Review: MARTIAN MANHUNTER #7
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Andworld Design
Reviewed By: Ari Bard
In Martian Manhunter #7, the dynamic duo is back together at last!… kind of. Diane and J’Onn raid a pig farm that’s secretly a hub for human trafficking, but Diane may not be ready to fully trust him yet. Will they find young Ashley Addams there, or perhaps something even more disturbing?
Lately, DC’s mini and maxi-series have been a key format for some of their most creative, most important, and most successful stories. The Batman Who Laughs and DCeased are huge hits. Female Furies used Jack Kirby’s classic and timeless characters to tell an important, modern tale of harassment, abuse, abhorrent behavior, and female struggle and empowerment. Mister Miracle represented a deep inspection of mental health and is one of the most successful comic books ever. If anything’s certain in this comic book age, it’s the Martian Manhunter is next on the list. Steve Orlando, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Deron Bennett use a unique blend of sci-fi world building and a procedural noir narrative to take a new look a tried and true character of the DC Universe.
Right from page one, we’re in a very different place than we were last issue. You might be in shock when you see the contrast between J’Onn at his lowest point while losing his family in the midst of fiery chaos on Mars and John Jones about to raid a pig farm in Midleton Colorado with the help of his partner Diane Meade. It simply shows the delicate tightrope they’re walking between these two worlds and how well they can fit together. Riley Rossmo’s art style is definitely one of the most unique and recognizable in comics today, and his creative panel layouts and distorted geometries are a perfect fit for this book. There’s no better fit to design Mars and Martian behavior on Earth than Riley Rossmo. With the help of Orlando’s character work, the two make an ideal collaboration.
This issue is centered around a very simple element of police dramatization: the raid. Police are about to raid the pig farm rumored to be a hub for human trafficking. While appearing abandoned, it turns out to be heavily fortified and chaos ensues amidst a bullet storm. But what happens once Martian elements get involved? It’s a classic part of any crime novel or comic you’ve read or any police show you’ve watched on TV, but just by sprinkling in a touch of sci-fi, Orlando, Rossmo, Plascencia, and Bennett are able to work wonders.
Rossmo is able to make the raid come alive through an effective use of space and angling. He focuses on wide, horizontal panels that bring a cinematic, almost slow motion quality to the shootout. This is particularly emphasized in the beautiful double-page spread on page 2 which opens up the shootout into this really expansive and chaotic mess with cleverly placed inset panels that show where the officers’ eyes might be drawn to in the midst of all the noise and bullets. Plascencia does a great job of adjusting his colors to the situation. The bright greens, purples, and reds, commonly seen on Mars are replaced with much earthier tones for this scene. There’s a lot of forest and olive greens, browns, and beiges that help liven up this farm. As the initial chaos calms a bit and Diane and John move to the lower floors of this farm, they enter an elevator that Rossmo uses, along with the panel borders, to really create a sense of confinement. Martian Manhunter #7 is really a great look at what an artist can do with space. As th issue goes on, the colors also start to become more gray, with a faint red glow creeping in as the tension heightens. This is really contrasting from the other issues in a really cool way. Deron Bennett also gets plenty of room to shine with some amazing SFX work as glass breaks, bullets ricochet, and pigs squeal. Whether bold and loud or soft and understated, the SFX are always felt.
The coolest part of Martian Manhunter #7, however, is the way that Orlando and Rossmo are able to bring the two worlds together. In the small town of Midleton. The picture we see as Meade and Jones entire the final room is grotesque and terrifying. You have these human-martian hybrid corpses hanging like sacks of meat. Orlando, Rossmo, Plascencia, and Bennett are merging two worlds into one as John will slowly have to realize that he cannot choose to simply be John Johns or J’Onn J’Onzz. He is both now. This image is forced before your eyes as we find out that Ch’Arnn’s experiments are to unlock Martian capabilities within the human genome so he can take on a new body. Think Frankenstein meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Nevertheless, the final scene brings an unexpected but important lesson of acceptance. J’Onn J’Onzz will never again be John Jones for Diane Meade, but that doesn’t mean that she’s unwilling to give the real deal a chance. John Jones gave her a chance as a rookie detective, and Diane is willing to extend the same good will to J’Onn. The question is: Will J’Onn be able to move past the confines of his earthly identity?
There’s a few seafoam green word balloons at the beginning of the issue that don’t seem to contrast well enough with the white font within them or blue sky behind them. Just a small issue, but one that may make you read those captions twice.
If you’re searching for a brilliant combinations of sci-fi weirdness, procedural police work, and a ton of heart and truth, Martian Manhunter is the comic for you. Orlando, Rossmo, Plascencia, and Bennett are creating comic magic with this one, so come along for the ride or get out of the way.