Martian Manhunter #3 // Review
A displaced Martian peacekeeper finds it difficult to explain himself to a longtime earth partner in the third part of Joe Orlando’s Martian Manhunter mini-series. Wildly exuberant art by Riley Rossmo is tamed to some extent by the coloring of FCO Plascencia. The origin of the man known as J'onn J'onzz is explored with fluid emotion in an issue that taps into some of the deep psychology of a displaced superhuman. It’s a familiar story told in a unique voice by Orlando and Rossmo.
A heavily wounded Martian Manhunter literally picks his heart up off the ground before explaining his past masquerading as a human to the fellow police detective who has been his long-time partner. Recovering from wounds that would have killed just about anybody else, J’onzz relates having been pulled to earth quite without his consent and eventually taking the place of a late police officer in the interest of aiding those living in his newfound home. Elsewhere a girl named Ashley is the victim of a sinister red specter.
Jones and his terrified police partner are going to need to repair their trust in each other quite quickly if they are to find the kidnapped Ashley in time to save her.
The story of J'onn J'onzz has been told a number of times since writer Joseph Samachson first introduced the character back in 1955. Orlando doesn’t do a whole lot to add to it here. This isn’t really an issue, though as the art is fresh enough to make it feel like a pleasant trip back to the recurring story of a powerful individual looking to fit in with those who would be terrified if they knew who he was. His long-time partner in policing finds overcomes that fear in the interest of continuing an investigation in a rather well-crafted story that reaches beyond the origin.
Rossmo continues his wildly exaggerated melted cheese-looking approach to delivering emotional drama. It feels like a strange fusion of Basil Wolverton, Moebius, and H.R. Giger. The rubbery amorphousness of it all robs the plot of its proper intensity in places while amplifying it beautifully in others. Plascencia’s coloring splashes around in all the rubbery. Blood is particularly gruesome in the midst of dizzying action. There are some other particularly trippy bits of coloring. Of particular note is a jarring red and blue background vividly depicting the emotional impact of a panic attack near the end of the issue.
Rossmo’s art is an acquired taste that is not without its charm. It might mutate the impact of the story in places, but it makes for a really distinctive impression that should find a nice rhythm as the mini-series pulls into its second quarter next issue. With the backstory fully-rendered, the series has a chance to build into something substantial.