Martian Manhunter: Identity Review

For a character that has been often described as the heart and should of the Justice League and one of the great creations of the late Golden Age*, but in the half century of so, has had scant time in a series of his own. There have been more recent attempts at giving the character the centre stage, but the fact likely remains that most likely only remember the short-lived 1990s series by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. Martian Manhunter without a doubt, is long overdue for a more personalized story.

Enter Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo with a new twelve issue maxi series that is not only a defining moment for the Martian Manhunter of Mars, but also a handy retelling, and deeper exploration of the character’s origin story. For a character that has been around for as long as he has, his backstory, specifically his time on Mars is often overlooked in favour of telling the age-old pastiche of “stranger in a strange land”. Right off the bat, Orlando and Rossmo demonstrate that this will not be just another generic origin story, however. No, this is not the Chocco cookie loving J’Onn J’Onnz; this version we see may be younger, but he is more cynical, or perhaps a brutal realist. We learn that as a Manhunter on Mars, his morality and intentions are considerably less heroic. He is driven by his own ambitions, his own desires, and it serves as an interesting allegory to the real world.

J’Onn’s actions are not without consequence, and it takes a sacrifice of the worst imaginable to finally send our protagonist down the familiar path of the hero. Split between two framing sequences of time and location, the Martian Manhunter’s earliest days on Earth are chronicled, even as his martian past looms over him. While the super heroics are of decent fare, the multilayered story benefits more from the character interactions, the smaller moments and perhaps more in J’Onn’s loss and failures, than his successes or triumphs. For an alien, the Martian Manhunter has always been written as a very humanized character, and we forget that this was not always the case, and certainly not at first. It is not that that character is suddenly a villain or even an anti-hero, instead we are treated with a character that usually sees the world in moral absolutes, living and benefitting from decisions made very much in the grey. It takes an exceptional creative team, the likes of Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo to tell such a nuanced tale.

And one should gives considerable praise to Riley Rossmo, and not as an intentional afterthought as a stunning storyteller in his own right. DC has an incredible stable of artists working on its properties at the moment, and Rossmo is certainly on that list. His art is beautifully rendered in Martian Manhunter that reminded me, without being a comparison, to the stylistic flamboyance of Mitch Gerads. If one were to compare it to the recently reviewed Mister Miracle, one would have to admit that these two-self contained stories featuring second and third tiered characters are some of the best DC has put out in recent memory. It also goes to show just how unique and exciting the DC Universe could be, can be, wants to be but still cannot seem to find outside of these few examples.

This is one of the best interpretations of a comic book icon, equal in gravitas to Ostrander and Mandrake’s run; with time, it will hopefully be just as recognized and revered by the fandom.

*Some consider the Martian Manhunter the first Silver Age creation, but a stronger argument for The Flash and Showcase #4 as more widely recognized as the “first”.

Collects: Martian Manhunter (Volume 5) 1-12

Mr Miracle Review

The critically acclaimed limited series is collected, giving readers a complete look at, including alternate covers, of this modern day classic. If that sounded like hyperbole, it would befitting imitation of a series that truly blew things up, out and sometimes even out of proportion during its original twelve issue run. A long standing character within the DC Universe, this Jack Kirby New Gods creation has had several attempts at a series under various creative teams, with limited success. It is perhaps a twist of fate that the character hits a new high with a purposeful limited series such as this one by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.

No square inch of space is wasted in any of the issues. Brilliantly illustrated by Mitch Gerads, he is classic in his depictions of Mister Miracle, Big Barda and even Darkseid, but also pushes the series and its stories into compelling and sometimes confounding visuals. It is not just Gerads pencils that need to be highlighted, but the fact it was also inked and coloured by him hits home his brilliance as an artist, and that of his artistic vision.

Thematically and narratively the series is just as rich, layered and nuanced as the artwork that visually tells this tale. Many reviewers have already expounded on the various theories on the opening moments of the book, whether or not this was Scott Free’s status throughout the series, or even what it all means in the end. Those have all been brilliant analyses, and one that this reviewer does not wish to expound on. There are a wide variety of views on how to interpret the series, and even if you take writer Tom King at face value, there is still a lot of material to diverge from and speculate with.

This is most definitely a story about life, death and rebirth, but it is also when you dig a little deeper, a man having a mid life crisis. However, when you are a literal god, what does an existential crisis look like exactly? Is it the perpetual nature of existence where Scott and Barda will possibly never die, but be locked in perpetual war against Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips, or is the crushing banality of mundane earthly existences and impending parenthood? Between wars, Scott and Barda kick back in their condo, discussing the state of their lives, and argue over whether or not they even need a kitchen as large as theirs, when all they do is order take-out. It is this sort of scripting that leads to such an entertaining tale. Jack Kirby laid the original groundwork with the New Gods saga fifty years ago. We know that the struggle between New Genesis and Apokolips is eternal; King and Gerads make it almost window dressing, a necessary inclusion to the plot, but not necessarily the plot thread we should be focussing all of our attention on.

This is perhaps the best highlighted when Darkseid comes to “visit’ Scott and Barda on Earth. While most would laugh at the comedy of Darkseid eating a carrot stick, there is more going on in that scene. The war is waged on many fronts, and often diplomacy is a better weapon than brutal force. We could have been given yet another fight scene, instead we are given something a little different, with a bit of good absurdist fun thrown in for good measure.

It perhaps comes as no surprise that this limited series nabbed three Eisner Awards; one for each of its creative team members, and one for Best Limited Series. And even if you don’t believe the hype or hyperbole, take it back to its core; an extremely well written, incredibly illustrated, self-contained story featuring a classic hero in a timeless struggle between good and evil. It truly does not get much better than this, and deserves every single accolade it receives.

Collects: Mister Miracle (Vol. 4) 1-12

Batman #93 Review

“Their Dark Designs” – Part Eight

Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Guillem March & Javier Fernandez
Color Artists: Tomeu Morey & David Baron
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

So, the schemes of The Designer have finally come to fruition in Batman #93. His grand design is revealed, and his true motivation is uncovered.

After several issues of build up and mystery, we now find out what this has been all about. No spoilers here, but suffice to say, Tynion has expertly crafted a real rug-pulling moment for everybody here, with an interesting twist, which I can honestly say I did not see coming. The true mastermind behind the elaborate plot is set front and centre, and it’s a deliciously humorous switcheroo…

Of course, it wouldn’t be right for the Dark Knight to be left in the dark about the path of events, so, in a captivating passage of pages, Bruce walks the reader through the machinations of The Designer, and we’re treated to a Poirot-esque step by step by guide to the plot.

Proving that Tynion is a master storyteller, it all seems logical and plausible, right up to the aforementioned twist. Whilst the Bat knows the plot and the main player, he doesn’t realise what the endgame was. I personally love seeing Batman in this type of situation, outsmarted and misled, as it makes his inevitable rise all the sweeter.

The art in this book is a feast. Guillem March and Javier Fernandez have produced something here that is visceral and realistic. Their figure work is pitch perfect, as the characters look like real people, honed to the peak of the human condition, but not overly muscular caricatures. Combined with Morey and Baron’s colours, every page is a treat. My only issue is that we only have 22 pages of excellence to enjoy, as a few more would certainly not have gone amiss.

Running parallel to the main thread is the side mission for Catwoman and Harley Quinn. With their dive into the world of black market banking being rudely interrupted previously by Punchline, the Jokers’ new squeeze, their struggle to achieve their objective is the catalyst for a wonderful insight into Punchline’s viewpoint of the world around her, and her hatred for Harley.

More than a mere case of not liking her for being Joker’s ex, her raison d’etre for life is pretty telling. This is one disturbed, broken lady, and one that’s certainly not going to have a road to Damascus epiphany, the same way Ms Quinzel did. Very much a kindred spirit for Joker, the imminent “Joker War” story arc is inevitably going to leave a trail of destruction in its wake.


Batman #93 is a riveting read, full to the brim with intrigue and genuine excitement. Serving as the perfect pivot point from this story arc into the hopefully epic “Joker War”, it has set the table for what’s to come next beautifully.

This feels like a rolling boulder that’s gathering pace and momentum, and I fear for any characters standing in its way. DC have certainly got my money here, and I strongly recommend that you give them yours too. What are you waiting for?

The Flash #755 Review

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Rafa Sandoval

The Flash Age – Finale

So here we are, the final face off between Barry, Eobard, August and the evidently unstoppable Paradox, after last issue with Reverse Flash telling Barry the only way to defeat Paradox was to kill him before he became the monster in front of them we find out how the Flash deals with that predicament, cos Barry can’t save everyone, can he?

This issue was a very suitable finale, lots of splash pages, big action panels and twists and turns throughout! I’ve loved this story arc its really put Barry in awkward position having to rely on Eobard and trusting August while giving him a seemingly impossible decision. the artwork in this issue has been sublime, I like how different artists have worked together to make this whole arc feel cohesive and when its put together in a graphic novel it will be flawless.

So I would love to talk about what comes next but that would be massive spoilers for the end of the issue, so all I’ll say is, yes I am in for the next story, I’m looking forward to what and who’s coming!

One thing I have decided is that I’m going to change how I review comics, it can be quite difficult to talk about whats going on in each issue without spoilers, so I’m going to start reviewing comics by arc rather than issue, it will mean these reviews aren’t as frequent but they will be more complete reviews of a whole story which I think will give a better overview, it will also give me more time to review more titles……

Batman #92 Review

“Their Dark Designs” – Part 7

Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Color Artist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

In a world filled with uncertainty, the arrival of Batman #92, the latest issue of the flagship title of the DC portfolio, makes everything feel like happier times are just around the corner. After an almost three month hiatus, the James Tynion IV era can now continue.

This seventh instalment of the “Their Dark Designs” arc certainly makes up for lost time, with its abundance of characters, riddles, and action.

With bad old Eddie Nygma holding the city in his thrall, the unlikely pairing of Batman and Deathstroke is thrust into a subterranean odyssey through Gotham, which provides the opportunity for some rare moments of levity for the Bat. I’ve always enjoyed the interactions between Bruce and Slade, as the diametrically opposed, yet somehow similar foes, have sometimes made for intriguing frenemies. This story’s no exception. Slade’s wonder at Batman’s aptitude for solving riddles is priceless.

In typical Tynion fashion, the plot pushes on at a breakneck pace, as we follow the twin journeys of Bruce/Slade, and Harley and Selina. The two femmes fatale are a great pairing too, and one I would like to see more of in the future, maybe even as part of their own limited series? The juxtaposition of Harley’s wide-eyed enthusiasm and mile a minute banter, against Selina’s more cynical and wry dialogue, is a potent mix.

With their own mission to accomplish, it isn’t long before we see a meeting of Joker’s main squeezes both old and new, with Harley getting her first meeting with Punchline. Both awkward and hilarious, the precursor to violence comes by way of Harley offering some wonderfully sage advice for her replacement:

Honey, a few years from now, after you have a couple dozen come-to-God moments, and do some good long cries in the shower… I’m going to buy you a frozen margarita, and we’re going to chat, girl to girl. But right now, I’m going to hit you in the head with this big $#@% hammer until you don’t wake up

A wonderful bit of dialogue that sums up the character of Harley Quinn in a nutshell. It shows that Tynion’s handle on the character is spot on, as is his take on every other character in the book. He’s captured the voice of each character superbly, making them feel authentic and genuine.

As always, the art of Guillem March is a feast for the eyes. Vibrant, deep and kinetic, it draws the reader in with its sheer depth and detail, with something to enjoy on every page. Combined with the awesome colour work of Tomeu Morey, the panels explode from the page and make this one of the most visually stimulating titles on the market at the moment.


Fast and furious, humorous, and hard hitting, Batman #92 is an extremely welcome return for this title. With a cliffhanger ending that makes the next issue an absolute must read (The Designer is turning out to be quite the adversary), this arc is really now coming to the boil.

Expertly paced, with a fine mixture of tones and an engrossing read, I cannot recommend it enough. Seek out a copy asap!