It’s been a long time since Martian Manhunter had his own solo series— the last one came out in the 90s, written by John Ostrander. As such, it’s very refreshing and exciting to see a new series with the character. With a prolific writer and fantastic artist behind it, we must ask this question: Is it good?
Martian Manhunter #1 (DC Comics)
To do a small summation of this first issue would be pointless, because the story presented here was a bit of a mess unfortunately. Martian Manhunter #1 is a comic that shows a lot of promise, invoking the feel of a sci-fi horror flick with terrifying, creepy imagery and ideas, all while taking place in a superhero universe. But, it’s sadly held down by poor storytelling and at times questionable writing. It’s a shame since I was hoping that we’d get more The Royals Rob Williams and less Miss Fury Rob Williams.
The story itself is messy and disjointed. The main idea I gathered while reading it is that there is an alien invasion on the horizon and it appears to be of the Martian variety. In particular, it’s mostly just the White Martians attacking, but there might be more aliens involved, but it’s honestly hard to tell. The comic isn’t not particularly clear about what is happening besides an invasion and attack going on throughout the book. The comic also really likes to jump around from various different scenes and characters constantly (some of whom seem like we should already know about, but have not been introduced to properly). You don’t get much time to settle in and get to know anyone before the comic jumps to someone else. Heck, it’s not even that new reader friendly or good as a first issue, since it really doesn’t have a good introduction to the Martian Manhunter, giving us very fewtidbits of info about him.
The real shame of this weak storytelling is the fact that comic does a great job on the sci-fi horror aspect. There’s some really creepy stuff going on (helped greatly by the artwork, but we’ll get to that later) that is just wonderfully executed. It’s got a good mood and buildup, making you feel unnerved by what you are seeing and what will happen next. The whole opening and Dubai scenes are great examples, with slow moving scenes that have a great atmosphere to them. Heck, the implications and glimpses of the invasion and attacks we see in the various scenes are eerie for sure… but I just wish the story was stronger to make better use of these horror elements.
While story structure is weak, the pacing is handled well and does help build up that sinister and creepy tones in a couple of the scenes. Tonally the comic is great like mentioned and this feels appropriately dark for what the writer is intending, instead of the faux-dark a lot of DC and Marvel comics have shown in the past where they think doing dark and nasty things make their stories somehow more mature and adult. The dialogue and narration are very much hit-or-miss at times, which some scenes feeling natural and real while others stilted and inhuman. There’s definitely room for improvement and I really hope the next few issues step it up.
Eddy Barrows is the artist on the book, who does a fantastic job here. His artwork really delivers on that horror feel that the comic is going for. His aliens look creepy and otherworldly with their odd body shapes, the way they move, and the looks they give the characters. It’s chilling, especially with some of the layouts and how the comic presents some of the attacks. His other, more human characters are drawn just as well and the detail put into them and locations are astounding at times, making for such a rich experience. Barrows’ only drawback is that he is pretty slow (I remember him having trouble drawing the first arc of Nightwing), but I hope he is at least able to finish this first story arc.
Is It Good?
Martian Manhunter #1 is a series that I really wanted to love after being fasincated by the sneak peek. It has an excellent tone throughout, along with a great idea of a story and lovely looking artwork. However, the storytelling really does way too much damage to this series and hurts a lot. There is still a chance things could turn around and get better of course (I mean, the comic was still interesting to read after all), but this was a disappointing outing in a week that had mostly good new and returning series.