Thursday, December 24, 2009

DC Holiday Special '09 #1 (February, 2010)

Less than week into his career as a member of the Middleton City Homicide Squad, Detective John Jones already faced a chilly reception from fellow officers at a murder scene. "Manhunting was my vocation back home. Since I must walk concealed among these creatures, I reasoned a familiar guise would be best." However, the human police instinctively knew that he was "something alien," and reacted accordingly. Only his partner Diane Meade offered any warmth, as she explained Tony Valdez of Evergreen Alley had taken three slugs to the chest and been relieved of his cash box. He had been left to die bleeding in the snow, surrounded by his Christmas trees. John Jones zeroed in on one of Valdez's employees as the primary suspect. Thanks to telepathy, Jones knew young Kenny was the culprit, but was required to substantiate that truth with evidence.

Diane Meade invited Jones to the officers' Christmas party at Fagan's, on Broadway; but Jones blew her off to focus on his work. Meade's fellow officers wondered aloud why she bothered, believing Jones to be at least stuck-up, and possibly even working undercover for Internal Affairs. Meanwhile, Jones was too concerned with potential exposure to get close to any humans, and instead confronted Kenny with his guilt. Kenny bolted, and as Jones pursued, the clandestine alien was made to recall Mars at the sight of holiday colors.

"Red: Here they call Mars a 'desert planet,' but her dunes are not coarse sand but delicate dust." A storm could turn the visible landscape red, "rendering ground below and heaven above the same rusty color."

"Green: The Martian race, merged as one telepathic serenity." Martians took "comity" for granted, so that observance of holidays were unnecessary. "Quite the opposite with the natives here. Unlike Mars, this world teems with life... all of it so isolated and alone."

Moving transparent and invisibly, the Manhunter from Mars made his way to the road, before materializing in the path of Kenny's speeding getaway car. The young man went through the windshield, and lay still on the road, the cash box resting square on his chest. The Martian Manhunter performed a rudimentary scan of Kenny's surface thoughts, and found him an alienated soul with few prospects, absent parents, and dismissed by his former girlfriend. "Little wonder he felt driven to grab onto whatever was close at hand that he could claim his own."

Having recognized the vulnerability of solitude, John Jones entered Fagan's with a grin and a carton. As Meade gave her "pardner" a hug, he asked "I brought... 'eggnog.' That is traditional, yes?" Another plainclothes officer wondered, "'Course... where you from?"
"... Canada?"
"Explains a lot, actually..."

Diane gave John a cookie. "Mmmm! What are these?"
"They don't have Double-Stuffed Chocos in Canada?"
"They're wonderful!"
"I know they have booze there! I'm setting you up!"

Other officers began chatting Jones up about his "usual fast work" solving the murder case, and urged him to "tell us how you do it? That can be your present to us!"

"I close my eyes. And I feel the Red Wind of the Olympus Mons on my face. And the oneness of a people all around me. And I know what I have been missing."

"Reason for the Season" wears the influence of Mark Waid, Gerard Jones and John Ostrander on its sleeve. I've made no bones about my dislike for one of those three on J'Onn J'Onzz, but despite playing similarly loose with continuity, Fred Van Lente wrote a love letter that echoed the much favored writing of the other two. As was noted in a Comics Related interview...
Eric Ratcliffe:  Do you ever see yourself writing for the distinguished competition? Any favorite characters over there that you'd really like to get your hands on?

FVL: Sure, I think Martian Manhunter could be a huge hit in the right hands. (Cough - mine.)

Eric: So being a Martian Manhunter fan...your reaction to the first issue of final crisis?

FVL: I trust Morrison and am certain he knows what he's doing. God knows I have enough issues with my own comics to go criticizing other creator's...

Artist Nick Dragotta recalls the criminally neglected American Secrets, both Eduardo Barreto's evocative illustrations and Steve Oliff's lovely color work. Definitely an ocular feast for a Manhunter fan.

Thanks to mathematicscore for the interview link, and happy holidays to you all. As an extra present, I'll choke down my hatred of the usurper Red Tornado, and offer up both a synopsis of his own solo story and a sneak peek at a super-hero blog revival.


LissBirds said...

I really enjoyed this little story, and your choice of calling it a "love letter" is very apt. That interview with Fred Van Lente really piques my interest...if there were, for example, a noirish Martian Manhunter series authored by him, set in pre-JLA days and focusing on J'onn's detective exploits, I'd be one happy camper. (*cough* you paying attention, DC editors?)

mathematicscore said...

I agree it has a Barreto-ey feel. Which rocks.

Josh Hill said...

I was a little unsure as to whether or not I should buy this special, but when I looked at it in the shop and saw the MM story, I had to have it. And it did not disappoint. Personally, I know it might be too much to expect for DC to give J'Onn his own book again any time soon, but I think it would be awesome if they'd give him a co-feature in, say, DETECTIVE COMICS or some other book. And a creative team like FVL and Dragotta would be perfect for it,too.