Martian Manhunter #9, “In The Atmosphere Factory,” is published by DC Comics, written by Steven Johnson, with art by Riley Rossmo, colors by Ivan Plascencia, and lettering by Deron Bennett. Previously, Diane had revealed her past to J’onn, which involved her relationship with the female medical coroner, ending badly. Diane officially reported her relationship to her superior. He refused and told her to reconsider.
This small town wasn’t ready for an openly gay cop, and her girlfriend agreed. It was too much for Diane, and she left. When Diane moved to Middleton, CO it was John who took her under his wing and saw her for what she was: a damn fine detective. During this prior issue, Diane makes this same commitment to J’onn, in return, no more secrets between them. The issue closes after finally revealing the fate of Ashley Addams.
Martian Manhunter #9 opens up in the subterranean laboratory with Ashley Addams demanding answers. Charnn has successfully turned her into a Martian-human hybrid and she wants to know why. Charnn needs a cure, and human DNA holds the answer.
Meanwhile, in the morgue of the Middleton police station, Diane and J’onn discuss the details of the death of one of the victims who was experimented on after the pig farm raid from issue #7. There’s only one way to get the answers they seek. J’onn must perform a ‘Thoughtopsy’ on the deceased woman. The process is dangerous, as the mind continues to deteriorate as the memories blend and crumble to dust with the Martian Manhunter stuck inside.
During this mental after-life interrogation, Diane receives a phone call from a prior perp warning her of a developing situation. Diane and J’onn have targets painted on their backs and people are starting to take aim at them.
Orlando has, thus far, set a brilliant pace to this entire series, and Martian Manhunter #9 is no exception. He focuses in on specific moments in time or backstories that perfectly segue from one issue to the next. With Orlando focusing on one particular message or story, it allows the author to add depth and build tension. Orlando also gives us time to see the partnership between Diane and J’onn build.
Issue #9’s story is trippy and perfectly abstract as J’onn takes a voyage into the mind of a dead woman. As her memories crumble, it creates a stunning visual created by Rossmo. Memories blend together as minute details become less relevant: chefs with vegetables for heads, and floors peeling away revealing other memories. As the mind dies, everything bleeds together.
With Orlando setting a brilliant pace, Rossmo is allowed time to really explore the unconventional aspects of the Martian Manhunter such as conducting a ‘thoughtopsy’ on a dead victim. J’onn navigates inside a world without barriers as it literally decays around him. The panel placement continues to be exciting, and sensational. No one page is like the other. Every issue so far captures a fluidity as the story progresses. It really is quite exceptional visually to read through this series.
Plascencia has her work cut out for her keeping up with Rossmo, but more than anything, her coloring work elevates the depictions even further. The colors contrast so deeply, as they should, as we move between scenes that are very Martian and scenes that are human. The Martian scenes are so brightly lit and encapsulate something that feels uniquely alien. Meanwhile, the human scenes succinctly capture the drab colors of underground lairs, and government rooms like within police stations, and morgues.
Bennet continues with the high standard of lettering set in previous issues. There are many styles of lettering maintained in this series, as the Martians converse telepathically. The speech are all distinct, which is important to recognize. Bennett balances the dialogue without cluttering the page or distracting from or blocking any key images.
In my opinion, this is series should be considered one of DC’s most exciting new stories to date. There are a lot of fantastic DC properties out there, and while Martian Manhunter may not be held in the same esteem as Superman or Batman, this series definitely should be. This creative team produces some exceptionally progressive content on all fronts. Issue #10, is sure to be one of the most abstract issues yet, so don’t miss it.
Martian Manhunter #9 is available at comic book stores now.
Martian Manhunter #9
In my opinion, this is series should be considered one of DC’s most exciting new stories to date. There are a lot of fantastic DC properties out there, and while Martian Manhunter may not be held in the same esteem as Superman or Batman, this series definitely should be.