Thursday, January 10, 2008

Martian Manhunter #0 (Oct.'98)

Tom Mandrake illustrated John Ostrander’s new Martian Manhunter origin story "Pilgrimage," in which a present day J'Onn J'Ozz returned to Mars (now called Ma'aleca'andra by the natives, referencing “Out of the Silent Planet” by C.S. Lewis) "for the first time." Were that true, a slew of Manhunter’s Post-Crisis solo comics would be thrown out of continuity, as well as a Darkstars appearance ON MARS! Anyhow, we learned in flashback that H'Rronmeer's Curse was both a physical and telepathic assault, sticking MM permanently with the second lamest weakness (fire) in comic history (after Alan Scott's problems with wood. Try not to read anything into that.) Well okay, Manhunter's tied with Power Girl's "unprocessed materials" and Hal Jordan's classic "yellow" vulnerability. You could take out half the DCU with a gas soaked #2 pencil, but I digress...

Before I get started, please note that nothing from this origin's telling has been corroborated outside of the Ostrander series. Also, this version of the origin was being told to Superman by J'Onzz. Later in the series, J'Onzz had some fun with Kyle Rayner by "revealing" his horrendous narcotic addiction to cookies, followed by confiding in Wonder Woman the story's untruth. Maybe J'Onn was just pulling Kal-El's Leg of Steel?

As revealed in Martian Manhunter #8 (July '99,) "The source was a plague called H'Ronmeer Curse--named for our god of fire and death and art. It was telepathic in origin. The Martian weakness to fire is both physical and psychological. We are telepathically drawn to the flickering uncontrolled image of chaos. Our thoughts become fire at the expense of all else--even the beating of our hearts. In the case of H'Ronmeer Curse, our very bodies erupted into flame." While Green Martians were spontaneously combusting all around him, J'Onn J'Onzz (now his real name again) returned home to his wife M'yri'ah (Maria? Mariah?) and daughter K'Hym. To avoid the telepathic disease, they had shut themselves off from The Great Voice (Star Trek's The Great Link) of the community. He comforted his bride by "merging" with her, becoming a tendrilled thing (just like Star Trek's Changelings). When K'Hym showed signs of "The Curse" (Alan Moore fans chuckle here,) her mother rushed to her, despite J'Onn's protest. Both mother and child disintegrated into flames.

With his family lost, J'Onzz reverted to the role of hardened policeman (kinda like the shapeshifting Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.) "In my world, we all had our functions. As with our forms, outward functions as well as inward. Innermost, I was a philosopher- Seeking wisdom, seeking to understand, seeking to explain. Outwardly, I was what on Earth we would call a manhunter. Seeking those, within society and without, who would bring it's downfall." J'Onzz had ignored the warning signs that his evil twin brother created H'Ronmeer's Curse to wipe out his own race, to y'know--give him the benefit of the doubt n'all. This sibling was not telepathic, so the plague had no effect on him... Which was kind of like what The Federation did in Star Trek:DS9--engineering a disease transmitted from Changeling to Changeling when they merged, nearly wiping out the whole race. Not that I'm calling anyone derivative, mind you.

Ahem. J'Onzz went ape-poopies on brother Ma'alefa'ak (which translates into English as "Venom," : ) believing him dead at the end of their battle. J'Onn wandered the desert for an undetermined period of time, impersonating dead Martians, or conversing with a hand puppet simulation of K'Hym. Eventually, he was struck by a white light, and found himself on Earth. On his home world, his people had their private forms (Gumby), and public (individualized.) The form we know best is The Manhunter, which is as J'Onzz appeared to Dr. James Erdel, an aged Professor of Archaeology. I do have to say that it was a nice touch to give Erdel his 3rd first name (Mark per Samachson, Saul per DeMatteis) for his 3rd major origin revision, and finally making him an actual doctor instead of professor, though this time he’s both obscure and seems a bit of a nutter. This Erdel used unearthed, millennium old Martian equipment to teleport MM, before it blew up in their faces. The fire caused J'J' to fall apart emotionally, and revert to his private form. Realizing there's another life at stake, J'Onzz rose above his fear, and rescued Erdel. Telepathically conversing with the doctor, J'Onzz learned he was on Per'elandra (Earth.) Manhunter eased the doc's pain until he died, then investigated the equipment, rendered unsalvagable.

Earthling Denver Police Lieutenant John Jones arrived on the scene with the fire department. J'Onn J'Onzz recognized a kindred spirit, and followed John Jones to learn about our society. Eventually, John Jones was called to testify against a major crimelord, but two corrupt cops were sent to assassinate him. J'Onn J'Onzz stopped Officer Kawicki, but the murderous impulse was so far out of the Martian's experience that he was distracted and surprised by the violence unfolding before him. This allowed Officer Morgan the chance to kill John Jones. J'Onn J'Onzz assumed John Jones' role in order to give the much needed testimony, and continued John Jones' life from there. J'Onn J'Onzz liked being John Jones, so J'Onn JOnzz stayed John Jones while on John Jones' Earth, instead of J'Onn J'Onzz’s Mars. John Jones likes the spicy chicken. J'Onn J'Onzz is getting upset.

Luckily, this entire story was being told by J'Onn to Superman. Later in the series, J'Onzz would also tell young Green Lantern Kyle Rayner a completely apocryphal anecdote, by his own later admission to Wonder Woman. Perhaps this whole sordid mess was a similar joke played on the Man of Steel.

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