By: James Robinson (writer), Javi Fernandez (artist), Rich & Tanya Horie (colorists)

The Story: Dang it, Outsider, look at the shape you left the Martian Manhunter in.

The Review: What with the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Batman (or at least, the appearance of him) starring in Flashpoint, while Superman and Green Lantern take turns in the spotlight, you have pretty much the entire Justice League involved in this Event.  Or do we?  Anyone remember Martian Manhunter, staple alien of the JLA with a tenure outmatching even a certain Kryptonian we know?  His absence here is a sad, but hardly new, slight on the character.

In spite of J’onn’s hyped resurrection in Blackest Night and a nice stint on Brightest Day, he remains arguably one of the most underutilized and underappreciated members of the League.  When Zatanna gets an ongoing while he doesn’t, that tells you all you need to know about his popularity.  It says so much that his only role in DC’s summer blockbuster comic has him relegated to a feature role in a tie-in starring a completely obscure character.

But at least Robinson makes his part as meaty as possible, giving us a very intriguing twist on our “hero.”  Like most of his colLeagues (see what I did there?), J’onn has become darker in manner and personality, but moreover, he’s embraced it, to the point where the story becomes a showdown between two amoral figures.  Going by his recent actions alone, including his rather horrific finish of Black Adam, M.M. comes off no less villainous than our titular character.

More disagreeable is Robinson’s choice to deliver all this background info through—you guessed it—a rambling, explanatory monologue.  Think eight pages of the Outsider playing the nonplussed host, asking the right questions so the Martian can get his story across in good time.  Q&A as a narrative tool is a common fictional crutch, one that rarely fails to slow the action to a crawl and free the writer from the obligation of engaging in actual storytelling.

And all that chit-chat takes away from the rematch years in coming, between two foes of equal enormous strength (especially now J’onn’s gotten over his psychosomatic weakness to fire).  The sheer variety of J’onn’s abilities should make this sequence a lively, satisfying climax, but while his creative shapeshifting attacks do offer some good fun, the Outsider remains completely unphased, never once giving the sense of danger and undermining his opponent’s competence.

Frankly, Manhunter has precious little to lose, what with falling into the absolute worst habit for comic book villains: letting on way too much of your plan to the person you mean to defeat.  The only real reason to do so is possibly because Robinson could devise no other plausible reason for the Outsider to show up to Flashpoint’s final battle.

The one aspect of Fernandez’s art that really defines his style and makes it so rich and gripping is the incredible texture he brings to the art.  His sketchy lines and expert hatching can deliver any kind of surface: polished, rough, gritty, smooth, worn, reflective—you name it, he does it, and when it all comes together, the whole issue comes to life.  And it’s not just reserved to settings; J’onn’s flesh flows like liquid matter, and the Outsider doesn’t look merely like a bald guy colored with gray skin, but has a stony exterior so defined you know how it’d feel on your hand.

Conclusion: Considering his history, Martian Manhunter deserves a lot more than to serve as a mere foil to someone else, especially someone as mercenary and inscrutable as the Outsider.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Okay, I really have to speak out about this: the whole “52 as the prime number of the DCU” may have been a cute motif, like, six years ago, but it has gotten completely arbitrary, counterproductive, and, most of all, old now.  Please stop, in the name of 52.