J'onn J'onzz returns to a starring role in Rob Williams and Eddy Barrows' "Martian Manhunter" #1. Inked by Eber Ferreira, colored by Gabe Eltaeb and lettered by Tom Napolitano, this comic welcomes readers into the new legend of J'onn J'onzz, and "Martian Manhunter" #1 is the perfect spot to start. Yes, he has made other appearances since 2011, but this is a clean slate and Williams has the luxury to explore the DC Universe and J'onn's place in it.
Barrows is a perfect choice for this book, as his work is always intensely detailed. Occasionally, Barrows has depicted anatomy as grossly exaggerated in the past, but that is exactly what makes him an ideal match for "Martian Manhunter" #1. Not only does J'onn have room to shift and transform, flirting with human appearance though never quite locking it down, but Barrows' focus of that aspect of J'onn seems to revitalize his work on the regular humans in this book as well.
The backgrounds are rich and descriptive, grounding the characters as Ferreira's rich inks drive the emotion of each scene. Characters are grounded into the environs and the wide array of scenery is rendered in a believable manner. Barrows goes widescreen for the pre-credits scene (and most of the flow of the story), melting soundly into Williams' script to enhance the cinematic feel of this adventure. Eltaeb's colors enhance the emotion, amplify the drama and add intensity to the creepiness inherent in this invasion tale.
Williams begins "Martian Manhunter" #1 with J'onn's broadcast thoughts, narrating the predicament to the reader as it opens up. The writer plays up the paranoia of alien invasion stories with influences from "V," the original H. G. Wells' version of "War of the Worlds" and even "Men In Black," where the aliens are all around us, sleeper agents waiting to strike. Williams holds onto the essence of the Green and White Martians, while adding a little twist, a very, very sharp little twist to J'onn's adventure that leaves readers with a cliffhanger page and a wild dilemma for J'onn J'onzz to try and resolve.
The Manhunter is empathetic in Williams' story; he is a character readers can relate to, despite the amazing, mind-numbing array of powers he can call upon. Williams doesn't showcase them all, but he collaborates nicely with Barrows to hit some high notes in this issue.
Framing the problem at the heart of "Martian Manhunter" #1 is the introduction of Mr. Biscuits, an apparent Martian with a preference for pastries and an eccentric sense of fashion (is that underwear on his head?). Napolitano's lettering for Biscuits seasons this character with the possibility of being drunk or sinister, but distinct from J'onn. A great addition to the supporting cast of this series, Mr. Biscuits has the potential to be the sleeper creation of the year, whatever he turns out to be.
"Martian Manhunter" #1 hits all the right requirements to appeal to as wide an audience as possible: it delivers the sci-fi horror of a sleeper alien invasion plot cracking wide open, while the titular character shows up as equal parts heroic, grotesque, alien and amazing. The scope of the story feels epic, as Williams, Barrows, Ferreira, Eltaeb and Napolitano take over the South Pacific, the JLA Watchtower, Dubai, Washington, D.C. and N.A.S.A., all in the span of this first issue. This issue establishes the new world of J'onn J'onzz, while ratcheting up the action. This is a solid debut and a wonderful hook for readers who miss J'onn J'onzz or are simply looking for a genre-defying comic that brings action, adventure, sci-fi and horror. I checked this comic out of past unspoken obligation to the character, but Williams, Barrows and company can count on me to stick around.