For the past year-and-some-change, Martian Manhunter has been taking readers on a journey unlike anything else in comics today. Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo's twelve-issue maxi-series has been touted as a "reinvention" of J'onn J'onnz's world, but it's become so much more. The series has delivered an unbelievably poignant take on grief, found family, and redemption—all things its final chapter delivers in spades. Martian Manhunter #12, out today, is not only a fitting and gorgeous finale, but proof that the series deserves to be held in the pantheon of the greatest DC comics.
The issue picks up in the middle of the battle for Midleton, Colorado, as J'onn J'onnz, Diane Meade, and company are mounting a fight against the villainous Ch'arnn O'zzm. Through a series of events that are too mind-bending to even hint at here, J'onn's legacy as a Martian and as a refugee of Earth come to a head in a major way—and his stature as a hero is forever changed because of it.
Martian Manhunter's origin story is something that a lot of DC fans are at least passively aware of, even those who just know the character from is role in ensemble books or his appearances on Supergirl. Most characterizations have used that origin as a way to let J'onn be the "straight man" in any situation, or for him have a more solemn approach to super-heroics. Martian Manhunter, on the other hand, has faced J'onn's trauma head-on to varying degrees, including in the heartbreaking flashback issue of his final moments on Mars. Orlando's narrative in Martian Manhunter #12 tackles the trauma from an equally-profound angle, which is able to get emotional and earnest without ever venturing into being hokey. Anyone who has endured trauma or struggles with mental illness will probably see themselves reflected in J'onn's arc here, and will hopefully be comforted and emboldened by what they find.
Rossmo is easily one of the most creative and unpredictable artists working in comics right now, something that has lent itself incredibly well to all of Martian Manhunter. His style and sense of proportions have helped the series keep a balance between the cosmic and grounded, and that's especially true here. When the extraterrestrial and absurd elements infect J'onn and the town of Midelton, it's mesmerizing, with a few splash pages and weirdly-arranged layouts that are simply breathtaking to look at. Without getting into spoilers, there's one mid-issue reveal that is a particularly genuine joy to see rendered in Rossmo's style, possibly in a way that will make J'onn's future appearances a little underwhelming.
Ivan Plascencia's colors work in perfect harmony with Rossmo's visuals, bathing nearly every page in a sort of twisted Magical Mystery Tour of colors. Even as the issue toys with our (and J'onn's) sense of reality, the bold colorwork makes every panel easy to follow and incredibly emotional. And the lettering from Andworld Design is stunning as well, providing every line of dialogue with a frenzied amount of nuance and energy.
There's a lot that can (and has) been said about Martian Manhunter, and this ending proves that it absolutely deserves it. The series' creative team have taken one of the most underrated Justice League members and given him the solo story he desperately deserved. Sure, the series started out as True Detective with a dash of Martian sex, but it ultimately delivered something truly incredible—an argument that pain and trauma aren't something to be afraid or ashamed of, and can actually help make you stronger if you know how to face them. Martian Manhunter is the kind of book that deserves to be read by every DC fan for many years to come.
Published by DC Comics
On February 5, 2020
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Riley Rossmo
Colors by Ivan Plascencia0comments
Letters by Andworld Design
Cover by Riley Rossmo