Brightest Day #15
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason and Scott Clark
Whatever Happened to the Manhunter From Mars?
I have to say, the cover proclaiming that, the first page stating it again, it gave me a bad feeling about this issue. I mean, it sets an obvious tone, but it also places it in the vein of Alan Moore’s Man of Tomorrow, and Neil Gaiman’s recent Caped Crusader, and not to knock on Johns and Tomasi, but they aren’t Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman. They’re super hero writers, and for parts of this issue, it REALLY shows, and I don’t mean that in a good way. You see, with a name like “Whatever Happened to the Manhunter From Mars” you get the undertones of a finality to the character not unlike other titles to have used the banner. You expect the end of the heroes career, a celebration of what had come before as the door closes and the character fades away. With Superman it featured a lot of characters in his supporting cast dieing, others coming to pay their last respects, and then finally Superman stripping himself of his own powers. With Batman we saw the funeral of the Bat as characters told stories about him through various eras of continuity, and different parts of the canon. In the end, both gave us a story that was more than just standard super hero bar, and raised the bar for future stories titled “Whatever Happened To The”.
So does this issue fail? In a way, as a story in the vein of those two, yes. But as far as a single issue J’onn story goes, it’s absolutely fine. The name hurts it more than anything, but it’s a solid story. Taking place twenty-five years in the future, the Justice League gathers on the repopulated Mars to celebrate the anniversary of not only the return of his people, but of peace and tranquility spread on Earth as well. J’onn has his happily ever after, with friends and family around him, a Green Lantern ring on his finger, and everything is good. Perfect, even. Of course, happy endings to open the issue is a little backwards, so it’s not long before J’onn comes across a series of grizzly murders across Mars that he has to solve. The murders of some of those closest to him.
The issue seems oddly paced for a time, but on a second read through it becomes clearer. We see J’onn go through the full range of emotions about his life and his planet, everything from his joy to have brought his people back, to the pride of being a part of something bigger than himself, to the alienation of being the last of his kind. You see J’onn question his perfect existence more and more until you being to realize as he does that having everything isn’t enough to bring true happiness. You see him realize that his dream is more of a nightmare, and try to break free of it. To be honest though, there’s no real twists or shockers in it and that is pretty disappointing. It’s like if Superman had ripped the plant off of his chest in “For The Man Who Has Everything”, to be completely honest. J’onn is granted his grandest dreams and desires, but it isn’t enough to bring him joy as he had spent so long burying his people that his mind will never allow him to stop viewing himself as anything other than the Last Son of Mars. He’s a survivor, but he’s a lone survivor, and that is the reality his mind accepts, and that is what makes this issue work. J’onn has easily been the strongest character thus far in Brightest Day, and this issue shines as yet another high note due to him.
It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, as J’onn takes to his dreamworld without question or hesitation, despite it being simply a telepathic attack. There is also the single issue format to the story being told, as it does rush to the finish somewhat awkwardly. Had this story been spread across two issues I think we could have had something special, but this is Brightest Day, and it serves a grander purpose and thus only gets the one. The path J’onn is forced to take, and the things that he has to accept, those are the meat and merit of the story. Those are what give us the value, and in the end, make the issue more than worth a read.
Patrick Gleason does a great job here for the most part, as his only real flaws come in the forms of Wonder Woman and Hal Jordan. The tone shifts noticeably between the lighter and happier portions of the title and the darker and grittier conclusion. Both order and chaos are well handled, as Gleason’s pencils leave the book clean and organized, at no point do you find yourself scratching your head and wondering what you’re looking at. There’s a lot of nice touches, and J’onn’s face is key amongst them as the emotion on his face drives the issue as much as anything else. Not to mention that Gleason drew a kick ass Green Lantern costume for J’onn.
By no means the best, but by no means the worst, this was another good issue of Brightest Day. There is a lot to enjoy, but the same issues that have been prevalent since the beginning of the issue are still there. Due to the extended cast, most issues needs to be done-in-one so that they can continue the individual character arcs in the limited time they have. Sometimes this works in everyone’s favor, like when the Hawk’s take center stage and you just want to move to the next phase of their arc, but with an issue like this one I’m left to wonder what they could have done with the same story if they had an extra twenty pages for it. We’ve got eleven issues left, next issue is Firestorm, and I figure it’ll be January before we see J’onn again, so hey, maybe it’s for the best.
Tags: Brightest Day, Geoff Johns, J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter, Patrick Gleason, Peter Tomasi, Reviews