Sunday, June 22, 2008

Martian Manhunter: American Secrets. Book three. (11/92)

Dr. McNider proceeded to tell Detective Jones that there were no Lizard-Men, and that his group were victims "of the strangest mass hallucinations of our very strange times." McNider and Director Hoover agreed, "that we 'heroes' had somehow sprung from and embodied a spirit of national terror... and summoned up a dark side, in the bodies of our foes, that enabled us to exorcise a nation's terror through bizarre and repetitive combat... And the Director's wisdom was borne out by what happened when we chose to continue after the war. Hysteria. Suddenly Americans were seeing flying saucers. Fearing the breakdown of this magnificent society. Imagining a 'mafia.' Director Hoover is very explicit about that: There is no 'mafia.' Just as there are no 'communist conspiracies' in our government. That's the fear that our enemies want us to suffer." Detective Jones was incredulous. "I just met an agent of the F.B.I. He turned into a lizard... What enemies?" McNider responded, "The Communists."

"But you just said..." noted an increasingly irritated Jones. "That's the point! 'Red Scare' hysteria is a Communist ploy! And demagogues like Senator McCarthy were communist dupes!" Jones sat silently for a moment, staring daggers at the former Dr. Mid-Nite before scowling and leaping from his chair. "This is insane! You come here promising explanations and you talk in circles! Our fears are false, created by the people we fear so we won't fear what we should fear-- which is them? This is hog-wash! You just don't want us to trust what we see!"

"No detective! I just want you to serve the right side. Your government needs you. It needs all the Martians it can get." McNider's enhanced vision could see through J'Onzz's human form, as he claimed the JSA's "retirement" in protest of congressional red-baiting was a cover for their enlistment in the F.B.I., a role they wanted Jones to share. "That was a calculated little blow against the Red Scare. In truth, we've all been serving our country in quiet, invisible ways. The way every good American should. Beating our super-powers into tract homes, as it were. Why, heck, if the government couldn't find a use for powers like ours, they'd probably have to kill us! Ha ha... The F.B.I. is on its way, Jones. If you don't help them, they'll do what they have to do. Do you understand? Well then... ZOPRBETIE!" Jones seized McNider at that, demanding the meaning of his parting word. A little joke phrase old pal Melvin Keene used to toss around, someone that now had to be protected from trouble at times because of "that silly magazine of his."

McNider left, and Detective Jones considered his words. "Lies. But lies so big and ugly that he had to know I'd spot them. 'No mafia.' The kind of lies only a government could try to pull off... I thought I could trick them, negotiate something with them. But their negotiations could make prisoners of us-- slaves of us!" Perkins Preston believed McNider, to which Jones angrily protested, "You believed your A&R man. You believed in Leavitzville. Both nearly got you killed!"

The F.B.I., Whitey Bright in tow, came calling. Perkins Preston let them in over Jones' continued objection. "They won't hurt us, Patty Marie! They're the government." Patty Marie hugged Jones around the waist. Inspector Anole quickly led Preston into the outside hall, promising, "we'll discuss what you can do for your F.B.I." With the entertainer out of sight, the feds circled the resistant pair remaining. The returning Inspector Anole drew his flame pistol, but Jones snatched up Patty Marie and headed for the window. Whitey "Skeeter" Bright lunged for the girl's feet. "I've got plans for this little girl!" They likely did not include his losing his grip and being tossed through the window to his death. The fugitives followed after to make their escape. Inspector Anole declared, "No more subtle gestures."

Edwards Air Force Base scrambled an assault against the flying Martian. J'Onzz took evasive maneuvers, riding alongside a fighter as a means of cover. Another pilot was ordered to fire on his fellow, in order to "hit the target at any cost." The explosion that followed set Patty Marie afire while separating her from "J'Onn J'Onzz. "Help me! Catch me!" she cried. "Fire. Even this far from her, it burns me. Closer it could kill me." Closer he came, cradling the child in his arms as his powers failed him. The pair landed on the desert floor with a heavy thud, lying all too still until the sun rose. J'Onn J'Onzz reverted to his human guise. Patty Marie could no longer do anything at all.

"I have been here before. Somewhere before I've seen children killed and been left alone on a dead world. Seen children devoured on a funeral pyre and learned to fear the flames. Again I'm a speck in the desert. Blood on the snow. With the fiery eye of the world looking down on me. Is there anywhere to run? With all their eyes trained on me? Their eyes see everything. And ours? They see lizards. Is this your 'prize-to-be,' Patty? You might have been better off with the lizards. I'm sorry, Hon. Maybe this is just what comes for the ones like us. The ones who can see... Do we see what the rest don't? Or are the others just happier with their mouths shut?"

Checking the corpse of a downed pilot, John Jones found documents regarding himself and several JSAers. Further, he discovered an extra-terrestrial fungus wrapped along the pilot's nervous system. "Why? So he won't see? Or so he'll catch fire if he tries to talk?" Using the pilot's knife, Jones performed an autopsy on Patty Marie, and found her body to be fungus free. Going over the new and old information, J'Onzz realized where all the clues were pointing. Prize To Be. Beto EZ Rip. Zoprbetie. All letters found in "PTO. Iberez" in Cuba.

Back to Part Four

Forward to Part Six


LissBirds said...

I remember how stunned I was reading this that the writers let Patty Marie die. Heroes usually save little girls, right? Not in this story. And I think that's why I like it so much. You don't always win. There was a real emotional weight to this scene that I haven't felt in too many other comics. Today it seems like comics have traded angst for gravitas. More stories like American Secrets, DC, please.

Diabolu Frank said...

I was also caught off guard by Patty Marie's death. It was gut wrenching, and one of the reasons it took me a few weeks to process my feelings about the book.