Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Justice League Annual #1 (1987)

A sulking Green Lantern Guy Gardner on monitor duty alerted Batman to a major incoming emergency alert. The Dark Knight then requested, "Manhunter... come have a look at this. What do you think, J'Onn? Is this League business?" The matter concerned "zombie-like" behavior over large population segments in Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney and Tokyo. "The computer was programmed to bring possible crisis situations to our attention. At the very least, we should investigate..." Batman continued to argue the matter with Blue Beetle and Mr. Miracle as J'onn frowned. Finally, Black Canary asked why he was wasting time discussing the matter. "I wanted you all to feel included in the decision-making process." Canary misinterpreted that to mean she could offer a battle plan, but she was dismissed as the Caped Crusader resumed complete control.The League then split into teams of two.

Beetle and Miracle were sent to California, although the former had intended to hit Kord Industries in his civilian identity as owner Ted Kord. It seemed Kord plants were ground zero for the situations in L.A. and Tokyo, as the heroes learned when they landed. Kord Industries employees swarmed the pair, and though they managed to escape the mob, both were infected with a nefarious virus that usurped their will.

Black Canary and Booster Gold were mystically teleported to France by Fate, where they headed for a hospital adjacent to a Kord Industries facility. Booster hit on Dinah relentlessly, while she tried to school the newb without resorting to violence against his person. Just as Beetle and Miracle would fall to "George Romero rejects," Booster and Canary were surrounded by patients with "eyes... like they're dead inside." Before long, the pair of Leaguers shared the infection, leaving the windows to their soul red pinpricks in a sea of blackness. "Oh. I understand now."

In Tokyo, Kimiyo Hoshi and a throng of other infected persons served as a creepy welcoming wagon. "Batman... Guy... It's soooo nice to see you again." The Dark Knight couldn't react to the trap fast enough, and was struck by a light flare. Even blinded, the heroes mounted a defense, but were just as hamstrung as the rest in confronting these infected innocents. Further Dr. Light II began working her powers in the yellow spectrum, negating the Green Lantern's Power Ring, then socking him on the jaw. Hoshi next kissed Batman, and all three heroes fell to the plague. "Love, my children. It's what unites you. Makes you whole. Makes you mine."

Dr. Fate teleported himself and the Manhunter from Mars to "...Australia. In all my years on Earth, I have never been here."
"One nation is the same as another to a Lord of Order."
"Sometimes I think you lack humanity, Doctor."
"An ironic statement, coming from a Martian."

The entire city had been infected by that point, and J'Onn J'Onzz was worried his team might be vulnerable. Doctor Fate was sure nothing could harm himself, while "Your alien cell structure should protect you." The detective questioned Dr. Fate's assurance the force controlling these drones was malignant, and felt "we still have to know what it is before we can effectively combat it... I'll leave you to your enchantments, Doctor-- and have a look around. You never know what might turn--"

The thought was interrupted by the scream of Kent Nelson, the host body of the Helm of Fate. "I... I am an immortal Lord of Order! But I use... a mortal host as my Earthly medium! And this... this thing intends to kill my host... unless I leave it!" The helmet was cast off of Nelson, who began to speak for the infection. "Dr. Fate is gone. I am the truth now... Something you can never understand, man of another world. You are... other. You are of no use to us. And so we leave you." Martian Manhunter tried to continue the dialogue, but being immune, he simply didn't matter. J'Onzz thought of his comrades, but "No. If Fate couldn't resist it-- what chance did the others have? The truth is-- I'm alone-- and I don't know what to do."

The Martian Manhunter return to the League's mountain headquarters, but fretted over his lack of information to act on as the infection became a pandemic. The Sleuth from Outer Space saw the connection to Kord Industries, but "I've got to know more. And you're the only one who can help me. They say the power... the knowledge... of Doctor Fate resides in this helmet-- and that whoever puts it on..." J'Onn J'Onzz donned the Helm of Fate, and was enlightened before removing it. "A sentient cell. An accidental mutation that they had no idea they'd even created. Fools! It extends its influence by total cellular takeover of the body-- then passes its 'contagion' from person to person. Gods of Mars-- what do I do?"

The cell spoke to its "children" of its origins and ambitions. "And through you, I have given the world my love... and through my love, I have made you all one with me... and you see as I want you to see. Think as I want you to think. Do as I want you to do. My love is great, is it not? But now... one is coming... who dares to threaten my love. To threaten the unity that makes us one. He is different. He is other. His thoughts are unclean. His beliefs are... alien. Let him come. If he truly dares. We'll be ready."

J'Onn flew to a South Pacific island that housed the lab of the Kord Industries acquisition that was responsible for birthing the cell. J'Onzz questioned if a direct attack was wise, or if he should have planned better, but believed the "disease" was spreading too fast across the planet for that. "In no time at all Mars will be-- Did I say 'Mars'? All these years and I still forget... but now isn't the time for nostalgia." Suddenly the Martian Marvel was being smothered by a "Larvae Bomb," and taunted by Mr. Miracle's possessed form. The Secret Visitor from Mars stretched his form to a withered state to rip the flight discs off Miracle's feet and slither to freedom.

"You would do well to look into those minds you control-- and study the information they contain about me! My strength is second to none. I have the ability to change my shape at will! To become invisible! To read minds! I'm not just another costumed human-- I'm the Martian Manhunter!" To cap the delivery, when the cell launched the Beetle's Bug ship at the Alien Atlas, he blew it away with his classic Silver Age power, Martian Breath! "You cannot stop me."

Guy Gardner was next in play, but the Martian Marvel grabbed him by the waist and threw him across the sky like a football. "You may mimic my teammates' speech patterns... but you cannot truly become them! In their hearts they resist you-- and so, do not fight to the best of their abilities! As I said-- YOU CANNOT STOP ME!"

Booster Gold struck with energy blasts, then he, Batman and Black Canary spoke as one about how the cell's "love" would win them over completely, eventually.
"Love? Your very use of that word corrupts it!"
"Do not all humans use words to suit their own ends?"
"I am not a human."
"The differences are negligible. Your form is essentially the same. Your thought-patterns... Your biological make-up..."
"I am not what you think I am! I am... I am..."
"You pause. You falter. Good. Then now is the time!"

The sentient cell had commanded the entire population of the island to form a giant, hulking humanoid form with their interlaced bodies to attack the Martian. "Together, we will stamp out all that is different! All that will not submit to our way of seeing... of believing! But my cause is not evil, Manhunter! I wish you no harm! If you leave now... depart for some other planet... you may go in peace!"

"I've already left one planet behind-- and I don't intend to leave another!" Unable to directly attack the human gestalt, the Manhunter yet found vulnerability in this one focused entity. "I can see into its mind! The central consciousness of the cell is within that fleshy mass... guiding it! Maybe I can't isolate it-- but Dr. Fate can!" The Alien Atlas had brought the Helm of Fate with him, and launched it into the being, briefly convert the whole of the form into the human host of a Lord of Order. Unable to maintain dominance for long, Fate determined that the only way to set things right was to imprison the cell inside "Your alien cell structure, J'Onn J'Onzz!"

"You want me to absorb that disease... that... plague?! No! I won't allow it! I won't go through it all agai-- Forgive me, Dr. Fate. You're right. It's the only way. My system will neutralize the cell. I'll become-- a living prison for it... There's no Earthly reason to wait. Do it!!" The Martian screamed as Fate infested J'Onzz bodily with the sentient cell, and then he passed out.

The Manhunter awoke to his restored teammates surrounding him, with Batman noting the sacrifice Dr. Fate revealed he'd made. "I made no sacrifice. I simply did what had to be done to save these people... to save you all. That's what the League is about, isn't it?" Guy Gardner wasn't too sure, and tried to avoid getting close to J'Onn J'Onzz. "Don't worry, Guy. As long as the cell is within me, you're in no danger... Precious little in life is 'for sure,' Guy. So we do what we think is right-- and pay the price."

"Germ Warfare" was by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Bill Willingham with Dennis Janke, P. Craig Russell, Bill Wray, Robert Campanella, Bruce Patterson and Dick Giordano. An editor's note from Andy Helfer suggested this tale took place "just after JL #4." It's also among my favorite Martian Manhunter stories, and directly foreshadowed his first ever eponymous mini-series.

Back to Justice League #4 (8/87)

Forward to Justice League #5 (9/87)

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