Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Manhunter from Mars #200 (March 1981)

Sitting inside one of Mongul's Cube-Traps, J'Onn J'Onzz considered how he had come to this point. Entrusted by the last of the Largas with the Crystal Key which allowed access to the Warworld created by the extinct Warzoon, the Martian Marvel secured his charge in a crypt one planet removed from Mars II. The massive starcraft of Mongul set off his alarm system, leading the Sleuth from Outer Space to set up a sting alongside Adam Strange and Hawkgirl. J'Onn briefly piloted Warworld to fend off Mongul and a Thanagarian attack force led by Yuddha Bechane. Having hidden Warworld as best as possible, J'Onzz returned to the crypt, where he began setting up precautions against further theft attempts.

J'Onn J'Onzz was interrupted by a request for immediate audience with Z'vi Z'har, the Martian spiritual leader who succeeded J'Onzz as bearer of the Scepter of State. Z'har was proclaimed by many to be the Martian Messiah, fated to lead his people in final victory against all adversity within his lifetime. Z'vi Z'har saw Warworld as the destined means for him to fulfill this role, and was aghast when J'Onzz refused to turn the Crystal Key over to his "divine" hand. The Manhunter from Mars yet had influence enough to walk out of the audience without immediate repercussions, but knew forces from his own planet would soon align to oppose him.

Having already had several of his allies used against him, the Manhunter determined to put together his best defense of the crypt against powers rivaling the Justice League of America. Far from paranoid, the Alien Atlas was soon firing Kryptonite missiles at Superman, after the Man of Steel was driven to attack by extortion. Thanks to the reckless, arrogant Kryptonian, Mongul succeeded in acquiring the Crystal Key and escaping.

As the Manhunter prepared to pursue Mongul, he was remotely contacted by his lady-love J'en, who moaned that Z'vi Z'har was gathering everyone close to J'Onn by force for interrogation. Just then, J'en's door was beaten down, and her communication relay smashed. Though shaken by psychic feedback from piloting Warworld and his beating at the hands of Superman, J'Onn J'Onzz raced to rescue J'en. The Manhunter had no sooner crossed her threshold than he was ambushed by Mongul. While this fallow fiend already held the Crystal Key, the despot still needed J'Onzz to locate Warworld. Shrunk and trapped in an energy cube, J'Onzz cursed his hypocrisy at lecturing Superman while sacrificing the universe's well-being for his own selfish interests. The Martian's diminutive size compromised all of his powers, and with Mongul's limited psychic abilities, it was a simple matter to rip the information from J'Onn's mind. Mongul would be taking his cubed Martian along as insurance, with J'Onzz's last sight of Mars II a battered J'en lying lifeless on her floor.

Having previously perfected his use of the Rannian Zeta-Beamer, Mongul and his captive teleported to the menace's ship, where the flaxen foe assured his cube's energy inversion technology would prevent any unwanted shedding of zee-rads in J'Onn. The Manhunter was then left alone to sit in his prison indefinitely. J'Onzz's mind wandered, as he recalled an overview of his publishing career; from his earliest appearances in Detective Comics, through to Justice League of America and House of Mystery, settling on his long-running solo title.

The Martian slept, and in his dreams saw visions of Mongul's time as ruler of his homeworld, until the theological coup of the ancient mystic Arkymandryte overthrew him in haste. Mongul fled with his imperial space vessel and a small crew, until he realized a staff of his traitorous people could not be trusted, and slew them all. His ship's computers filled to the brim with confidential intelligence, Mongul chose to begin following leads toward the power he would need to inevitably confront the Arkymandryte. Mongul looked first to the inversion cube technology of his own people, which could contain nearly anything, but was too unstable to wield over an area much larger than a square foot. Mongul pillaged a Coluan science vessel, and purloined a small shrink ray that acted with a fraction of the effectiveness Brainiac employed against cities like Kandor, but enough to create his cube-trap. Mongul progressed to the Rannian Zeta-Beamer, with the added wrinkle of a method to expel its radiation from his body at will. As J'Onzz "saw" Mongul's defeat and Warworld's destruction, as well as the zee-radiation's wearing off and returning the unconscious Mongul to his vessel, J'Onzz realized he was peering into the currently unprotected mind of his captor.

J'Onzz awoke, his line of thought recalling the Largas, and why they had taken an interest in his people as protectors of the crystal key in the first place. Again, the Sleuth from Outer Space's mind flashed back to his first cases as a detective on Earth-- a time when he had powers unseen in years, like the telepathy he had just subconsciously employed! With the long forgotten power of Martian Mind-Over-Matter, even at his puny size with faded powers, Manhunter could concentrate enough to telekinetically deactivate his cube-trap. Freed from imprisonment, the Alien Atlas wondered how his entire race could "forget" the full extent of their abilities. However, he set aside that mystery for now, as he was aboard Mongul's craft, and had hunting to do...

Len Wein continued to steward a new direction for Manhunter from Mars, this time with the aid of co-writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway (who would later collaborate on the screenplay to Fire and Ice.) The art would be contributed as a jam session by the likes of cover artist Jim Starlin, current interim penciler Steve Ditko, and greats like Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Don Heck, George Tuska, Jack Kirby, Michael Nasser, Trevor von Eeden and a previously unpublished pin-up by co-creator Joe Certa. All this, and still room for the return of the great Ragman back-ups by Michael Fleisher and Dan Spiegel!


Luke said...

As far as anniversary issues go, this one was pretty good, if a product of the times. But as you say, at least Wein was pushing things in a new direction, and the re-introduction of some of the past adventures and powers is as good a springboard for driving Martian Manhunter in a new direction as any. Did Z'vi Z'har ever go anywhere? I don't recall him ever popping up much...

Mongul is a good MM foe, but he's no Despero. But, I guess, that's the point, isn't it?

Also: Ragman backups! That's great!

Diabolu Frank said...

Z'vi Z'har came back in #151, but pretty much vanished after that. I figure Malefic picked up the cultist threads left over, but that was years later.

I like me some Mongul, but you're absolutely right about Despero. I never get tired of the pink, but yellow's been getting me down after a whole month.

I liked Ragman in his original incarnation, whom I met through old back issues like these. I tried to Giffen reboot in the '90s, but the supernatural elements never worked for me.