Martian Manhunter #6 Review: A Heartbreaking But Essential Origin Story

Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo's take on Martian Manhunter was already one of the most unique things happening in comics right now, but the sixth issue plunges the miniseries into a distinct and profound territory. "We Plan Escape," which arrives in comic book stores today, expands upon a decades-old event in DC Comics history with stellar attention to narrative and visual detail, and packs one hell of an emotional punch in the process.

If the apocalyptic-looking covers for this issue didn't give it away, this installment sees J'onn confronting his memories of the destruction of Mars and the death of his family. Without getting too heavily into spoilers, the story takes an approach that both builds on the established canon and veers away from it, particularly with what role J'onn plays in the immediate lead-up to H'ronmeer's Curse. Throughout this series (and across years of other comic appearances), J'onn has clearly felt a profound sense of survivor's guilt, and this issue gives a pretty justified reason as to why.

In a way, the destruction of Mars almost feels like the polar opposite of Batman losing his parents—it's something referenced throughout DC Comics canon, but the beats of it had not yet been explored in any sort of intense, modern-day capacity. Orlando crafts a narrative that does all that and then more, adding so many more character-driven layers to what could just be a gratuitous story. The dialogue from much of the issue feels chaotic and emotional in all the right ways, building upon the previous issues' Mars-set terminology and slang in a way that never takes readers out of what's going on.

It's hard to deny that Rossmo's visuals have been a standout of the series thus far, particularly in designing an interpretation of Mars that's almost vibrating with emotion and trippy elasticity. That approach creates an interesting dichotomy within this issue, as the planet's downfall is portrayed in an often-excruciating detail. The violence and destruction of the issue might be a few steps away from physical reality, but they carry so much emotion within them, which makes certain sequences genuinely heartbreaking to look at. The few sequences existing outside of H'ronmeer's Curse (including, yes, more Martian sex) almost have a sort of simplicity to them by comparison, even as they are filled with stunning detail and creature design.

The colors from Ivan Plascencia also prove to be a surprisingly essential element of this issue, as the vibrancy of certain pages simultaneously makes things both easier and harder to swallow. The shades of red, yellow, and green are particularly spellbinding, and help contribute to visuals that will probably stick in readers' heads in one way or another. The lettering from Andworld Design carries this chaotic energy even further but creates text that can be technical or tragic on the drop of a hat. It's worth noting the sound effects in this issue as well, which envelop the page in some pretty surprising ways.

Martian Manhunter #6 is a standout issue in an already near-perfect series, and continues to proves just what kind of impactful and interesting stories DC's maxi-series format can bring to readers. "We Plan Escape" is an emotional gut-punch in all the best ways, injecting a surprising amount of poignancy and depth into the most significant event of J'onn J'onnz's backstory. Whether you're a Martian Manhunter fan—or just a fan of genuinely great comics storytelling—this is absolutely a must-read issue.

Published by DC Comics

On June 26, 2019

Written by Steve Orlando

Art by Riley Rossmo

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Colors by Ivan Plascencia

Letters by Andworld Design