Monday, December 20, 2010

Justice League America #40 (July, 1990)

In space, Despero had floated, "unliving, but not dead... My heart cried out for peace, rest, non-existence-- but my dreams sang of vengeance-- against those who hurt me, thwarted me, ruined me." Despero could not rest until he had "annihilated the Justice League." As he tightened his grip around Blue Beetle's throat, J'Onn J'Onzz arrived to demand the hero's release.

"The Martian. The most powerful, the most troublesome of them all. And perhaps I hate him most of all: an alien like myself, alone on this world and yet he has, somehow, made a home for himself within this wretched race. Despite his tragedy-scarred past, he has found some measure of peace within himself... (H)is heart is filled with compassion... and that most appalling of emotions called love. I learned, long ago, that compassion is useless, love is a lie. It's time he learned as well."

"Go to hell, Martian." Despero crushed Blue Beetle's head to a bloody mass. The Alien Atlas tackled the in human animal. "Inhuman? Of course I'm inhuman. To despise compassion, laugh at love, revel in hate-- to be utterly, unrepentantly inhuman-- is the only sane response in a universe as brutal and senseless as this one." Despero used his third eye to share his worldview directly into Manhunter's brain, until it exploded. "Farewell, Martian. You, at least, know peace now." Despero would continue to know only pain, until he had visited his brand of justice on the League.

Fire dared to avenge the two good men dead before her. Despero felt something special about her, "that reminds of someone I knew long ago... in the Days of Foolishness when I allowed myself to feel... Just an echo of a man I was: an after-image of an ancient life of hope and longing..." Perhaps the Green Flame evoked evoked the emerald-haired Saranna? Despero offered her a quick death should Fire surrender, and she still got one without losing face, when Despero flew up to disperse her immaterial flaming form with a clap of his monstrous hands.

"Heroes, they call themselves; risking their lives for ideas and ideals. Risking their lives for illusions. These humans attach so much importance to their illusions. Lip-service: but their hearts are rank, vile. Like the people of my homeworld... they claimed to be peaceful and loving; idealists of the first order. Till I was born among them: a mutant, feared and shunned. Spat upon. Laughed at. Locked away. The woman who birthed me showed me tenderness; fed my dreams of hope... and they murdered her for it. Just as they sought to murder me. But I murdered their world instead. Rose up and claimed it for my own... And now I claim this planet."

Despero caused a geyser of flame to erupt from the street, and it progressed to claim the entire city. "I learned at an early age that hate is the only power in this chaotic universe." Despero had decided to "bless" the Earth with the ultimate expression of his hate, its non-existence, ending by fire. "No more false ideals, fragile dreams, shattered hopes. No more clinging to the lie of love. In the name of hate I consume your world. I set you free. All of you... and myself, as well..."

Despero flew up into outer space, extending his arms as if to embrace his own redundancy, then curdled into a fetal position.

Blue Beetle asked, "Uh-- somebody care t'tell me what just happened here? One minute Despero's crushing my windpipe, the next he's just standing there staring into space like some acid casualty-- and then he flies off happy as a clam..." The Martian Manhunter explained that he had used the once in a lifetime telepathic gift of the Mayavana, to fulfill Despero's finest wish, and finally allow him peace of mind. "And you used this... this gift of love-- on Despero?" J'Onn replied that he had bestowed this most gratifying psychic fantasy "for my friends. For my adopted world. And perhaps for Despero, as well. At the very end, I thought I felt--"

The thought was interrupted by Guy Gardner shouting for a piece of "that three-eyed jerk... An' where's Ice? Uh... not that I really care." Ice was located, and found to be all right. Mr. Miracle, on the other hand, was presumed dead. Despero had literally reverted to an unconscious fetal form, and fallen back to back to Earth.

J'Onn saw to informing Big Barda of her husband's seeming demise. Mr. Miracle's sidekick Oberon was of course incommunicado. Despero was in a JLI lab. "He might... be... devolved. Or perhaps in some state of biological suspension. There's a consciousness there... unformed... but it's there, and I swear... it's happy."

The funeral was presided over by a priest who strongly resembled Jack Kirby. Besides the JLI; Highfather, Green Arrow, the New Titans, Superman, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Dr. Fate, Wonder Woman, and Gypsy attended. Barda blamed Max Lord for Scott Free's death, and socked him. Booster Gold had the gall to show up and try to recruit Gypsy for a new team he was forming, so Beetle socked him. Booster hated himself afterward, but Gypsy still took his card. What else did she have going for her?

Later, Superman met with Batman, concerned that the League was "under-powered. If they keep facing entities like Despero... I'm afraid there are going to be more deaths... I admire the League. I want to see it continue to function-- and function well..."

Booster returned to Claire Montgomery, who confirmed Praxis for her new team. Gold wasn't interested.

Guy Gardner was hurting, but wouldn't admit it, playing off his time alone with Ice as a consolation to her.

Despite his hostility toward Superman's overtures, Batman passed along his concerns to Maxwell Lord. Martian Manhunter argued that there should be a brief period of mourning before pursuing new members, but Max insisted that a delay could cost more lives. "I swear to you, I'll disband this team rather than see another of my friends die."

At Scott Free's grave, Orion expressed his belief that there was a potential brotherly bond between them. It would lead him to talk with the JLI...

"Hell On Earth" was by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Adam Hughes and José Marzan, Jr.

Number of times Despero used the word "hate" this issue: 13

I didn't have time to fully read and digest this story before writing Despero: The Fifth Most Important Martian Manhunter Adversary, but looking at it now only strengthens my argument about the pair being complimentary opposites. J'Onn was born into a loving, communal environment that sustains him even after its plague death. Despero was born a mutant and ostracized from his earliest days, birthing a rage that was only fueled by the many documented indignities visited upon him (like Jasonar surgically removing his third eye.) J'Onn is the alien who quietly integrated into society as a productive member. Despero shows up to bring the hellacious spectacle and raise a body count, destroying or dominating all in his sight. Despero longs for the peace J'Onzz espouses, but the troubles J'Onn carries on his back seem to reveal the untruth of his granola philosophy. Both could just go off and enjoy their lives, but are compelled to burden themselves with unattainable and taxing personal missions. They're such fantastic foils.

1 comment:

LissBirds said...

Nice observations on how fitting a foil Despero is for the Martian Manhunter. I never really thought about their origins that way. Now I believe that if Malefic was cast from Despero's mold instead of having an arbitrary presaged hatred as "motivation," he could've worked as a character. (Sorry Malefic fans.)