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Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Martian Manhunter #1
The Martian Manhunter is one of those characters that, despite a lengthy publishing history, has never really made much of an impact on readers. He headlined House of Mystery for a time, but the most prominent role he's ever had in comics history has been as a supporting character in various Justice League titles. The chief problem with the character is that, in terms of personality and powers, he's pretty much just a green-skinned knock off of Superman.
This latest attempt at making more of the character, an eight-issue mini-series by writer A.J. Lieberman and artist Al Barrionuevo moves the character into a darker place than he's been before. It starts with a classical "everything you know is wrong" approach, with the revelation continued over from the Brave New World special that J'onn J'onzz is not, in fact, the last martian after all, and quickly moves into establishing the new status quo for the character. Gone is the attempt to look passably human in favor of an entirely alien appearance. The formerly benign mood is gone as well, as this is a harsher, more intolerant of humanity Martian Manhunter.
And it's not as if the end result is a bad comic. Lord knows I've read worse. It's greatest fault is that it's merely a mediocre comic. There's nothing remarkable about the art or the story at all, other than an attempt to make the Martian Manhunter a harder-edged character. And that goal isn't a particularly bad one either, but the execution comes off as something of an over-correction. Yes, the character needed something to give him a stronger voice and role in the DC universe other than being just "the green Superman." But making him an angry anti-hero, feared by the public he's trying to protect while fighting a shadowy extra-governmental conspiracy hiding the secrets of his past...it's a bit too Wolverine-lite for my tastes.