Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Iconic Panels: Martian Manhunter

Following a query over at The Idol-Head of Diabolu prompting readers about iconic Martian Manhunter panels, I submit to you this:

A splash page from the second volume of Martian Manhunter: American Secrets (by Gerard Jones and Eduardo Barreto.)  The tone of this book is one of its strongest points; in true noir form, its tension derives from the necessity that J'onn keep his true identity a secret.  What results is a harried, tense, nail-biting plot line which is almost brutal in the severity of its relentless suspense.

Spectacular art by Eduardo Barreto
This particular splash page bursts through all of that tension into one dizzying scene: his hand being forced by his pursuers, there is no other way out but up.  The result is almost a palpable catharsis: the narrow claustrophobic tension of the preceding pages gives way to a dizzying, vertiginous freedom.  The problem, however: J'onn's companions don't know his true identity, and now the cat's out of the bag: their savior is a Martian.

I won't say anything more about this spectacular book, lest I spoil any of its delightful surprises.

*All the more reason that I believe secret identities yield a level of tension and nuance to superhero comics--and writers seem to have forgotten this.  But that's a discussion for another day.