In the back of my house, I keep my most prized possessions. My long boxes. Filled with issue after issue after issue (Guess you could say I have issues) of comic books dating back thirty years or longer.
This is just one of them.
Martian Manhunter #1 (2nd Series)
This issue was published in October of 1998 by DC Comics with a cover date of December 1998 and a cover price of $1.99 (Oh, how I wish they still cost that much.) It was written by John Ostrander and the art was done by Tom Mandrake. The issue is titled, “Duty”. It is available digitally at ComiXology.
Let’s talk about the Martian Manhunter. His real name is J’onn J’onzz (pronounced John Jones, I kid you not.) He’s a real Martian and he originally believed himself to be THE last Martian (although, he later found that not to be entirely true). He debuted in Detective Comics #225 in November of 1955 in a story entitled,“The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel”. In that story, he accidentally gets brought to Earth by Dr. Erdel, who dies of a heart attack before he can send him back to Mars. So he stays on Earth, shape shifting into a human named John Jones. He becomes a police detective and solves crimes. (Making him a “Manhunter”)
J’onn later would go on to help found the Justice League of America as well as the Justice League International. His powers are numerous but include: flight, shape shifting, invisibility, intangibility, super breath, super speed, martian vision, mind control and he is one of the top telepaths on Earth. He has a weakness to fire and Chocos (Oreos in our universe).
OK, not an actual weakness to Oreos, but he does love them.
Now about our issue, Martian Manhunter #1. (I’d put SPOILERS here, but it’s an old comic, if you don’t want to be spoiled, put this review aside and read the issue, then come back. Ready?)
The story starts in Denver with a bum getting decapitated by a robotic spider bot. Enter John Jones (Martian Manhunter in disguise, remember) looking in on the case. He decides to lure the culprit out by shape-shifting to look like a bum. He’s attacked, they fight and Manhunter wins. After getting his injuries checked out at the JLA Watchtower, he researches and finds the M.O. of the bots follows the research of one Thaddeus Romero Hoskins. Oracle chimes in and tells him that Hoskins is certifiably dead.
They discover a possible location and Manhunter checks it out, finds the bad guy who now goes by the name The Headmaster and a battle ensues.
Now let’s see if this issue holds up.
Artwork: Tom Mandrake’s art is pretty good. You can tell what everything is supposed to be, who everyone is supposed to be. He does a good job displaying J’onn’s powers. My only real complaint with his art style are how he draws faces. They come off very square with poor expressions. And everyone has big full lips on their mouths.
Story: John Ostrander’s story is pretty solid, if a bit brief. There’s nothing to be learned. It is just a simple introduction to Martian Manhunter. You get a brief backstory, you get some quick introductions to the powers he has, the resources he has in the JLA. Just a nice setup to the series and a character that, despite his power and importance in the DC Universe, is always thought of as a third tier character.
Does it hold up today? Yes. It’s a solid introduction, light on actual story.
I would love to see Martian Manhunter get his own TV series. True, he is a part of Supergirl on the CW. But he’s a supporting character. I would love to see him on his own, shifting into a new persona in every episode. Kind of like Quantum Leap or The Incredible Hulk, drifting from town to town putting right what once went wrong, looking for a way back home while looking for who he is. I would watch the hell out of that.
This series of Martian Manhunter lasted for a decent 38 issues, wrapping up in November 2001. Plenty of stories to enjoy.
So download or pick up a copy and get reading!