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Martian Manhunter #1 - A Pleasant Surprise

When the good folks at DC were so kind to send me a review copy of Martian Manhunter #1, I must admit, I was a bit surprised. After all, they generally only send out comics that they, well, WANT people to review, you know what I mean? So when I got Martian Manhunter #1, by the team of Batman: Gotham Knights (writer AJ Lieberman and artist Al Barrionuevo) that I was not a fan of, following the less-than-thrilling Brave New World story, I was not expecting much. However, the issue was actually good.

The most dramatic thing about this new series is the new costume and look for Martian Manhunter. It is just this side of hideous, and I am disappointed that one of my favorite artists, Ladronn, was responsible for it. However, as awful as the new look is, it at least is based off of a decent story-based premise. It has long been known that Martian Manhunter changes his look from his actual Martian look to a more Earthling-esque look. Well, as of this series, J'onn has become sick of that charade, so he is using his Martian form. Except, well, he isn't REALLY, just MORE like his Martian form than his older form, but whatever, the basic idea is good. But it is not a very good-looking costume/appearance.

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This is by far the most coherent and interesting I have seen a Lieberman-penned tale, and Barrionuevo (accompanied by inker Bit) was already getting better as Gotham Knights went on, and his promise seems to be fully realized in this series, with just some excellent artwork. It reminds me a lot of Hitch's old style, the style he used AFTER he was drawing like Alan Davis and BEFORE he had the current style. It's expressive, but still forceful and dynamic. I like it a lot.

The plot of the story is not the most complicated of plots - some evil military-esque people have captured Martians and are using them to make weapons based on the powers of the Martian people. The bad guys are suitably evil and are just on the right side of psychotically charming.

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Meanwhile, I do not think that Martian Manhunter's character progression exactly makes all that much SENSE, but it is still pretty darn striking. He opens by a clever bit about how humans, since Cain murdered Abel, have been predisposed to killing - and that is why we need a Martian Manhunter. Fairly clever, eh?

He also hits on the typical, "Wah wah...me a big alien who the yoo-mans hate" rant, but hey, it's a good rant.

Finally, the very idea of J'onn suddenly finding out there are a lot of other Martians alive, but they're captured and being tortured to make weapons, and it's up to him to find them and save them?

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That's a pretty darn good set-up for an eight-issue mini-series, don't you think?

So some good character work (if a bit cliched), some very strong artwork, a good idea for a series, some good villains and a really sad ending, this is a good opening issue.

I recommend you give this issue a try. You might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

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