Martian Manhunter #2 // Review
Being human is difficult. Being an alien is difficult. Being an alien pretending to be human is super difficult. And maybe we’re all a bit alien in a world of constant displacement. This is the nature of life as explored just a bit further in the second issue of writer Steve Orlando’s Martian Manhunter maxi-series. Riley Rossmo handles the art, draped in color by Ivan Plascencia. The series caught between two worlds is progressing nicely toward the end of its first quarter.
Beginning in the premiere issue, visions from another life have caught extraterrestrial immigrant, J'onn J'onzz, off-guard. He was driving at the time. He veered off the road. There was a crash. Now, the resulting fire has caused J’onzz to inadvertently reveal his true form, (at least some version of it) much to the shock of his human police partner, Diane. The story alternates between memories of life on Mars and attempts at explanations to a fellow police investigator who deserves far more than explanations.
In his second issue, Orlando uses a well-regulated juxtaposition to contrast between a fiery auto accident on Earth and memories of a tranquil family life on Mars. It’s kind of an ugly contrast. J’onzz is trying to regain a coherent physical form AND explain himself; all while memories of his elegantly alien Martian culture play out in persistent flashbacks. It’s a fun journey at times. Life on Mars is just alien enough to seem familiar. It’s just wondrous enough to seem mundane. It’s a strange miasma of a dream, cast against the horror of an auto accident.
Riley Rossmo’s art is nothing if not dynamic. There’s a strong sense of action and momentum about the story - even in relatively still moments. The effect of making it through a full issue can feel a bit like a case of motion sickness, but it’s not entirely unpleasant. The rubbery exaggeration of drama DOES detract a bit from the intensity of the horror of someone seeing her longtime work partner suddenly mutate into something hideous. There’s potential for vividly visceral shock in the visuals, but Rossmo’s exaggeration makes it feel like so much melted cheese that it can be kind of difficult to see what’s going on. That being said, the moments of wonder on Mars are absolutely beautiful, thanks in no small part to the work of the colorist. Ivan Plasencia does a lot to amplify a steady uniformity to Rossmo’s art. Variations in tone and hue add a depth to it all that makes it that much more visually coherent.
Orlando and Rossmo are working on something that is definitely building in an interesting direction. Larger themes of alienation, humanity, and being caught between two worlds will no doubt come into full focus as the series careens into issue #3. For now, the current major conflicts are brought into full view with the blast of a pistol.