The story so far: Despite some protestations otherwise, the DC Universe has suffered its first true line wide simultaneous installation of a new operating system. Crisis on Infinite Earths was essentially reinstalling the same OS with a series of staggered updates of varying degrees of quality. Both Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis were comparatively minor OS upgrades, simply making the accumulated updates standard and rejiggering the interface to present the illusion of change. Flashpoint is a massive, all-encompassing revision, that for the most part appears to be instilling fear and revulsion in the base.
The Martian Manhunter was left off the new JLA “Magnificent Seven” team. Whether this removes him from founder status is unknown, but that was tried with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman without it ever really taking. The Martian Manhunter remains in those first several years worth of JLofA stories, not to mention likely serving in more issues over more years than virtually any other character. There was also that tale from 1977 that revealed he was indirectly responsible for the formation of the team in the first place. His legacy is secure, and it’s kind of fitting that he should be a stealth, “secret history” figure. Besides, while I’ve had no problem with Geoff Johns’ handling of J’Onn in the past, if he really wanted the character in the JLA, he could easily have been included. I do have a problem with Jim Lee’s prunefaced take on J’Onzz, not to mention his horrible design aesthetic, so I won’t shed any tears over not being subjected to it.
J’Onn J’Onzz was also left off the new Justice League International. While it would have been nice to read a series that reunited him with Detroit-era partner Vixen (they were the last two members standing before JLI launched,) I don’t actually like the characters most associated with that team (Booster, Beetle, Fire & Ice.) I don't appreciate how Dan Jurgens has written those characters in the past either, including the Martian Manhunter, so I’d just assume not get involved with that book.
There has yet to be a Martian Manhunter solo series announced, and all indications are that there will not be. By my count, we're at 52 #1s for September, so looks like all of the non-Superman books are now on the board. I was afraid the Alien Atlas might end up on an Outsiders team (as he flirted with a few years ago,) and some suggested Batman Incorporated, which I feel would have subjected him to the status of a Dark Knight extended family subordinate. Worse, I might have had to read a series with Geo-Force in it. There needs to be an addition to the Geneva Convention to cover that form of cruel and unusual storytelling.
Finally, it has been revealed that the Alien Atlas will be featured prominently in Stormwatch by Paul Cornell and Miguel Angel Sepulveda. The good news is that I don’t hate either of these guys. My only direct experience with Cornell was Knight & Squire #1, but his reputation is that despite being British, he doesn’t write straight super-heroes contemptuously. I understand he’s also a devout Christian, so hopefully he will retain the Martian Manhunter’s ethical core and contrast it against the more morally ambiguous Wildstorm characters. Meanwhile, Miguel Sepulveda hasn’t worked much, but his mood and style seem light years distant from Jim Lee. The little art I have seen looks like Mike McKone by way of Jae Lee, a very palatable combination.
I actually have a long history with Wildstorm. I bought all of the early Image books, thinking that they were going to be the start of an exciting new super-hero universe, rather than derivative mercenary crap. I returned to Wildstorm when Alan Moore started writing WildC.A.T.s, and enjoyed it so much I went after the back issues I’d missed (including a very good truncated James Robinson run,) and stuck with the universe for the next several years. I actually cheered their acquisition by DC at first, until the combination of the rampant cynicism of Warren Ellis/Garth Ennis/Mark Millar contaminated the line, and DC ran off all the talent through pillaging and micromanagement. In retrospect, Wildstorm was already an edgy, contemporary take on the DCU, so being integrated into DC was kind of redundant.
From its very beginning, Wildstorm tended toward governmental conspiracies and militarism, but following the success of The Authority the entire line shifted toward polarized politics and fascism from both ends of the spectrum. My distaste for that material came from its lack of perspective and variety. All of the “good guys” had the same superior, sarcastic, liberal by way of the boot heel attitude. I suppose that was a popular stance in the post-Thatcher U.K., but from this side of the pond, they sounded entirely too much like our intolerant extreme right wing. A jerk is a jerk, no matter what their agenda. That why there’s a line in the solicitation text I found disturbing…
“Stormwatch is a dangerous super human strike force whose existence is kept secret from the world. Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the crew look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet: Midnighter and Apollo. And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian Manhunter can change their minds.”
There’s an obvious insinuation that J’Onn J’Onzz is going to literally, telepathically, change their minds. My hope is that it is so obvious, that it’s misdirection. If it isn’t, everybody looks bad, because if Midnighter and Apollo get psychically duped, they’re weak and the Manhunter is a creep. Better to threaten with the possibility without seeing it through, so that everyone remains sturdy going into the series. Most importantly to me, that means Midnighter and Apollo can appease their fans by being the badasses they’ve been established as, while the Martian Manhunter can remain recognizable and offer the counterbalance much needed and missed in the pure Wildstorm days.
Personally, I find this direction very intriguing. Moving DC characters around to different teams (Harley Quinn on the Suicide Squad,) or merely variations of the same team (Vixen goes from the JLA to JLI) just is not that big of a deal. Even Cyborg on the JLA has been predicted since he was on the Galactic Guardians cartoon a quarter century ago, and every founding Teen Titan has already served at some point. The Martian Manhunter is the first DC character to serve on a Wildstorm team, and in some ways it's a more perfect fit for him than any other group yet. J'Onn J'Onzz was an alien being trapped on our world decades back who decided to aid his adopted world in secret, just like a good many Kherubim. The Manhunter served on an international super-team sanctioned by the United Nations who operated out of a satellite, just like the original version of Stormwatch. Unlike the JLI, Stormwatch is a competent group of clandestine operatives that well compliment J'Onn J'Onzz. If handled appropriately, the Manhunter from Mars brings heart and soul to a cold and calculating lot, each side playing off the other. The premise is ripe with opportunity. Most every other option for the Alien Atlas ending up on a team was either regressive or diminishing, but Stormwatch allows him trailblazing forward motion. I approve, and will remain optimistic until somebody screws up or my hopes prove founded. Even the redesigns (by Cully Hamner, from what I understand) are rare in that they seem to improve on previous models (Apollo always had a bland suit, and I can handle trading a folded collar for the pie symbol.) As opposed to most of the wretched dreck seen so far, I'll be happy to give this book a try.