Friday, June 13, 2008
Justice League Unlimited #24 (10/06)
"It is said a Martian's greatest fear is fire. This is not so. Fire is a Martian's greatest weakness. Fear is another matter entirely."
Starro the Conqueror had surrounded the League Satellite and flooded it with drones. In short order, every hero aboard had a miniature Starro attached to their face and had lost their will... except J'onn J'onzz, aided by his shape-shifting abilities. "But that left me all alone... against all my hypnotized teammates. The notion of fighting them tears at my very soul. I do not wish to hurt the... but Starro wishes them to hurt me." Vigilante, Batman, and Wildcat were easily evaded. Ice tore at his flesh with a razor-sharp hail, the sensation reminding J'onn of a season of severe Martian Bloodwinds many years back. "Each grain of red sand a needle whipped through the skin. The High Council ordered all citizens to evacuate to cave shelters. The winds frightened my family, but not me. I was strong for my family... Automated transport was impossible in the storms. We set out for the caves on foot... The bloodwinds cared nothing for our unity or my strength." Wearing protective suits, the J'onzz family (inexplicably up a kid) were still blinded by the storm, and had tried to reach shelter by memory. En route, J'Onn was swept away. "As I tumbled through the angry Martian air, my thoughts were not for myself, but for my wife and children. They were alone now. They were in danger. They needed my strength."
So too did the League, so J'Onzz shook off Ice's frigid embrace, and questioned how exactly he would aid the Justice League. Where Ice stands, Fire is sure to be near, her flame triggering the panic instinct. "Panic can kill the afflicted. I saw it lead many Martians to their deaths when the disaster that rendered Mars barren first struck. I am more fortunate." J'Onzz fell into the gymnasium pool, then used his Martian lungpower to draw all the oxygen out of the room, extinguishing Fire. J'onzz then fled through an airlock, to give himself a moment to think. "I am alone. I should feel safe. But being alone... that, not fire, is a Martian's greatest fear." His thoughts drifted back to Mars, and the bloodwinds. "I was alone, except for the howling sand. I could not even hear my own voice screaming the names of my wife and children... the cruelest fate a Martian can endure. But I wasn't a Martian to those uncaring gales. To the bloodwinds, I was a toy... and a target. Without family. Without hope. Alone." Lightning struck J'onn, and he tumbled ton the ground, tears in his eyes.
"After the death of Mars, the death of my family, and the years of terrible loneliness that followed... the Justice League became my people. I cannot lose another family. I cannot endure that pain again. It would be more than I could bear." The Flash found J'onn, and his fists started flying. J'onzz managed to control his perceptions to target the fastest man alive, and lay him out. J'onzz then began frying loose Starros with Martian Vision as he found them, but then ran smack into the Man of Steel.
"Lying in the desert that day, I realized how much I had taken for granted in my life. And how much could be taken away in an instant... I had used all my physical abilities against the problem... but I had other skills that I had not used. I forced myself to relax, letting the chaotic winds swirl about me... and reached out with my heart, my feelings, and my mind. Calmly, I called to my family, in a voice that was not a voice... and they heard me." Telepathy guided him to his kin, who had found shelter. "Their strength added to mine. I felt confident... Relief washed over me as I saw their faces... I swore I would not leave them again, nor let them leave me. That was not to be, of course, but for the time being... I had my family, and I was whole."
J'onzz traded blows like thunder with Superman... "even a hypnotized Superman... is more than my equal in physical combat." Recognizing the futility in fighting, "therefore I must change the rules. Drastically." J'onzz picked up a Starro, and planted it on his face. The Conquerer entered his mind, and mistook J'onn's stillness for surrender. Forcing his thoughts through Starro's telepathic interference, J'onn reached for the psyches of his friends in the League. "I find my family. They give me the strength I need to triumph." The Starros fell from their hosts, and the Conquerer floated into space. The heroes cleaned up the mess, and then Batman approached. "J'onn? What you did to save us... all on your own... I can only imagine what you went through..." The pair shared an understanding, and J'onzz thought, "In the darkness of space, Mars stands alone, shining but lifeless. For many years, I felt much the same way. But now... now... I never feel alone."
In "Alone Among The Stars," Adam Beechen managed to legitimize the awful "Bloodwynd" concept, in a story drawn well by Carlo Barberi and Zach Howard.