Sunday, November 1, 2009

Green Lantern #44 (Late September, 2009)

Space Sector 2814. Mars. The tomb of the Martian Manhunter.

An electrical storm rocked the red soil outside J'Onn J'Onzz's pyramid. Inside, the Choco sandwich cookie set on J'Onn's coffin after his funeral was knocked to the floor, the impact crumbling it. A Black Lantern power ring burst into the structure, penetrated the Manhunter's coffin, and set itself on his right middle finger.

J'Onn J'Onzz of Mars.

An oily black substance covered the Martian Manhunter's body, becoming a costume. Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz then smashed his way out of his glass coffin.

In Gotham City, Alfred Pennyworth had called Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the Flash (Barry Allen) to investigate the robbing of Batman's skull from Bruce Wayne's grave. Flash found "Some kind of black residue. And it's coagulating. Like blood."

A voice could be heard within the heroes' minds. "Hal. Barry." A disturbed Flash uttered "Ma'aleca'andra." The voice came again, verbally and from behind, "You shouldn't be back. You should both be dead."
"J'Onn? You're... here."
"Ring. Identify."

While Green Lantern's ring checked out the former Manhunter from Mars, Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz's own power ring determined Jordan was emotionally dominated by will and Flash by hope.

Scanning complete. J'Onn J'Onzz A.K.A. Martian Manhunter. Founding member of the Justice League of America. Last survivor of the Green Martian race. Vital Signs: Negative.

"I realize my appearance may be disturbing-- but if this form, the form I met humanity halfway with, is less discomforting--"

Before J'Onzz could fully shapeshift into the visage of his old self, Green Lantern fired on his swiftly immaterial and invisible form. Jordan defended his action before a startled Flash. " heard J'Onn. He's not asking for milk and cookies."

The Black Lantern from Mars knocked Flash off his feet and began choking Jordan. "Don't worry Hal. You were my friends. I've come back to help you." Lifting Green Lantern into the air by his neck, J'Onn J'Onzz fired laser vision at the ground covered by the Scarlet Speedster. "Barry. You had your chance to embrace the Speed Force. To become part of Nirvana. But you ran away from it. How would it make you feel to leave Iris and Wally behind again?" Images filled the Flash's mind, instilling fear, another emotion to be savored. "And you Hal. After everything you did-- if you died at the right time you would've gone straight to Hell." Despite J'Onzz's taunts, Jordan's emotional spectrum would not expand beyond will. "But you no longer subject yourself to guilt or anger over Parallax, do you? Your heart is full of willpower again. Let me see."

The Flash ran up a ramp and snatched Green Lantern from J'Onzz's grasp, but Jordan was still shaken from the mental intrusion, and barely reacted in time to save them from free fall. Recognizing J'Onn J'Onzz as the bearer of a previously unidentified power ring type, Green Lantern tried to contact some of his fellow corpsmen, to no avail. Sheltered in a fire station, the heroes considered the probably that J'Onzz wasn't the only new black ring bearer, and how to exploit his greatest weakness.The building then began to quake. "J'Onn knocking at the front door." Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz razed the structure. "I'm as powerful as Superman. Why does everyone forget that?"

On planet Oa, inside the citadel of the Guardians of the Universe, their adulterated sister Scar had taken control. Scar felt that all previous Guardian initiatives had failed to bring order to the universe, and so had thrown her loyalty behind the new Black Lantern Corps. Scar had begun hearing a commanding voice as her body "died from the poisonous burn of the Anti-Monitor," making her realize only the absence of emotion could bring ultimate peace. "The Black Lanterns are collecting hearts full of splintered light-- and soon it will be His turn to rise. Now. You will need to rest for what's come. Back to sleep-- fellow Guardian."

Back on Earth, a Green Lantern ring construct had saved everyone so far, but an invisible Manhunter was to be feared. Flash had a plan, but also considered, "Maybe we can reach J'Onn. We can trigger something in him so he can fight back. He's the strongest telepath on the planet. What was his state of mind when he died? Was he still using his human guise out of Denver?"
"Detective John Jones? I think so... Truth is, I didn't see much of J'Onn in the end. He left the League. He distanced himself. He felt more alien."
"Alien? J'Onn wasn't alien. He was alienated."

The Flash was pained by another telepathic invasion. "Hal was the one who never flinched at the sight of a Martian, but you understood me, Barry. And I want you to understand me now. You can't outrun death. Not when it's me." The Flash launched into a two-pronged attack, physical and verbal. "I know it's you in there, J'Onn. Somewhere deep down. Remember. We used to talk shop. Cases. You were fascinated by what you never had on Mars-- law. Justice."

Weakly, Green Lantern fended off the Flash's battery, after the Scarlet Speedster had been made to see Jordan as the Black Lantern. The real evil J'Onn J'Onzz then wrapped a tentacle around Jordan's neck and flung him through the Gotham night sky toward an unanswered Bat-Signal. "Justice? For who? My wife and daughter? Myself? The man who orchestrated my murder still walks the streets. Half the League you knew is gone. Justice is dead, Barry." Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz then batted the Flash into a pool of chemical sludge.

Meanwhile, in Space Sector 1313, Green Lantern John Stewart was faced with the rise of the Black Lantern planet Xanshi...

"Only the Good Die Young" was by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke with Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen & Rodney Ramos


mathematicscore said...

I was overjoyed at this issue. Not only is it a showcase of my favorite Martian, and Mahnke, but Geoff Johns has a great balance of J'onns vulnerabilities and strengths. The hints of insercurity are all handled without making him seem weak. And the way he gives Flash and GL the business is just badass. If we reach a resurrection and renaissance for the character as I hope there will be, it will be largely thanks to this issue.

Diabolu Frank said...

I wasn't much into it, because my concerns regarding the character have shifted over the years. I used to long for kickass fights where J'Onn came out on top, but now I don't care how powerful he is. I figure Manhunter is defined by his vulnerability, and it's not like ditching the fire weakness ever sticks anyway. I just want him written well by someone who loves and understands him. Johns seems to be of the Mark Waid school in his handling (wasn't that "alienation" line right out of JLA: Year One,) which suits me very fine.

Doug Mahnke always had a good handle on the bulky, Bart Sears-style Manhunter, but I really relish the Brian Bolland influence he's taken on recently. That guy used to be very hit-and-miss with the Kev O'Neill riff, but this more refined look is gorgeous and has far more dimension. Plus, he's still incredibly fast! Mahnke may finally break through as a fan favorite...

LissBirds said...

The only problem I had with this issue (and I guess this harkens back to exactly defining J'onn's powers) is that I thought J'onn could've easily defeated Barry and Hal through his telepathic powers. I wish DC could straighten out what exactly the range of J'onn's telepathic powers is. If I remember right, he took down Black Adam with a mental attack in WWIII by making him feel the pain of his victims or something similar. If a Black Lantern needs its victim to feel emotion, why not bombard Barry and Hal with emotions rather than just taunt them? I mean, if he is "the most powerful telepath on the planet." Maybe I'm just nitpicking too much.

I remember at the time that "I'm as powerful as Superman. Why does everyone forget that?" made my day. And I really do like Mahnke's rendition of J'onn. Very powerful without looking too bulky.

And why did Flash say "Ma'aleca'andra."? I'm probably missing something really obvious but I didn't get that. I didn't think anyone else would remember the real name for Mars except for Martians.

I've got to re-read this issue now, especially after reading the latest Blackest Night titles.

Oh, and a side note--I think it's in Blackest Night Batman #1, but Hal Jordan falling into the Bat Signal is still in my opinion the neatest visual of the whole series! I loved how the two titles were tied together by that moment. Plus it was rather amusing.

Diabolu Frank said...

No Liss, you're exactly right. I read BN#4 today, and wondered why BLJJ pressed a physical assault against the freakin' Flash, of all people. Also, it was hard to be impressed by the Black Lanterns when Flash was holding off so many on his own. Johns is a good writer, but sometimes his eyes are bigger than his mouth.

All I got from "Ma'aleca'andra" was that Johns remains an ardent Ostrander supporter.

The signal smash was in BN #2, whose review is up at the Justice League Detroit blog right now (tomorrow here.)

mathematicscore said...

Yeah, I've gotten a little lamed out with J'onzz getting sidelined in issues 3 and 4 of the main series. I'm holding out for a Geoff Johns modern take on the classic JLA. He's been slowly bringing back and beefing up all the original members. Him and say, Mahnke or maybe Gleason? Certainly would be better than this Robinson crap.

Diabolu Frank said...

I could handle J'Onn sidelined, but what turned me on at the end of #2 was the zombie JLA. Instead of a major sick throwdown between the living McDuffie wimp League and semi-Satellite era badasses, we got exposition, heartfelt psychoanalysis, and the Indigo Tribe. When Blackest Night Titans is more satisfying with the return on Pantha, Hawk, and Tempest, you're doing something wrong.

My Prediction, based on various rumors in current circulation: Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on a relaunched JLA in 2011... but I would love Johns and the shiny new Mahnke on Martian Manhunter. I like Gleason, too.

LissBirds said...

Geoff Johns on JLA would be nice. Too bad we'd have to wait that long, though. 2011 seems a long way away. I think Bagley's drawing it now and I just can't get used to his style.

That one panel in BN #2 where J'onn takes his normal form is pretty sweet. I'd like to see him drawn like that in the future. I would like to see what Mahnke could do with John Jones as well. Heck, I'd like John Jones to appear in a comic in the foreseeable future. It's been ages.

mathematicscore said...

Good call, Lee is probably the perfect "Name" artist to put it through the stratosphere. Just the coloring in that first scan on this post makes me long for a fuzzy and awesome silver age that I wasn't around for the first time.

I think it was your site that pointed me towards it, but Welcome to the Working Week is one of my favorite JLA stories ever. Just has a feeling to it, you know? I've been a Gleason fan ever since.

Diabolu Frank said...

Liss, I've never been a fan of Bagley. Too much of a throwback in the '90s, and too loose and Image-y today. I associate him with two decades of bad Spider-Man comics, and it only gets worse when he leaves his wheelhouse. At least sticking him on Titans would have halfway made sense.

m.s., I did a write-up for the Vile Menagerie out of "Working Week," and agree it was a quality Morrison riff, but I still haven't gotten around to a synopsis. Bad on me. Oh-- I did a review for it at ...nurgh... so maybe that was it?

LissBirds said...

The biggest thing that bugs me about Bagley is that he draws eyes way too big. It makes everyone look like children.

I'll have to check out Welcome to the Working Week. Comic DB is listing Patton Oswalt as the author. As in...Patton Oswalt, the comedian/actor/voice of Remy? Huh.

Diabolu Frank said...

I don't know from Remy, but he voiced Disney's Ratatouille and starred in Big Fan. I think he was on The King of Queens, and other sitcoms. I know him best from his delicious Robert Evans impersonation.

LissBirds said...

Yes, he was on King of Queens, and he played a nerd. Remy is the rat in Ratatouille. :)

Usually it kind of bugs me when celebrities write comic books (the latest Batman/Kevin Smith thing, for example.) But I just read Welcome to the Working week last night and I was pleasantly surprised, especially with how J'onn was portrayed. Oswalt seems like he has a good handle on all the characters. (Now I've got to go buy a print copy of it to erase the sin of torrenting...)