point is J’onn’s human partner, Meade. So far, she’s pretty much a blank slate, serving mainly as a POV surrogate for the readers as J’onn’s true identity is revealed. However, at but two issues in there’s still a lot of time for her character to grow and in fairness, she hasn’t gotten a whole lot of time in the spotlight thus far.
A bold and unique reinterpretation of a classic character, Orlando and Rossmo are crafting a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions... get onboard now before you're the only one not talking about it!
Martian Manhunter #2 (of 12): Fire Bad
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 8/108/10
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