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"Martian Manhunter #5" Comic Review

Written by James Ferguson

Published by DC Comics

Martian Manhunter 5 00

Written by Steve Orlando
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo
Colored by Ivan Plascencia
Lettered by Andworld Design
2019, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on May 22nd, 2019

Review:

What’s the worst thing you could do to a shapeshifter? Lock them into a specific form forever. That’s what happened to Charnn back on Mars and now he’s terrorizing J’onn J’onnz on Earth. It turns out he’s held quite a grudge and he’s ready to take it out on the Martian Manhunter physically and psychologically.

J’onn narrowly escaped the complete eradication of his entire race from a disease called H’ronnmeer’s Curse, so that’s always been a lingering fear in the back of his head. Charnn plays with that, forcing J’onn to think he’s suffering from this virus. Artist Riley Rossmo brings that terror to life in a way that will have you washing your hands after reading this issue. J’onn is looking left and right in fear as strange boils start to form all over his body. A shiver just went down my spine as I typed that sentence.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Rossmo’s incredible artwork in Martian Manhunter #5. He has a fantastic way of telling a story visually, constantly changing the layout based on the intensity of a scene. As this psychological warfare is waged against J’onn’s mind, things get chaotic with panels popping up all over the place, bouncing between him screaming in agony and flashes back to his family suffering back home. This really drives home to abject terror at work here.

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Charrn is a frightening villain in more ways than one. Sure, he’s physically intimidating and super creepy, but what pushes him over the edge is how he delights in the pain he’s inflicting. He taunts J’onn throughout this whole process, knowing that he has the upper hand and he can control his discomfort with a thought. Letterer Andworld Design surrounds Charrn’s words in scratchy red outlines that add another level of menace to his actions.

The opening pages of Martian Manhunter #5 take us back to Mars with the conviction of Charrn. It is every bit the alien world, full of bursts of bright colors and foreign shapes. Colorist Ivan Plascencia creates this unnatural feeling that’s made even more disturbing as Charrn’s sentence is carried out. You can feel the energy crackle on the page as his body twists and contorts in pain.

Martian Manhunter #5 also gives us a glimpse into J’onn’s partner Diane’s life. Up until this point, she’s been the only other person that knew J’onn’s secret and she wasn’t handling it particularly well. Here we see what she’s putting on the line by working with this alien, but she’s not just going to accept everything the guy gives her. She’s an accomplished detective in her own right and she wants answers. I’m more invested in her as a character after this issue fleshes her out more.

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The parallel narratives between J’onn’s past and present are riveting. Writer Steve Orlando structures it such that each one pulls the other forward, providing context for the overall story. The pacing of the issue is solid, taking us to the breaking point with the battle between Charrn and J’onn and then giving us a chance to catch our breath with Diane and then ratcheting things up again for the cliffhanger.

I will admit that I didn’t really “get” Martian Manhunter before. He is like a weirder looking Superman with a few extra powers. This series redefines the character, allowing me to see him with a new set of eyes and really appreciate what he’s gone through. The fact that it’s through the lens of the horror genre with some of the most unsettling visuals on the stands today is a bonus. It’s kind of crazy to think that some of the scariest horror out there right now is coming from a book about a green, Oreo-loving alien.

Grades:

Story: Fivestars Martian Manhunter 5 Small
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Martian Manhunter 5 Small
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Art: Fivestars
Overall: Fivestars

About The Author
Spez Bio 2
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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