Sunday, June 26, 2011

Martian Manhunter in DCU: Brave New World #1 (August, 2006)

"Two weeks ago. The Sonoran Desert, Arizona." Ferguson worked for S.T.A.R. Labs and was project director of the Near-Earth Celestial Observation Team. After discovering what he believed to be an alien artifact, he had contacted William Dyer, who was supposed to be an expert attached to the Department of Extranormal Operations. However, Ferguson didn't care for Dyer's mysterious posturing, and was going to bail on their warehouse rendezvous. Dyer didn't want that, so he began changing shape. "There are six people on this planet who know that William Dyer is a fiction, Mr. Ferguson. You're the seventh. Hopefully this answers any of your trust issues."

Ferguson handed the Martian Manhunter (whose cape was curiously made to look more like a coat) a medallion composed of material not found on any earthly periodic table. J'Onn J'Onzz recognized it as a Kuru Pendant from Mars, and was reminded of the day H'ronmeer's Plague took his people. "On that day-- my weakness to flames was born. And yet when I finally arrived home, I had no choice but to light two more. One for my wife. And one for my daughter." Each wore a pendant. Ferguson asked if J'Onzz had seen one before. "There is only one left in existence, and I guard it with my life. This isn't it."

In present day New York City, a man in a hoodie raced across rooftops with a briefcase. While murmuring a children's medley, he crouched to open the case, and assemble the sniper rifle within. After firing a shot at an unseen target, the man fled the scene. A shadowy flying figure in a cape caught up with him, and with a punch sent the man over a ledge. The man was in free fall toward the ground. A shadow loomed over him, and images of the Justice League of America stood waited for his landing. The man was caught before impact, but his savior was lost in revere before the cardboard standees staring at him through a shop window.

"It's hard to say exactly how I got to this point. It started so long ago. Over a year... All I know for certain is that in an instant, my entire life up to now-- became a lie." Every day since J'Onn J'Onzz's meeting with Ferguson "has led me deeper into an unimaginable darkness. A darkness filled with questions, isolation, and people I no longer felt a kinship with. Only the mystery of the second Kuru pendant has me focused."

Like a complete whack job, the new Manhunter from Mars began shouting at the cardboard representation of the old. His body was covered cheeks to toes in a skintight blue uniform with a red "x" on the chest. This Coneheadhunter had an elongated parietal region of the skull, more in line with his natural Martian form, and ridges on his chin like a Marvel Comics Skrull, for no good reason.

The Coneheadhunter told his past self about how he was now willing to "rip what I need" from the mind of the assailant he had captured without regard for the human. "I stand here as proof that their way, your way, doesn't work!" That's an ironic assertion, since the mini-series will repeatedly demonstrate that if anything, this new Manhunter was even more pitifully ineffectual. Coneheadhunter whined about how his decades of good deeds never relieved mankind's fear and distrust of him, and how his life on Earth had been a lie. "You're but an imposter who allows their fear to dictate your actions! The passing of decades means nothing to you, while they are a finite race-- and yet still you seek an approval you'll never get! No more!"

In other words, J'Onn J'Onzz had regressed back to a rebellious teenager dressing ridiculously and acting out while kvetching in his diary and listening to the Saturnian equivalent of Linkin Park through his kewl pointy ears. Pon farr must be right around the corner...

This untitled prelude to the 2006 Martian Manhunter mini-series was by the creative team of A.J. Lieberman and Al Barrionuevo with Bit. Two-thirds of this group had been working on Batman: Gotham Knights, notable for spending entirely too much time on the character of Hush, leading to that series' cancellation. Lieberman had already killed the Harley Quinn solo series.

I'm taking some pretty serious liberties in my presentation of this storyline, because the writer was clearly trying to dazzle by jumping around the timeline of events, while lacking the narrative clarity to actual convey necessary information to the audience. I remember the first time I read this, I didn't know what the hell was happening, and you really can't figure it out completely without multiple readings in conjunction with the first issue of the mini-series. I think the project was the creative team's "last chance" at DC. Lieberman hasn't worked since, and Al Barrionuevo's final gig was The War That Time Forgot in 2009.

A note about the flashback to Mars: As presented, the origin most closely reflects the one presented in the 1988 DeMatteis/Badger mini-series. The plague leaves behind bodies to be burned, rather than causing the spontaneous combustion seen in the 1998 Ostrander/Mandrake version. J'Onn's daughter is not seen being consigned to a pyre, which jibes with J'Onzz carrying her body to Earth in the '88 version.

Brave New World


mathematicscore said...

"Pon far must be right around the corner..."


LissBirds said...

What m.c. said. LOL.