Monday, October 6, 2008

Justice League of America #61 (3/68)


The Martian Manhunter’s last Silver Age adventure as a member of the League began with J’onn actually attending the regularly scheduled meeting of the team again. Green Arrow arrived late, only to announce his resignation. “I’m giving up my secret identity as Green Arrow! And I strongly advise the rest of you to go back to your own civilian identities-- abandon your role as super-heroes!” Manhunter seemed more mildly amused than shocked at this declaration, though his fellows were clearly concerned. As a group, the League decided to observe Green Arrow’s wish that they not investigate his motivations or an additional warning of disaster he hinted at. As individuals, however, they all donned Green Arrow disguises and began patrolling their respective cities in his name. “From green-skinned Martian to green archer...” A Green Arrow patrolled Gotham, falling victim to the Penguin, of all Batman’s foes. Lex Luthor, Tattooed Man, Cutlass Charlie, Captain Boomerang, and Mr. I.Q. are similarly more effective against their usual foes, seemingly handicapped by the Arrow guise.

Following Jack Miller's pattern, Martian Arrow found himself “in a city somewhere on the Atlantic Coast,” where he spied Dr. Light robbing an armored car. Not Professor Hugo or the faceless Mr. V mind, but a random League foe, clearly not following the Miller pattern. Manhunter was also back to having his alien powers while in human form, as evidenced by his adoptive weapon of choice shattering in his hands. “I forgot my Martian strength is too great to handle a wooden bow unless I ease up on it.” When “Green Arrow” then leaped several stories to confront the villain on a rooftop, it didn’t take all of Dr. Light’s genius to deduce this was an impostor. A distortion beam affected the “Emerald Archer’s” eyesight, causing him to punch wildly. Manhunter adapted by spraying bricks he’d dislodged throughout the area, following the sound of Light’s cry of pain to add right-hook to injury. The Alien Archer pulled his punch so that he could interrogate Light, who recovered in time to ensnare Manhunter in spiral-light-coils from a ray gun, before exposing him to... sigh.... fire. Dr. Light then switched bodies with the Martian, leaving his own seeming form to be carted off to jail.

Like the rest, the shrinking Atomic Archer was overwhelmed by plant master Jason Woodrue, but in his case, the future Floronic Man was felled by the real Oliver Queen, quiver in hand. Queen switched off a device Woodrue had been carrying, causing the illusion of villains in a local jail to dispel, revealing a gaggle of wrongly imprisoned archers. The liberated Leaguers, joined by a Wonder Woman who’d passed on cross-dressing, answered Oliver Queen’s signal device for an Ellery Queen revelatory summation.

Doctor Destiny, still performing acts of grand villainy in a sports jacket, had been using his fantastic Materioptikon to perform the switches. He specifically targeted Green Arrow as his first victim, considering him the author of his initial defeat against the League. However, the improved Materioptikon still had a bug, allowing Green Arrow to revert to normal prematurely in his jail cell. Arrow rushed to the League meeting to unmask Destiny, but the doctor could have assumed the form of any of the other Leaguers in his absence. Therefore, Arrow “resigned” and began following the Leaguers in secret. Man, what happened to this sneaky, scheming Oliver Queen of the Silver Age? I guess turnabout is fair play, as the Batman Queen stole much of his m.o. from ended up assuming this role within the League as the years passed.

Anyway, Destiny and the latest version of his unnamed villainous collective burst on the scene. Say-- what exactly happened to this version of Dr. Destiny? Oh, right, the British. I’m sure Floronic Man can relate. Getting back on track, Leaguers paired off with their—is there a term for someone permanently designated as a non-arch-foe? ...and Dr. Light, who shot fire-bubbles at the Martian Manhunter. Effective Fox teamwork meant our heroes changed partners and danced in a two page spread with Superman capturing Cutlass Charlie, Aquaman bopping Boomerang, and so on. Snapper Carr even got to slug the Tattooed Man. J’onn J’onzz? Um, he stopped a boomerang with his chest. The kind thrown by the Captain that Aquaman already handled. It was also the one boomerang. Green Arrow snagged another while wrapping up Woodrue and a third was still aloft.

The plus: Martian Manhunter was the second hero to falter after Batman, meaning his story was allotted three pages, where Superman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern shared a single panel of defeat (Flash and Hawkman got one a piece.)

The minus: No one, not even me with my liberal entry policy for the Vile Menagerie, considers Dr. Light a member of the Manhunter rogues gallery. Maybe I’ll loosen up when I re-read their retroactive rematch from the Silver Age fifth week event, or maybe Light's involvement in "Final Crisis will finally do the trick? Further, Manhunter never gets to beat anybody here, as the Atom actually put the kibosh on both Light and Destiny. That how you get a handle like Tiny Titan, am I right? Three issues later, the Fox/Sekowsky creative team were finished, leaving Manhunter as a punk on their last use of him, and turning the screw with the two-part introduction of his eventual usurper, Red Tornado. Thanks guys. At least for my money, the creators went on to better work in “Red Wolf” and “Diana Prince: Wonder Woman” respectively. Admittedly, my opinion may just be in the minority there.

By Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Sid Greene

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