Monday, September 22, 2008

House of Mystery #172 (2/68)

"On a narrow highway leading to his posh Mediterranean villa, Marco Xavier, notorious playboy-- secretly the Manhunter from Mars, engages in a favorite pastime..."

That's right kids-- driving a gold convertible full of beards he will never, ever have sex with! "Oh, Marco- if you only spent more time with us! But no, you must always go running off on some secret, mysterious mission!" Marco's mouth said, "Cheer up, chicks... some day will be different!" Marco's heart sang, "But not until I get my hands on Faceless, wherever he may be!" Not the first Mary to utter that phrase on club night, I assure you. Alongside the road, Xavier spied an important figure looking under the hood of a sedan: "Great suns! That man next to the chauffeur... he's Mr. V's personal hatchet man, Ivor Sandez, the only one in the entire syndicate who knows Faceless' identity! Most likely, he's even on his way to Mr. V now!"

Xavier dumped the trio of skirts at his villa. "Er... sorry girls... but I've got a little pressing business to attend to! Make yourselves at home while I'm gone!"
"Oh-h... we knew it was too good to last!" Or rather, start. Livin' la vida loca, ladies...

In his private chambers, Zook sprung out to greet Manhunter. "Sorry, Zook, but I can't stay! I just spotted the one guy who can lead me straight to Faceless!" Oh Marco, I'm afraid there's no guy who can lead you straight, no matter what Exodus International says.

Marco Xavier transformed into the Manhunter from Mars and flew to the mountain road Sandez's car was climbing. Suspecting this might be the secret headquarters of Mr. V, Manhunter waited for Sandez to exit the car before jumping him, intent on entering a cave in Sandez's guise. Curiously, a blinding light flashed as Manhunter altered his appearance, and the Martian found he had instead switched bodies with the thug. Ivor Sandez shook off his own disorientation quickly, picking his former body up and tossing it into the rocks! "Ha! Ha! How does it feel, Manhunter, being a helpless Earthling-- at the mercy of a mighty Martian?" The Sandez-Manhunter realized he no longer needed VULTURE, just as his former cohorts sealed stone doors in his face. "But they can't shut me out now! No one can! Mr. V! Where are you? You can't hide from me! I'm about to make you my hatchet man! Yeah- from now on, I'm the big boss of VULTURE!"

J'onn J'onzz recovered swiftly in Sandez's body, and quietly followed the former henchman as he cut a swath through the inner-mountain headquarters of VULTURE. J'onzz realized he was in quite a spot, seeing as Sandez was fingered as having led the Manhunter there. "If Sandez doesn't kill me with my own body... Faceless will!" Mr. V seemed to escape to another of his main bases, so Sandez-Manhunter set aside his desire for retribution against his former heavy-handed boss and focus his power on conquering the whole world.

Meanwhile, Zook was worried. "Manhunter say he be back soon... but it already past soon! Maybe something happen to him! I better find out!" While Sandez-Manhunter began a reign of terror, the disembodied J'onn J'onzz ran from VULTURE agents looking to bump him off. "What a humble comedown for the Mighty Martian!"

Zook's directional antennae led him to the ravaged mountain headquarters. There he learned from investigating police that a falling star emitting "strange green flame" had struck in the area just before Sandez-Manhunter's rampage began. Zook continued to track Manhunter, who he found hiding in a trash can. In the first hint of telepathy in years, "Sandez" seemed to read and finish Zook's thoughts, despite being in human form. J'onzz explained the circumstances of his sorry state, while Zook mentioned his own findings. J'onzz determined it must be a Martian Meteorite responsible for his plight, which would continue to cause problems so long as it burned. Sandez-Manhunter overheard this while flying over the city, and decided to take care of his old body for good, before Manhunter switched back with him. Zook threw his own naked frame at Sandez-Manhunter's face, giving the disembodied J'onzz a chance to bolt. Sandez-Manhunter swatted Zook aside. "Out of my way, mosquito!"

"Even a Manhunter can trip, Sandez-- if he's not careful!" While the clumsy thug recovered, the Earthling J'onzz lit a match from a book in his pocket. The fleshy human landed an effective blow against Sandez-Manhunter, but found the rest of his matches were too worn out to use. Just as Sandez-Manhunter rose to attack, the hatchet man and Manhunter traded places again. It seemed Zook had rushed back to the mountain and used his powers on the meteorite. "Hee, Hee... Hiss-s-s-s... My ability to turn myself 10,000 degrees below zero is freezing fire out!"

Zook returned to Manhunter's thanks, as he drug Ivor Sandez into custody. "But now I'm afraid I've got a lot of explaining to do... to clear my reputation!"

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