Justice League of America #5 “The UnNamed”
Written by Matt Kindt and Rob Williams
Pencils by Philip Tan
Colors by Jeromy Cox
So did you show up to your local comic shop and not expect to see this as this month’s issue of JLA? Don’t worry, I was a little blind-sided when I pulled together the Upcoming Comics post. Turns out that this is a filler issue because Bryan Hitch has had delays since the second issue… and the delays just keep growing. So instead of removing Hitch from either art or writing duties, DC still has him doing both, as a result, probably dragging down readers’ desire to come back to this book month after month… or perhaps months would be more appropriate. Anyway, (I promise I’ll get to the review after this) its bad business. You have a job, and if you fail to complete that job as required on a regular basis, you should be replaced. Sorry mister Hitch, it’s just my personal opinion.

Alright, onto the issue itself! This filler focuses on Martian Manhunter, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve never focused much on MM, which is honestly a shame and poor judgement on my part. I thought he was a total badass in the first JLA from the New 52, and was reminded of that here. In case you’re wondering, it’s a really solid one-and-done issue that left me wondering why I wasn’t reading the Martian Manhunter series.

This issue starts off with J’onn at the Watchtower with the League, as he analyzes his team members, contemplating their thoughts of him. The first page honestly reminded me of myself as J’onn’s internal monologue reads, “Watchtower. So I watch. I watch the heroes. And I learn.” It’s a simple page but it speaks volumes as this issue begins what is almost a character study of Martian Manhunter. And considering his ability, I’m surprised that I was surprised to be reminded of how much of an internal character he actually is.

He wonders if Batman fully trusts him. Then follows that thought with, “Does he realize that I could make him trust me…?” It’s a notion that plays into the theme of this issue as J’onn sets out on a solo mission, questioning his place not only with the Justice League, but on this earth. A question that puts him on a journey for the entirety of this book.

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J’onn travels to Tokyo to investigate a “Mars cult.” His investigation is partially driven from curiosity of finding another Martian, but also to look into the multiple murders that have been tied to this cult – a fact that doesn’t escape his consistent debating of his own purpose. As he investigates the murders, MM discovers that there is more than meets the eye to this cult, and is forced to come face to face with his own potential. And this all takes place within the first quarter of the issue! The remainder of the book is a battle of physicality, wits, and abilities as J’onn takes on a character from his past. If you’re not familiar with Martian Manhunter and are curious, you should definitely pick up this issue… and fair warning, you’ll probably want to pick up the Martian Manhunter series after reading this.

The Art:  I really enjoyed Philip Tan’s art here! He appears to be the perfect match for this character, capturing the horror that actually exists within physical appearance of J’onn. He manages to draw J’onn as having so much restrained strength, yet instills a physical grace within the character. It’s pretty spectacular. Jeromy Cox also plays a huge role in bringing this book and character to life with dark, bold color choices. Greens, purples, and reds are plastered throughout this book, but it never feels “bright” unless Cox is showcasing the Tokyo skyline.

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The team also does a good job with action! You can definitely feel the intensity of the fight scenes, and some of the panels are quite disturbing at times – all qualities that work really well for this book.

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My only slightly negative comment about the art, is that I wasn’t crazy about how Tan drew humans. The looked a little odd, and at times cartoony – which felt even weirder than it should have considering the tone of the book. But there aren’t many humans in this book, so it’s not too distracting

Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.

Spoiler

The Good: The theme of this issue is really strong, and something that will resonate with many readers. Finding your place in this world isn’t a new notion, but it’s something that plagues people, young and old, every day. Watching such a powerful creature experience the same thing really puts things into perspective. The resolution of the theme at the end as J’onn sits watching and learning is also powerful. There’s something to be said about someone who has the ability to complete alter the world as we know it, and instead, he finds his purpose in quiet confidence and observation.

The book aptly plays into the theme of choice. You can be cut from the same cloth as someone else, but you will ultimately become a product of your choices. And it may not necessarily be the choices you make that define you, but how you deal with them that defines you. That message is loud and clear here.

The psyche of Martian Manhunter. I love getting in the head of characters, and this book does just that, Within a short span of pages, Kindt and Williams manage to cover a lot of ground with who Manhunter is, how he views himself, how he’s viewed by others, the powers he possesses, and the potential x-factor that he could be for good or evil.

The action. It’s high energy, brutal, and at times disturbing! What’s not to like?

 
The Bad:  The climax was a little lackluster, but I tend to feel that way with one-and-done stories. I felt as though J’onn beat Toth too easily, and that everything was wrapped up too neatly to believe. I don’t want to my personal dislike of this to weigh too heavily though. When it comes down to it, this team managed to accomplish a lot within a short number of pages, and they did it beautifully. Something had to be a little short of breadth, and I think they picked the perfect area of the plot to keep it brief and quick… So, in other words, I just wish I could’ve seen more.

 

Recommended if:

  • You’re a fan of Martian Manhunter.
  • You’ve been curious as to whether or not you should read the Martian Manhunter series.
  • You prefer stories that delve into the psyche and development of characters.

Overall: Forget Justice League of America! Hitch’s inability to produce product on time has allowed DC the opportunity to feature another book and character of theirs, and they’re mission was successful! While I was initially irritated that we were getting a fill-in issue that felt like a desperate attempt to push off a book with low(er) sales onto an unsuspecting audience, I’m now glad I read this book! Kindt and Williams far surpassed my expectations, and have convinced me to pick up Martian Manhunter! I advise you pick up this issue, and then let that determine if you should follow my lead and pick up the main book as well. Fair play, DC! Fair play!

SCORE:  8.5/ 10