Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Frienemies of Mars: Hal Jordan
In one of my now fairly rare visits to MySpace, I found that reader and fellow Aquaman/Manhunter fan The Irredeemable Shag wished to alert me to a post on his blog, Once Upon a Geek, where he posed a question about Final Crisis: Requiem … MM & Hal? I still haven't received my copy of "Requiem," and whatever happened to renaming it "...for Martian Manhunter," as DC had previously mentioned? Anyway, Shag griped that in the book Hal Jordan's vow to avenge J'Onn J'Onzz rang hollow. We all know the death is being used as motivation for Jordan's forming a new, pro-active Justice League, so it all comes off like Colin Powell waving "proof" of Iraqi WMDs at the U.N. As Shag noticed, this becomes more blatant when you realize Hal Jordan is hardly a Comrade of Mars.
In our world, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter made one another's acquaintance in the first Justice League of America story. Nine issues into the team's series, an origin story was retroactively added. None of this really impacts on the relationship in question however, as Gardner Fox's tales featured a collection of amiable heroic cyphers distinguished only by their powers and costumes. That began to change several years down the line, when Fox was replaced by Denny O'Neil. However, the Manhunter from Mars only appeared in the book sporadically at that point, and O'Neil wrote the character out of the team and off the planet within his first dozen issues on the title. The Manhunter sat out most of the 70's, and the only time he seemed to take note of Green Lantern in that period was when Jordan made his short list of suspects in the apparent assassination of his friend, Re's Eda. While Jordan shared dubious company with Superman and the Hawks-- well-- those are other strange relationships for another time.
J'Onn J'Onzz returned to Earth for good in 1984, in search of help from a Justice League Hal Jordan had abandoned at a time of Earth's dire need. Aquaman dissolved that incarnation right afterward, and the Manhunter joined the now-Lanternless League. He became associated with the Corps again through JLI in the form of Guy Gardner, with whom he had an antagonistic relationship for the next five years. At one point, J'Onzz fired Gardner from the League, and I don't recall that he was officially reinstated for the remainder of Manhunter's own membership. Over those years, J'Onn J'Onzz had very little contact with Jordan, but he did have a traumatic run-in with another Lantern, John Stewart. That Green Lantern was partially responsible for the destruction of a planet in Manhunter's presence, an act J'Onzz swore he'd never forgive. Martian Manhunter was involved in later recriminations and Stewart's near-suicide.
You may notice a pattern emerging here. During the 70's, no less than four launches of individuals bearing the name "Manhunter" sans "Martian" were made by DC. Two of those were tied into the Green Lantern Corps, as robotic "Manhunters" were revealed to be precursors to the Corps with a genocidal agenda. In the 80's, all the "Manhunter" characters still in continuity were tied together for the "Millenium" cross-over... except J'Onzz, who only smashed the robotic Manhunters without comment. Those same Manhunters were among the first villains to appear in the "Justice League" cartoon, whose producers had decided to refer to the Martian hero only as "J'Onn J'Onzz" throughout the series to avoid confusion. The Martian Manhunter had his very trademark infringed by Green Lantern villains. It seems it made him less than friendly toward the entire Corps.
Hal Jordan did not return to active League membership until immediately after the Martian Manhunter quit, although J'Onzz returned himself to serve on two League branches fairly removed from Jordan's. The Martian Manhunter had little-to-no contact with Jordan until he joined Guy Gardner in responding to a suspicious silence among Corpsmen and the people of the planet Oa. Manhunter was part of an investigative party ambushed and brutally assaulted by Jordan, who was then believed to have gone mad. On numerous occasions, Martian Manhunter joined collective of heroes seeking to bring Jordan, now called Parallax, to justice.
Of all the Green Lanterns, only two had relations with J'Onn J'Onzz that could be considered pleasant: Kilowog, who was slain by Parallax, and Kyle Rayner, an exceptional Lantern believed to be the last of his kind for a time. On the other hand, there was the continued pest G'nort, and mounting evidence of acrimony between Martians and Lanterns. In an issue of the Martian Manhunter solo series, Jordan's predecessor Abin Sur butted heads with the Manhunter from Mars, who revealed centuries of distrust and animosity between his people and the Guardians of the Universe. In a terrible JLA story, those Guardians were revealed to have altered Martian DNA to effectively "neuter" them and saddle them with their weakness to fire.
While Manhunter attended Hal Jordan's funeral when he appeared to heroically sacrifice his life, he seemed to have mixed feeling when later confronted by Jordan resurrected as the Spectre. Jordan eventually returned fully to life and Green Lantern membership when it was revealed he had been possessed by a monstrous alien entity. Even in light of this though, Manhunter kept his distance. When Jordan and Stewart alternated membership in a new formation of the Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter chose instead solo status and a brief fling with the Outsiders after twenty years of near-continuous League service.
Retroactive continuity fails to enhance the J'Onzz-Jordan camaraderie. In 1977, it was revealed that most members of the original Justice League were gathered to halt a Mars-centric threat, but Jordan was just a test pilot that happened upon the scene. In the 80's and 90's, various stories set in the League's early period didn't particularly connect the two heroes. Specifically, in "JLA: Year One" Jordan has very little direct contact with J'Onzz. Jordan was among the first and most voracious to wrongly accuse and physically attack the Martian Manhunter, believed to have betrayed his team. Jordan repeated this action recently, when he joined a group of heroes tasked with capturing a transformed Martian Manhunter turned fugitive from the U.S. Government. As for "Elseworlds" and other Imaginary Stories, can anyone name any where the characters had a significant interaction?
It seems to me that, not only is Hal Jordan not in a position to validly fly under the Manhunter banner in his latest crusade, but would likely earn J'Onzz's criticism for the move. The Manhunter from Mars tended, with exceptions, to be a mild-mannered sort who reacted to threats, rather than plan surgical strikes. Further, Hal Jordan has spent his career alternating between being an indecisive, unreliable flake and a power hungry glory whore. In may ways, Jordan is the antithesis of J'Onn J'Onzz. All in all, the Manhunter has always had a fan in Green Arrow, confidant of Jordan and co-founder of this new "Justice League." Any vows to avenge a fallen friend should have come from the lips of Oliver Queen, a hero much closer to the Martian's methods and values. By my reckoning, Hal Jordan never had the right.