Martian Manhunter #7
Back on the beat as partners determined to find Ashley Addams' kidnapper, Detectives John (J'onn) Jones and Diane Meade lead a task force to an alleged human trafficking operation at a pig farm!
But the traffickers are notably organized, almost as though they knew to expect the officers. Pinned down under fire with Meade, J'onn goes invisible to regain the advantage!
Winnowing the traffickers' forces to a single man, J'onn and Meade make a terrifying discovery. Horrible mutation experiments have been being performed, leaving mutilated and grotesque corpses strewn about everywhere!
But just as J'onn realizes whose handiwork this abattoir truly is... elsewhere, the monstrous Charnn's true plan is revealed, even as Ashley Addams' true role in this drama comes to macabre fruition!
Having successfully crossed the midway mark last issue, Martian Manhunter shifts gears leading into its second half as it begins the ramp-up toward conclusion. J’onn and Meade repair the bridges between them and Charnn’s master plan stands revealed.
But for all its successful table-setting, something feels missing in this issue as compared to previous installments. The first half of this story successfully amped up its intensity by masterfully shifting between past and present; J’onn’s final months on Mars and the doom of his world was near-flawlessly contrasted with his new life on Earth and the struggles he faced acclimating to humankind. That tension reached a pitch-perfect crescendo last issue with the finale of the flashback subplot; it was by equal measure epic, brutal, and heart-rending all in one go. The problem is, now that the flashback portion of the story is complete, writer Steve Orlando has to figure out how to fill the void its absence creates.
This issue definitely feels decompressed as compared to the dense plots of of previous issues; far too much time is spent lingering on the pig farm than is necessary just to reach the gruesome discover that awaits as the scene reaches fruition. And while the explanation of Charnn’s plan is welcome (it’s hard to invest in a villain as a character if we have no idea what their motivation is), it doesn’t make up for the relatively skimpy plot found in the remainder of the issue.
But it’s not all bad news. Orlando handles J’onn and Meade’s reunion well; I still feel she’s come around to the fact that an alien is wearing her dead partner’s form a little too easily, but now that the two of them are back on equal footing Orlando writes a comfortable camaraderie between them that sells their tentative newfound friendship believably. Next issue promises to reveal more of Meade’s only-hinted-at backstory, which is currently being positioned to strengthen their bond.
Another minor critique I have of this issue is that some of the dialogue is extremely bad, especially coming from the mouths of the traffickers. Old-school Silver Age exposition like, “Something in the room with us! There has to be!” “But there’s – there’s nothing!” is embarrassingly cheesy and inexcusably out of touch with both modern writing and the rest of the story. Thankfully, there’s not much of the issue that suffers from such chicanery, but it was glaring enough that I had to mention it. (Similarly, I’m not sure who approved the cover blurb “Fight Farm!” but making a reference to a 20-year-old Brad Pitt movie via lazy word play is eye-rollingly bad at the very best.)
The cover itself, too, is a bizarre choice in general: two giant pigs… really? I’m not sure what sort of imagery Riley Rossmo was trying to conjure up, but although there can be a bizarrely sinister element to swine (see the climax of Hannibal if you don’t believe me), it just doesn’t work here. J’onn looks here like he picked a bad day to visit the Oscar Mayer plant, but nothing more menacing than that.
Throughout the issue, though, Rossmo and colorist Ivan Plascencia’s art feels a bit out of place sans any outlandish Mars scenes to justify the former’s eccentric style. But Rossmo deserves props for the innovative way he conveys J’onn’s invisibility (see above): instead of drawing his ghostly body with the usual graphite, he uses colored pencils instead, eschewing all inks in favor of a bright, contrasted effect that works wonders. It’s a really innovative little touch that I personally haven’t seen used before to convey invisibility. Keeping pace with the earthbound setting of this issue, Plascencia’s colors are a bit more muted; they’re still wonderful, but don’t pop off the page like a neon grenade like they did in previous issues’ scenes on Mars.
This was a bit of a slow issue (I hesitate to use the term "filler," but... well...), as Steve Orlando struggles just a bit to keep the narrative momentum up now that his flashback scenes are concluded. It's still a solid and utterly unique read, though; here's hoping that the miniseries' remaining installments are able to regain the slack from this issue's slow exhale.
Martian Manhunter #7 (of 12): Body Horror
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 6.5/106.5/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 6/106/10
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