On The Beat
The Martian form is so different and so beyond our own understanding of biology that it affects everything in their life, including how they love each other. Rossmo’s depiction of a Martian sex scene between J’onn and his wife M’yri’ah looks like something out of Akira, as their two bodies wrap around each other in a bumbling mass of green and red.
It’s not just physical, either, as M’yri’ah wants J’onn to open up to her and unlock the one part of his mind that she doesn’t have telepathic access to. J’onn tells her that’s where he keeps the worst things he witnesses as a Manhunter, but in fact it’s where he keeps his biggest secret — and this series’ biggest change to the Martian Manhunter canon. J’onn J’onzz was a dirty cop.
Earlier in the issue, we saw J’onn roughing up a lowlife criminal in slums of the Martian city of G’orr G’regg, but he isn’t serving and protecting; he’s roughing them up for protection. He’s still the a Chief Hunter and as his wife later describes one of the best in the world, but that doesn’t mean he’s not vulnerable to manipulation by crime lords in order to provide a better life for his family. A brief conversation between a possible mob boss named Martl’er suggests that J’onn’s connection to this criminal syndicate runs deep as he suggests they launder something for J’onn, though the conversation is cut off before we can learn just what J’onn’s connection to the Martian criminal underworld is.
J’onn’s history on Mars is only half of this issue, as the rest of it takes place on Earth. It’s only described as “years ago” but presumably, it’s between J’onn being teleported through space by Dr. Erdel and making his presence known as a superhero. Just like his classic origin, J’onn took the place of a detective named John Jones and made a name for himself as someone who takes every case personally and someone who has an almost unnatural eye for evidence and deduction. Taken with the revelation of J’onn being a dirty cop on Mars, it seems he’s taking his second chance on a new planet to be the kind of person his family thought he was.
Martian Manhunter has always been depicted as the stoic heart of the Justice League, a hero with few personality flaws; always there with sage advice and occasionally judgemental over his teammates mistakes (see: John Stewart in Cosmic Odyssey). This take on J’onn gives him an extra dimension that for a long time we didn’t know he even needed, but it fleshes the character out in new and interesting ways and provides new context for his near century of heroics on Earth; whether as a police officer or as a superhero. J’onn J’onzz is now a flawed man just trying to make up for his past on a world he can never go back to, and that makes him more compelling and relatable than ever.