Thursday, August 19, 2010

DC Comics Mega Sampler 2010 (July)

I never cared much for "the comic shop experience" as a fan, and after eight years of making that happen professionally, it should come as no surprise I now get most of my books via mail order. This was the first year I realized I could buy those Free Comic Book Day giveaways online, which explains the stack of books costing less than four bits each I spent months working my way through. Somehow, I missed the DC Kids offering, which didn't weigh heavily on my mind, until commentators and email writers kept pointing out that it happened to feature the debut of the Batman: The Brave and The Bold Martian Manhunter. It even got to the point where the story's writer, Landry Q. Walker, dropped me a line. "I know you didn't care for the cover in the upcoming regular issue, and as we also play very fast and loose with the mythos of the character... I suspect you may not like the story at all. But I figured I should let you know regardless."

Walker refers to my criticism of the solicitation copy for B:TB&TB #18, but I was really just grouchy we hadn't confirmed Manhunter's resurrection by that point. No, my gripe now is that I prepaid for my copy of that issue only to see the advertised story given away in advance of its intended publication date, printed on glossier paper stock. I got some new Martian content in the pay issue though, which allows me two posts off the one book, so  I'll shut up.  I picked up the FCBD book a week late, amongst a stack of leftovers that were exclusively kid friendly (mostly Archie,) which doesn't bode well for the industry's future. I guess there's always Halloween to try again...

Batman offered captions detailing the most current canonical origin of Martian Manhunter as the two heroes made their way into a warehouse. The Caped Crusader's method was to kick down a gate, while J'Onn went immaterial, the start of a divergence from the mainstream norm.  "A White Martian-- General Ma'alefa'ak-- recently crashed his spaceship on Earth. He was captured by the military, imprisoned and interrogated. And now he's free. Which means the entire world in in danger."

Martian Manhunter could sense Ma'elefa'ak's presence, but it was masked somehow. Batman cut off his thought, having found clay that led the pair to S + C (Samachson & Certa Research.) Inside were mindwiped scientists lying about, amongst which Batman found a small but strangely heavy device. "H'ronmeer's Ghost! It's a telepathic booster! I... I know what Ma'elefa'ak is planning. I... can sense it... We must go... now!"

Batman knew all Martians were dead save two-- shapeshifters, psychics, invulnerable and intangible. "The normal rules of life and death don't necessarily apply to them. Typical. I spend my life learning how to incapacitate a criminal with a single punch... and nine times out of ten, my enemies are immune to physical harm."

At the sophisticated base store-housing Ma'elefa'ak's crashed ship, Martian Manhunter explained its technology could increase the general's telepathy a thousandfold. Both heroes were shocked when the telepathic booster they'd found transformed into Ma'elefa'ak himself. "I can influence minds, J'Onn. Even yours. Why else would you have come to a place you knew I could not reach. You carried me past the security points and the laser fences. All the way to my goal. To my salvation."

Mojojo Manhunter pleaded with Ma'elefa'ak to live in peace with humanity, but the general was set on reviving Mars through a reversal that would kill every human. "Imagine it, J'Onn: our people will awaken. We will rebuild the Citadel of H'ronmeer! With Earth and all its resources at our disposal, we will conquer the galaxy. We will spread across the cosmos like a plague, enslaving all who stand in our way!"

Ma'elefa'ak had swatted Batman aside to focus on Martian Mojo, unleashing a crippling psychic wave of imagery. It was brief though, as the Caped Crusader removed a piece of equipment from Ma'elefa'ak's ship that neutralized its psychic relays. Although J'O J'O J'Onzz begged his brother to stop, Ma'elefa'ak refused to surrender "until... this world... dies," causing himself to combust.

Batman knew J'Onn was saddened by his inability to rehabilitate and save Ma'elefa'ak, but Martian Manhunter explained the matter. "Ma'elefa'ak and I are the last of the Martians. We survived while the rest of our people shifted to dust. We have not seen the last of him." Batman tried to argue that Ma'elefa'ak had been disintegrated to atoms, but Martian Manhunter repeated, "We have not seen the last of him" while fading to invisibility.

A Bat-Signal lit up the sky. "Here's hoping it's something simple. Straightforward. Something I can punch."

Landry Q. Walker's script leaves out some important connections, but I assume the "dead" Martians had literally turned to immobile dust, and needed something like Earth's oceans to revive them. It's an interesting angle, and like a lot of writers, Walker prefers to play with the cannon rather than recite it. Unlike most though, he seems like a genuine fan with a working knowledge of Martian Manhunter as a soloist. For instance, General Ma'alefa'ak isn't just a kid safe tweak of Malefic, but a seemingly deliberate mingling of Commander Blanx, the Marshal, Protex and maybe even the Master Gardener. Even though Martian Manhunter has little to do here, either Walker is a diehard fan, or has intuited a wavelength of the character favored around here.

As I said before, the eight page "Life On Mars" debuted the latest animation-style Martian Manhunter, and despite my previous mocking, it's my favorite cartoon translation of the character to date. I never fully warmed to the doughy Timmverse design aesthetic, plus I hated the stupid upturned Vision collar on Justice League. The chin on Matsuda's The Batman was completely out of control, while Justice League: The New Frontier gave the Alien Atlas those freaky Cooke eyebrows. Here, artist Eric Jones hewed faithfully to the DC style guide Martian Manhunter beloved from the Super Powers Collection through One Year Later. I really like the well defined, slightly angular anatomy of B:TB&TB, especially Manhunter's sick tight thighs/knees. Looked at straight on, Manhunter still resembles Mojo Jojo, but in profile J'onzz's head is much more rectangular. His brow alone isn't as pronounced as one might expect, but the disproportionate head gets the alienness across. The Martian Marvel is also given a flat, hooked nose and a kooky chin that sets him apart. Still, Mojo J'onn J'onzz sounds cool to me.

If you're interested in reading about the rest of the issue, I discussed it in my foul-mouth review column at ...nurgh...


Sebastian said...

Frank, I bought a MM shirt logo. Do you understand what the pie slices represent. I hope you do and can solve my problem.

Diabolu Frank said...

The pie slices represent the lack of imagination in Joe Certa's original design, and of all successive writers after Joe Samachson who never bothered to assign them any meaning after decades of appearances. It also represents the nostalgia of fans who've seen it for years and want to buy that shirt, just like I did.

LissBirds said...

I thought the pie slices represented J'onn's love of Trivial Pursuit? :)

I really liked the brown boots and shorts on "General Ma'alefa'ak." Who says White Martians can't wear clothes, too?