Martian Manhunter is one of the coolest characters at DC Comics. He’s the last survivor of an alien race in the vein of Superman, but with an expanded power set that includes telepathy, invisibility, and shape-shifting. And unlike Superman, J’onn J’onzz was an active member of his alien society before becoming a refugee on Earth.
The new Martian Manhunter miniseries focuses on J’onn’s life on his home planet as a family man and crooked cop; written by Steve Orlando, with art by Riley Rossmo, colors by Ivan Plascencia, and letters by Deron Bennett, Martian Manhunter blends hard-boiled noir with imaginative sci-fi elements, emphasizing the difference between J’onn’s old life and the one he leads as a detective on Earth. The sex scene in last month’s debut issue is a prime example of how this creative team uses J’onn’s alien nature to invigorate the storytelling, showing how two married shapeshifters would express their intimacy by merging their bodies in an amorphous blob.
The tender relationship between J’onn and M’yri’ah is at the forefront of this exclusive preview of this week’s Martian Manhunter #2, which opens with the two of them looking at Earth during a romantic evening. Rossmo and Plascencia are an ideal pair to bring this story to the page, and they do exceptional work reinforcing the alien nature of the Martian landscape and people. Rossmo’s round panel borders for the Mars scenes visually distinguish them from the Earth scenes, which use more traditional, straight-lined borders. Plascencia’s color palette similarly breaks from the Earth norm by painting the Martian setting in lush pinks and purples, while Bennett’s lettering presents the telepathic communication on Mars with word balloons surrounded by colored squiggly lines tailored to each character.
Plascencia’s palette gives the early pages of this preview an especially romantic vibe, amplified by the way Rossmo weaves the spouses’ bodies together as they float through the air. The beauty of that moment is a stark contrast to the final page revealing J’onn on Earth, burning alive in the wreckage of a car accident. The flames make J’onn’s shapeshifting go out of control, and Rossmo accentuates the horror of this scene with this grotesque physical reaction, which is also depicted in Joshua Middleton’s striking variant cover. That revelation will have big consequences as the story continues, putting a new spin on the classic noir trope of a detective discovering their partner isn’t what they seem.