Monday, June 9, 2008

Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #3 (11/96)

While Wonder Woman was preoccupied with Behemoth, she failed to notice an invisible stalker at her backside, until an energy blast revealed the now unconscious foe. "Her powers allowed her to mask herself from your senses, Diana... but not from MINE."
"J'Onn! Who are these people?"
"The first line of defense."
"Against what?"
The Manhunter continued telepathically, "That which we have precious little of-- time! All of you-- listen-- we cannot waste precious seconds fighting cannon fodder!"
As Superman struggled with Unity and his fellows fought on, he noted, "I'm sure we're all open to suggestions, J'Onn. What do you propose we do?"
The Sparkers screamed as one in anguish and collapsed unconscious.
"They all had some kind of seizures--" Wonder Woman surmised.
The Batman was aghast. "A telepathic assault, J'Onn? I thought you were averse to such harshness?"
"I was."

A concerned Green Lantern asked Flash, "Uhm... is this guy all there?" The Martian Manhunter wished to continue with the mission, but collapsed to his knees. The Caped Crusader and Aquaman, his two closest friends present, helped him up. The Sea King fretted, "Easy, J'Onzz-- that stunt took a lot out of you." Wally West, after pointedly dismissing Kyle Rayner, himself asked, "Hey, J'Onn, bud-- are you all there?"
"I am here, Wally."

Back on his feet, the Dark Knight wasted no time in making demands of the Manhunter to find and address Dr. Destiny. "We rescued you because we required your help." J'Onzz rebuffed, "Rescued me from what, Batman? Paradise? Thank you so much." Superman asserted, "It was all an illusion, J'Onn. A nightmare." Again, Manhunter argued, "For you, perhaps. For you. Never mind. I know what you need of me... and-- as always-- I accept my responsibility. Would that all of you could say the same." Martian Manhunter telepathically detected more Sparkers appearing by the minute, at a rate that would inevitably overrun the Earth and render it uninhabitable. "...we must strip them of their newfound might-- by whatever means necessary." Destiny had imprinted Green Lantern's mind with his whereabouts in Montana, which were extracted telepathically, and off the League went. "...My deduction is that Destiny wants to be discovered..."

Within the base, the League was confronted with illusions to impede their progress. Wonder Woman comforted the Martian while the team walked through a seeming tunnel of flame. Upon reaching Dr. Destiny, the duo were joined by Superman in liberating the once and future villain from Know Man's machinery. This captor appeared to manhandle much of the team, though the Manhunter focused on Destiny, jade hands wrapped around his collar. "Destiny-- who is this madman? How much of your soul did you sell to this devil? I know the cost to mine."
"What little was left, Martian Manhunter... what little was left..."

Know Man claimed his intention to save the world. Again held by Dark Knight and Sea King, but to an entirely different end, Manhunter responded "Save it? How? By giving us a taste of how sweet life could be-- only to snatch its nectar from our lips?"
"J'onn-- please--"
"You have no idea what this-- this animal took from me."
"Yes," Batman answered, "I do." He then forcibly plugged Manhunter and Dr. Destiny back into Know Man's machinery, so that they could reconnect with the world's Sparkers. Aquaman objected, "Did you take into account the fact that-- J'Onn might not be able to cope with the strain?"
"That's where you come in. J'Onn's drowning in a cacophony of fear and panic as his consciousness blankets the planet. You're the closest thing he has to an empath. Keep him grounded... If you can't keep J'Onn tethered, the world is lost!"

Know Man revealed his origins as a caveman empowered by a terminal Controller with the undying curiosity needed to avert a catastrophe that would eventually make its way toward Earth. Sparking a world of metahumans was the answer he arrived at after millenia. The Manhunter meanwhile finally found equilibrium within the Sparkers' collective minds, with Destiny's help. "Know Man is a fool. The one mistake he made was in trying to take something away from you... the one being who has already lost everything. This is my final revenge against my captor, Martian Manhunter. I give you what you need. A connection... to a family that needs you. A family called mankind... The world was mine, J'Onn. It was all I ever wanted... and more than I could bear." The Sparkers vanished, but the League remained in thrall to new nightmares given them by Know Man. J'Onn failed to gently rouse Diana, so instead took her Lasso of Truth to encircle the League and help them break through their delusions psychically. The last to return was Superman, whom J'Onzz consoled, "All you have ever done... all you know how to do... is help... Let me-- let all of us-- help you-- hold onto the truth."

The League attacked Know Man, though the Manhunter from Mars was the only one capable of making contact. "Immaterial arms cleave a force field with ease, Know Man. Our trials are over."
"On the contrary, J'Onn... they have just begun." Know Man congratulated the JLA for taking on his burden of defending the world from the overwhelming unknown to come, then vanished. Recognizing how instinctively well this line-up complimented one another and how necessary that would soon be, the Magnificent Seven League line-up chose to continue working together.

Closing Notes: Know Man mentioned the Controller had an alternate in mind for his role who proved too "savage," alluding to an immortal Vandal the Martian Manhunter has fought numerous times over the years.

A Midsummer's Nightmare #3 presold 53,244 copies.

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