Saturday, November 17, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Weapons Master

While bringing in New Gods lore is not something I look favorably upon when it comes to building J'Onn J'Onzz's own mythos, the master assassin Kanto has been an exclusive enough thorn in the Martian Manhunter's side to be reasonable. The Apokolips contingent has fared especially poorly on SurVILEvor Island, but Kanto took a narrow loss at 46% of 13 votes, a light response that suggests ambivalence in the readership. How that relates to Effigy's surprisingly positive showing to date is a mystery to me, but I think we'll offer a sacrificial turkey this week that we can all get behind with nice long knives.

Back in 1960, the second guy to fight the Justice League of America was named Xotar, the Weapons Master. Not unlike Karl Rove during the 2012 presidential election, Xotar put a lot of stock in a prediction of victory based on scurrilous evidence and willful ignorance, only to lose big and embarrassingly public. As part of the founding five members of the JLA, right there on the cover, the Alien Atlas was the only hero with the raw power to straight up punch the knee off the giant yellow robot Xotar thought would be his chariot to greatness. Aquaman, on his second ever cover and in the clutches of an oversized foe once again, wailed on it with a completely random sledgehammer. He's still a JLA founder in the New 52. Go figure. Anyway, Xotar turned up a few more times here and there, but never amounted to much.

In 1992, Dan Jurgens tried to shift the funny Justice League International back to classic super-heroics, and decided to recycle the Weapons Master name in a more Chromium Age vein. Instead of being a geek anticipating a Japanese fad, this guy would be a stubbly mercenary badass in form fitting gold body armor. His gimmick was that he had an extraordinarily large and diverse arsenal that he could bring to bear with a thought via teleportation. While otherwise being utterly generic in his time, that mobility of firepower made him a far more credible foe for the Justice League than many other Taskmaster wannabes (who is himself just evil Captain America.) Regardless, because Dan Jurgens' run is without regard, Weapons Master became that '90s guy who turned up in super-villain crowd scenes in the general vicinity of Deadline, Chiller, Merlyn, Bloodsport, and countless other ruthless guns for hire who combined a noun and a verb or adjective to form a commercial brand name marketable to early Image collectors.

What qualifies Weapons Master for consideration in the Vile Menagerie is that he was involved in the conspiracy that temporarily merged Bloodwynd and the Manhunter from Mars, who were then manipulated by the demonic Rott. What I feel disqualifies Weapons Master is that he was the first person to combat Bloodwynd in a comic book (whether or not that was really Bloodwynd, the Martian Manhunter's body shapeshifted to appear as Bloodwynd, or Rott pretending to be Bloodwynd is subject to debate and a separate issue from the specific comic as a singular unit released in a moment in time.) His only interaction with the Martian Manhunter was through his short-lived connection to Bloodwynd. Essentially, if you treat Bloodwynd as a property with any value, Weapons Master joins Rott and (if you really want to stretch) Dreamslayer as the sum total of Bloodwynd's primary rogues gallery. By employing the broadest net possible, Eclipso, Count Viper, Sonar, Doomsday, Starbreaker, and the Diablos could maybe get nods, but only in the same sense that "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," "Tainted Love," and "Personal Jesus" would technically be Marilyn Manson songs. He didn't build that!

Finally, Weapons Master brings nothing to the table as a foe of the Sleuth from Outer Space. What made him "kewl" was that he was an individual, modestly powered threat who matched the League with forethought and access to the right counter measure at the right time. When faced with Bloodwynd, an unknown quantity, he cut and ran and got caught anyway. See also: Prometheus' "ironic" defeats by the likes of Huntress and Catwoman (sorry ladies.) Here's every Weapons Master versus Martian Manhunter fight:
  1. Flamethrower 
  2. Martian Manhunter "perishes." 
  3. "Hemocaine" or "Plasmastorm" or "Irving the Wonder Weiner" ambushes Weapons Master with extraordinary yet vaguely familiar powers. 
  4. "It was J'Onn J'Onzz the whole time!"
Weapons Master doesn't have a particularly strong visual, nor any built-in subtext/themes that helps him contrast against the Martian Marvel better than any of dozens of similar villains, many already embedded in the Vile Menagerie. Weapons Master could be an awesome Hawkman foil, and there's a guy who both needs a rogues gallery expansion with a respectable CVA and is defined in part by an obsession with melee arms. If J'Onn wants to go anywhere near there, better to do so with a Tybalt Bak'sar or Glenn Gammeron who bring other character-specific elements to bear. When you're already a One Man Justice League, a One Man Anti-JLA Ex Machinator seems a tad too on the nose.

1 comment:

will_in_chicago said...

My vote its to throw the Weapon Master out to allow more worthy foes. Kanto at least was given a history with J'Onn, even though I would argue that Darkseid is really not needed to bring about the tragedies that J'Onn and his people suffered. We still don't know what happened to them in the new continuity. Let's say that from seeing the evil and madness in my own species, I suspect Martians had the ability to bring about their doom without any help from the Lord of Apokolips. (Although there is the line that J'Onn said to Guy Gardner about the Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lanterns not helping Mars.)

Perhaps Weapons Master can be assigned to Vibe or Katana. Then he can try to take on J'Onn who can throw him through a wall while shaking his head.