Sunday, July 22, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Libra

Despero laughed as the Last Angry God sailed by with 83% of 12 votes, the dissenters being late and ultimately inconsequential arrivals. Perhaps Korge could direct his righteous fury at the next pseudo-divine target for island exodus?

Libra debuted in a two issue stint of Justice League of America five years after the Martian Manhunter officially left the team (and Earth itself.) He formed and duped the first Injustice Gang of the World as part of a plot to rob the JLA of half their powers. Libra took on those powers, and then turned the invention that granted them onto the universe itself. Libra couldn't handle that much energy and was disintegrated for 34 years in real time. Then he was dug up for the Final Crisis crossover as a sort of apostle to Darkseid heralding a seemingly waxing religion of evil forcibly inducting the villains of the DC Universe. That didn't pan out, and Libra appeared to be assassinated by Lex Luthor.

Let's break this down. The Injustice Gang was made up of a minor Green Lantern villain, a Flash rogue, major Atom and Hawkman foils, plus two solid mid-tier Batman foes. They fought the Magnificent Seven JLA minus Manhunter and Wonder Woman, replaced by Elongated Man. Superman alone could have taken most of those guys, but admittedly, the Gang was never intended to defeat the League. They were only supposed to get close enough to steal half their powers, making Libra a glorified Amazo who defeated himself by being too ambitious. Nobody cared about this guy for two generations of readership, he came back for one big event that garnered the vast majority of his published adventures, and he has lain fallow in the years since.

Final Crisis wasn't a well liked or understood event, more Millennium than Legends. In order to meet the minimum amount of death required to hype an event, Martian Manhunter was selected to be the sacrificial lamb, and it was Libra that delivered the deathblow with little fanfare in the first issue. Because of this, people who don't know anything about the Martian Manhunter have tried to treat Libra as an archrival. In a recent charity art exhibit, a painting featuring DC heroes was mirrored against one of villains that set Manhunter and Libra in parallel positions. That to me makes Libra the modern Dr. Light, a Justice League villain who gets associated with J'Onn J'Onzz solely because folks are ignorant about the Alien Atlas outside of the team book.

The Anti-Monitor famously killed Supergirl during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Ditto the Barry Allen Flash. A falling wall crushed the Huntress during the same event. Eclipso killed a bunch of throwaway characters in one of his comics. Neron killed Wonder Woman for about two issues, although it did lead to Hippolyta's lengthy replacement of her daughter. A Sun Eater set up events that led to Hal Jordan's death in Final Night. Issitoq the Narwhal is the guy who killed Aquaman during the final year of Sword of Atlantis. Does Eclipso really work as a Citizen Steel rogue? Should Huntress get a rematch with a collection of loose bricks? Heroes die in events, then they get better. It doesn't have to be personal.

Of all the villains in the universe, Libra happened to select long forgotten Martian Manhunter foe the Human Flame to grant his fondest wish. Was he going to ask for a moon pie, or one night of boy love with Aztek the Ultimate Man? No, he was going to want more power and J'onn J'onzz dead. The Manhunter just happened to have already been defeated and trapped in a cage of fire by a host of super-villains on an alien world. Libra merely teleported J'Onzz back to Earth, where he was set upon by a slew of other villains, many using equipment specifically designed to take the Manhunter down. Then, after all the work had been done, Libra stabbed him with a flaming spear. Clearly, Libra was trying to show off by selecting an already highly vulnerable but well known super-hero, and he spread the blame as far and wide as possible to diminish his role when justice came calling. He's just a cowardly, lazy opportunist who used J'Onzz for a few seconds to earn a rep.

Libra was the final nail in the coffin of an unpopular 2006 revamp of the Martian Manhunter who was course corrected and revived less than two years later. The murder was meaningless, perfunctory and impersonal. Libra is an uninteresting and unimpressive poseur. Why would he be desirable within the Vile Menagerie, and how many panels has he even shared with J'Onn J'Onzz? It's nonsense.


mathematicscore said...

His role in FC: Requiem initially made me think it worked, but you've made an excellent case; Libra is a JLA villain, not a J'onn J'onzz rogue. It would take a seriously involved solo story to change that.

will_in_chicago said...

I think that Libra is indeed a JLA villain who was just used as part of a lousy series in a move that made little sense. Heck, I think that if the villains started violating the rules of engagement, a lot of heroes would say fine, it's war.

Libra would need a new appearance or two to establish him as a villain for J'Onn and not a minor foe of the JLA. However, I would not mind seeing J'Onn beating the pulp out of him (or someone drawing him doing that to some of DC's "creative" staff.)

LissBirds said...

DC couldn't have even thrown us a bone and let Malefic kill J'onn to give some sort of personal dynamic to it.

Diabolu Frank said...

I gave Morrison a pass when I first read Final Crisis #1, because I had hopes that J'Onn's dirty little murder would pay off in the long run. Instead, that book imploded and ultimately left the DC Universe a lesser place, to such a degree that other writers justifiably ignored and overrode it. Libra represents J'Onn getting thrown under the bus, and I resent the hell out of him for it.