J’onn J’onnz is dead. Martian Manhunter #3 begins in the immediate aftermath of J’onn’s sacrifice at the end of the previous issue. As Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League examine the machine which vaporized their friend, a different set of onlookers begin to plot their next move. The surviving Martians, having lost their weapon in J’onn, try to devise a new plan to fulfill their goals. They are greeted by Ma’alefa’ak, who uses ancient Martian magic to create the Martian Man-Eater, a gargantuan beast that will do his bidding. This is part of their plan to draw J’onn, who they believe to be alive in some form, forward so that they can defeat him.
Back on Earth, Agent Wessel is being taunted by Leo, a young man accused of murdering his own mother. Leo’s questions have started to lean toward the crazy: Mars, aliens, lighting corpses on fire, and Wessel has had enough. Not because Leo’s questions annoy him, but because they strike a chord inside him, causing Wessel to consider his own doubts as to what is really going on. After making a call to his superiors, Wessel suspects that not all is as it seems. He finds evidence that Leo is telling the truth and makes an escape with his prisoner in tow. Unfortunately, their exit route leads them directly into the path of the Martian Man-Eater.
The art by penciler Eddy Barrows, inker Eber Ferreira, and colorist Gabe Eltaeb continues to be a highlight of this series. The detailed lines by Barrows add a realistic tone, while the strong inks by Ferreira and Eltaeb’s cold color palette make for a perfect blend between science fiction and horror. Barrows’ design for the Martian Man-Eater is terrifying, and it’s nice to see a superhero comic go for this tone.
Rob Williams’ script is a fantastic read, beginning with the death of the titular hero, while simultaneously building up the character of Agent Wessel the threat of the other Martians. Agent Wessel hadn’t gotten much page time before this issue, but by the end, Williams has provided insight into how he views the world and his connection to the other characters in the book in a way that will make readers recognize his importance to the overall story.
The great thing about Martian Manhunter #3 is that its positives help balance out its major negative quality which is that it doesn’t quite tie together all of the loose ends in the series. How is J’onn communicating from beyond the grave? It’s unclear now, and while that’s confusing for the moment, the reveal at the end of the issue suggests that an answer is coming. While previous chapters seemed to be telling separate stories, Martian Manhunter #3 instantly makes it easier for readers to guess how the pieces fit in the puzzle, and that makes it a great read for returning readers. Readers coming onto the series now will likely still be confused, but the content is engaging enough to leave them wanting more.
Martian Manhunter #3 is another good chapter in this sci-fi thriller. The art team, led by penciler Eddy Barrows turns in some fantastic character work and horrifying aliens, while Eddy Barrows brings together some of the disparate plot elements of previous issues. If Martian Manhunter can close out its opening arc as strong as this issue, the series will quickly find itself in stellar territory.