[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Deron Bennett
Journey back to Ma’Aleca’Andra, or as we know it, Mars, for a story of family, love and expression from J’Onn J’Onzz’s own eyes. Meanwhile, back in the present J’Onn needs Diane’s help to escape a life threatening car crash and fire, but after Diane’s secret is revealed, will J’Onn’s only Earth connection be severed as well?
Family, love, loss, expression, and connection. These are the central themes of Martian Manhunter #2 that the team of Orlando, Rossmo, Plascencia, and Bennett execute so well. We begin immediately surrounded by the beauty of two young Martian lovers gazing upon the night sky. The reader is viewing a moment of intimacy in the similar manner that J’Onn is peering through the “distance eye.” To see this portion of their lives truly feels like a privilege, especially as we learn that Martians can bond to parts of their world around them. We are then shown more of this very personal moment and get to bear witness to a conversation many readers will be all too familiar with. Just that small conversation at the beginning of the issue serves as a reminder that no matter what sentient life forms look or feel like, no matter our differences, certain core elements can always unite us.
Then, just as with Martian Manhunter #1, we are treated with the magnificent dichotomy presented in this series. First we had his beautiful life on Mars portrayed through brilliant purple hues across panels that bend and meld together, unbounded by shape. Now we J’Onn in chaos as everything around him is on fire. The fire is a brilliant orange amidst the pale blues, greens, and grays of Earth. Rossmo and Plascencia both do a great job of emphasizing the differences between these two scenes, showing the beauty in one and the chaos in the other. I love the 15-panel grid and how the panels start jostled and misaligned, but straighten themselves out as J’Onn literally pulls himself together only to deteriorate again just as he does. Everything from the brilliantly drawn and colored fear foam that brings forth a disoriented, anxious feeling, to the smaller, shakier lettering from Deron Bennett that expresses J’Onn’s weakness and uncertainty go a long way towards conveying the true tragedy of the moment. Seeing J’Onn literally and metaphorically torn apart at the end of the scene as he is in serious danger of losing Diane as a trusted friend forever is enough to bring people to tears, and it’s not even the saddest moment of the issue.
As we are transported back to Ma’Aleca’Andra, we see foreshadowing of what is to come with H’ronmeer’s curse becoming and more real and reaching more and people. But that image is brief, and what follows is only a spotlight one of the single cutest characters to ever exist in comics: K’Hym J’Onzz. It should be a crime for a character to be made this cute after we know her fate, and the family bonding time at the museum is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to an outside observer. As J’Onn explains the similarities between Earth an Mars, I can’t help but admire the taste and class that Orlando and Rossmo have while presenting the similarities in differences between the two cultures. Everything said appears to be chosen carefully, but it still comes across as very warm anf lighthearted. There are so many lessons that people can learn from reading this book, and I think audiences young and old can relate to the ideas about being true to yourself, that you are not your parents, and that its how you feel that truly matters.
The most ingenious new concept, however, was the idea that Martians evolved from simple form and mass. It is perfectly analogous and unique from evolution on Earth while still being thoroughly defined and true to the Martian identity. I deeply appreciate what this take on Martian evolution could mean going forward and can’t wait to see what ideas await in future issues. The end of the issue quickly returns to tragedy as J’Onn does his best to fix things with Diane. I am quite curious to see how things play out, as this could change the relationship between J’Onn and Diane as we know it forever. His family is gone, no one love him, he has lost so much including most ways of expression, and his last serious connection might have been severed. J’Onn J’Onzz has truly hit rock bottom.
Towards the middle of the issue in the scene with the seduction dome, there are so many analogous Martian concepts that were just casually dropped so quickly that it felt somewhat disorienting. I love it when little, new details are sprinkled in that further enrich a story’s lore, but there were so many all at once that didn’t seem to serve a larger purpose, and it took me out of the story a little bit for those few pages.
A magnificent second issue that builds upon the first while introducing us to elements of tragedy and connecting us to characters from a world away who may not be so different after all.