“Justice League of America” #5 features a break in the Bryan Hitch-helmed series, offering up a fill-in from Matt Kindt, Rob Williams, Philip Tan and Jason Paz. While the Justice League does make an appearance on the first two pages, this is really a Martian Manhunter comic, but not one that would make you desperate to read the character’s own solo series.
Set in the past when Martin Manhunter was a member of the Justice League, “Justice League of America” #5 follows Martian Manhunter as he pursues what he thinks is another Martian on Earth, but is in fact something far more dangerous and deadly. Kindt and Williams’s story has some plusses for it; it’s a story that feels truly global as it jumps from Death Valley to Tokyo, and it’s nice to see a foe that isn’t rooted firmly in the United States.
Unfortunately, the story itself feels very slight. J’onn finds the alien serial killer called the UnNamed, hears some oblique hints to other stories and is then quickly victorious. There’s not a strong hook here to want to read more, even though this is presumably a setup for events still to come in “Martian Manhunter.” J’onn defeats UnNamed a little too easily, and the conclusion — deciding he needs to protect the innocents from monsters — lacks a strong punch. Even having members of the Justice League’s faces next to UnNamed — which insituates they’re in the monster category — isn’t quite enough. In the end, it just feels lukewarm.
The best part of “Justice League of America” #5 is Philip Tan’s design of UnNamed, which looks like a strange cross between an alien and an Aztec god. I love the long hook-nosed mask, the flowing tendrils of hair and the bejeweled hems of the shirt that UnNamed wears. It’s a strange mixture of familiarity and bizarre, and that’s perfect for an alien that lurks inside people and steals bodies as they burn out. Tan puts a lot of energy in the fight between Martian Manhunter and UnNamed, too; as they crash through buildings and trade blows, the explosions come to life thanks to the sheer visual spectacle of it all. Add in some vivid colors from Jeromy Cox, especially the gorgeous reds of Death Valley, and it’s a nice looking book if nothing else.
Those reading Hitch’s storyline in “Justice League of America” are probably going to be a little disappointed here, in part because of the lack of Hitch but also because this really isn’t a Justice League story. It’s a Martian Manhunter comic with a few JLA elements grafted on for good measure, but it’s missing a stronger reason to come back for more in the character’s own title. That’s too bad, because “Justice League of America” has some pretty great sales figures; it would have been nice to get a stronger lure for some of those readers to hop on over. For now, this clocks in at the average level: not bad but not memorable either.