Wednesday, March 2, 2011

CBR Martian Manhunter (1988)


Here's something different!

I like J'onn J'onzz, aka the Martian Manhunter.
The martian has never been one of DC Comics' most well known character but he managed to grab in a faithful fanbase over the years nonetheless.

Who is he? What's his background, besides behind a big green martian guy?
Well, in the 80s, just after the big reboot at DC (the famous Crisis), J'onn was given a brand new origin, retconning details, making things cleaner for his modern era incarnation, while still using lots of old traits in the mix.
Thus he starred in the self titled...

Comic title: Martian Manhunter (vol.1)
Art by Mark Badger
Story by J.M. DeMatteis

Published by DC
From 1988
Lineup Martian Manhunter
Format: Four issues mini-series not collected as of today.

Take me down, to the river of dreams . . .
Take me up, to the mountains of passion . . .

Like Superman in Man of Steel, Green Lantern in Emerald Dawn or Wonder Woman in George Pérez' run, some DC characters rebooted their franchises in the mid-80s. Other assimilated their old stories only taking place at some later origin suddenly (like Teen Titans).
But most didn't get a proper restart until much later be it in the so-called Year One books or on one-off pages in some larger on-going series.

The Martian Manhunter had a chance to revisit his past in this little self-title miniseries.
It was during the JLI's run, while its was quite successful.
The JLI team had the chance to take some of their members outside their book to explore them or visit their past. (like they would do in the 90s with the Elongated Man)
J.M. DeMatteis was put in charge of this story. What did he come up with to revisit the martian without it being yet another origin story?

Introducing the Manhunter from Mars!

The story present in this book started in fact a bit earlier in the JLI books (which can be found in the Justice League International collected edition).
Long story short, the Martian was infected by a virus to help it spread in the air, that would affect all human beings.
This story of J'onn feeling a bit sick is merely a plot device anyway, the story element that would spark the fire that would ignite the on-going thread in this miniseries.

J'onn is having all sorts of emotions, he hasn't called in a sick day in years (ever?). Some long time hidden memories rush in and start making him doubt about what his real and what isn't.
J'onn starts having visions of the martian Fire God of Death/Life, H'ronmeer.
Is he real? What is and isn't really happening? J'onn has telepathic and shape-shifting abilities thus making it difficult to discern if all this isn't just J'onn's mind projections from his sickness.

The JLI comes in and tries to help in his journey. Batman, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle and some more including Captain Atom or Rocket Red all make some little appearances here.

What is really going on inside J'onn's head?

The Martian's martian form first apperance!

The story is a bit surreal and I'll admit, was a bit strange to get into at first sight.
The art of Mark Badger is quite something. The book looks weird...surreal...out of this world?
Yeah, that's it, the artwork has a very outworld-ysh look to it.
And it was the point here. Probably the reason why DeMatteis picked him for this comic.

We're tagging along the familiar Martian Manhunter in a journey of self-discovery. We're seeing these things, his real martian form, how Mars was like before and many more for the very first time.

The pacing his pretty good, there's a sense of elements spiraling out of control as J'onn tries to flee from H'ronmeer or is on the trail of who he really is.

This story takes some of his golden age origin and decides to show a new light on how the Martian Manhunter came to be.
There's a lot of retcons (but I wouldn't call it that way, it's more like the new origin he was given after the big reboot finally revealed to us the reader and J'onn the character).

The action reaches its peak in #4!

The book hasn't that much aged and it's the kind of story that gets better on a second (and more) readings.

This story defined the Martian as the last of his species (even if some other martians would resurface the years after that) as the opposite of him being grabbed of a full of life Mars. There's glimpses of his family, his wife and daughter, which would be re-explored in the second Martian Manhunter series of the 90s. The white Martians aren't introduced here yet (but it doesn't contradict this tale).

The biggest retcons are around how his humanoid greenish tall cape-wielding form came to be and how the events with Dr. Erdel really happened.
I won't spoil it here, but there's a lot of "mental images" and Erdel helping out the Martian establishes himself in his first years (but no mentions of John Jones here yet).
Didn't any other writer continue or explore the Erdel-storyline after that? Man! Now I have another reason why I'd like to see a new modern on-going Martian Manhunter series nowadays!

Overall, it's a very decent and good Martian Manhunter miniseries.
If you like the character and happen to find some issues in bargain bins, don't hesitate!
(though the must would be to have all 4 issues of course~)

The artwork might not please everyone, but if you give it a chance, it will easily grab you in the plot (or at least, the writing will)
The new elements, such as his origins, his world, what the Martian really were and their appearances is a lot inspired by one Ray Bradbury books, The Martian Chronicles. So give it a try too if you liked this comic or vice versa (note from Eyz: at school when I was younger, our english teacher had us read tons of Bradbury stuff~)

It's a character defining series, after that the Martian was a lot more at peace with himself and his martian form appeared since then in many more DC books. Even H'ronmeer, the martian god, appeared in the Sandman and was given a little clarification in regards to what it was and how connected it is to other DC Comics deities.

All in all, a pretty good read,

I give it:

  2 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

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