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Martian Manhunter #1
posted July 4, 2006

imageCreators: A.J. Lieberman, AL Barrionuevo, Bit, Travis Lanham, Marta Martinez
Publishing Information: DC Comics, Comic Book, 32 pages, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

There are two ways a comic with an unoriginal story can stand out in its marketplace. The first is by being told in an interesting way, executed in a fashion that the experience of reading the comic becomes greater than how dull it remains conceptually. The second is by being a solid performer in a marketplace that is light on the kind of story being told, reminding readers of the virtues of that approach and why they liked it in the first place. Barring a radical change in the series' formal aspects in issue #2 combined with some hidden stockpile of people who really liked 1996-style grim and gritty superhero stories hitting the shops, topped off by all the books that still work this territory suddenly disappearing, Martian Manhunter may be doomed.

In this first issue of six launching out of series called Brave New World -- a recent DC mini-series of which I'm only vaguely aware and therefore can't imagine it being such a big hit that it demands an above the title perch -- the big, green, shapechanging detective and fire-phobic Justice League of America toss-in does his superheroic stuff from a slightly pissy place. He's not only investigating a "everything I knew was a lie"-type mystery involving a secret organization doing tests and perhaps making weaponry from surviving members of his alien race, but he seems sort of down with people in general stemming from one subplot or another in DC's recent Cosmic Rape Odyssey, probably the aforementioned lead-in series. In one scene near the conclusion of Martian Manhunter #1, confronted by a police officer and a freaked-out crowd our hero bemoans the fact that Superman would get a better reception. This is fine, except that all logic dictates that Superman probably should get a better reception (in terms of relative popularity Martian Manhunter is Bruce Bowen while Superman is LeBron James) and the reason he doesn't get a professional helping hand from the police officer is because he changed his own appearance (in part to affect a chin that looks like it came from one of Marvel's shapeshifting skrulls).

In a nutshell, except for a comedic scene or two in the mid-1980s and entertaining supporting role in the Justice League cartoons and in Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier, there's simply not enough to the Martian Manhunter for anyone to care a whole lot that what we knew is no longer true. If there were, readers might clamor for a return to status quo. As it stands, they'll probably be clamoring for other comic books.

Michael Nicolai Replies In Letters