Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Riley Rossmo
Published by DC Comics
“Ch’arnn O’zzm… for your crimes against Earth… you’ve earned a new sentence.”
The 12th issue of DC’s 12-part blockbuster maxi-series, Martian Manhunter, brings things to a close this week with as much flair and pop as this series has showcased since its very first issue.
Author Steve Orlando and Artist Rossmo Riley have really left their mark in the modern DCU with a tale that’s needed telling for far too long: the definitive re-imagined origin story for everyone’s favorite big green Justice League superhero.
And boy, have they pulled it off.
Now, in the final act of a cleverly conceived adventure that has taken us from J’onn’s last days as a father and husband on the last, long-ago civilization of Mars, to the seminal moment that would change the life he’s led as earthman detective John Jones forever, Manhunter J’onnz rises to defeat the demons of his past and become the hero we all know he was destined to become all along – the Martian Manhunter of Earth.
That victory involves Ch’arnn and his suitably on-point science-fiction alien mad-scientist horror invasion of Middleton, CO. And the final confrontation that unfolds between the two last souls of ancient Mars comes to an end with as much satisfaction and action as we’ve come to expect of this title by now.
That alone is worth purchasing the book.
But there is a last gift in Orlando’s final script that puts a capstone on a series that has successfully plumbed themes of alienation and belonging throughout the long steady build to J’onn’s eventual moment of the truth. One that shows Orlando’s skill as a writer, and as a storyteller who knows his material.
One word gets at the core of who J’onn is, however ironic or tragic that may be, one that reflects the role Martian Manhunter would ultimately come to play in DC’s community of Justice Leaguers – Family.
With that in mind, Orlando takes a tale that could rest easily enough as a well-crafted modern mythic coming out story, and elevates it yet further to truly connect it to the history we already know, and a mythology that transcends every notion of otherness.
J’onn began this series as the ultimate loner. But now, here at the end, through a lot of determination, grit, and guts, a little trust, and a lot of faith – along with the help of the fair-minded character of one damn good partner and the sudden, remarkable promise of a young newly-Martian-ed teenage girl – J’onn J’onnz finally claims his heritage, and a new role, as a true citizen of his adopted homeworld.
One he will not hide from. One he will stand with, and for, as the hero he was always meant to be.
And there’s nothing better than that.