Tuesday, March 9, 2010

52/WW III Part Two: The Valiant #1 (June, 2007)

The Martian Manhunter has fled the planet, his mind seemingly shattered during a valiant attempt to stop Black Adam.

Now It's War.

Apparently now able to drift in a fetal position from low Earth orbit, J'Onn J'Onzz mused over the Zeta Beam accident that caused Adam Strange, Starfire, and Animal Man to become lost in space, the usurper Red Tornado to explode, and Supergirl to be shunted to the future. Still sifting through an overwhelming psychic stream from the humanity below, the Sleuth in Outer Space telepathically eavesdropped on:
  • The presentable Harvey Dent fighting Killer Croc as the current guardian of Gotham City.
  • Donna Troy donning the garb of a Wonder Woman.
  • Captain Marvel battling Black Adam.
  • Firestorm distracted from giving chase regarding Black Adam.
  • Aquaman arguing with Aquagirl (Lorena Marquez) about his powerlessness to save Sub Diegan citizens suddenly unable to breathe in or out of water. "It's possible, but the cost will be severe--"

J'Onzz was interrupted by the uncontrolled return of Supergirl, who passed immaterially through the Alien Atlas to crash land in Metropolis. J'Onzz again lost his bearings, and painfully re-centered himself while in his natural Martian form. The Manhunter reconfigured his heroic guise, but remained unable to actively participate in current affairs.

  • Dent managed to choke out Killer Croc, which only made the Writer and Waylon Jones look bad.
  • Deathstroke the Terminator attempted to sway Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) to the dark side.

"I should be disgusted by the evil I see. I should feel the need to take action. Instead, buried deep beneath the weight of millions of deaths... my heart does not stir. In those stolen moments I find only pain, and in that pain I find only truth. This place is not my home... War rages below... Black Adam. I reach out one last time, trying to find a reason why I should continue to care."

I've got one! Readers are even more indifferent to dispassionate, callous, unmotivated protagonists than they usually are to the Manhunter from Mars! They also tend to hate anyone blowing off a half century of reasonably consistent characterization as part of an ill-considered "bold new direction."

  • In Pisa, Italy, the Doom Patrol of One Year Later, joined by Booster Gold, struggled with Black Adam.
  • Wonder Woman Donna Troy shed a tear over the ravaged opera house in Sydney, Australia.
  • In Sub Diego, Aquaman petitioned the gods of the sea to save his latest adopted people. The inexplicably immune Lorena fled Sub Diego while the Sea King channeled "strange, ancient, and terrible" power through his Waterbearer hand to resurface the sunken portion of San Diego, CA and restore full humanity to Sub Diego's former inhabitants. The price was Orin's mutating into the amnesiac creature dubbed the "Dweller of the Depths."

By this point, the Martian Manhunter had gotten himself into a free-floating lotus position. "Aquaman. One of the few humans I truly consider a friend. His mind is lost, perhaps forever, caught in the grip of dark and angry gods. Clark. Bruce. Diana. Now Arthur. All have given selflessly for the good of the planet. All have paid a price, in one form or another... We dance an endless cycle, saving mankind from itself, showing them a better way. Time and again, they refuse to learn. They choose the easier path. Anger over reason. Hate over love. Death over life. Plotting. Scheming. Manipulating. Human nature at its most basic... A paradox I have struggled to comprehend from my first moment on this world. If I am to continue to have a place among humanity, this must change. Before it is too late."

The Manhunter carried on drifting aimlessly, just like the meandering narrative. Visions of Amanda Waller pulling a confidential personnel file on Ben Turner, Changeling leading a doomed Teen Titans incarnation, Captain Marvel Jr. getting his wind, and Power Girl carrying Supergirl off filled J'Onzz's head...

While much more decipherable than last issue, writer Keith Champagne's plot was just checking off a laundry list of editorially-mandated continuity beats established as part of the One Year Later publishing initiative, but unresolved where it was planned to be, in the 52 series (since those writers got tied up in telling actual stories.) The art was by Andy Smith and Ray Snyder, who for once focused on channeling Bryan Hitch instead of Bart Sears, to pleasant result.


will_in_chicago said...

I have always thought what makes J'Onn J'Onnz interesting is that he cares for humanity even if he can keep some distance from it by virtue of being an alien and raised in an alien culture. So, I don't think playing the distant observer really works well with him. I also think that the Martian Manhunter should not have been overpowered by Black Adam's stunt, but J'Onn is in need of writers who will use his character well and not just make him a poor man's Clark Kent or worse.

LissBirds said...

The fact that both the Manhunter from Mars AND Harvey Dent are mentioned in the same book was all I needed to make me happy. Yes, my standards may be low, but you take what you can get.

"I reach out one last time, trying to find a reason why I should continue to care." That was perhaps the line that was the most off. I don't know where to begin when it comes to dissecting that line of reasoning.

Diabolu Frank said...

Will... Liss...

I know, right?!?

LissBirds said...

I think if anyone deserves to be in a fetal position it's the reader. I just spent the last hour clutching my copy of Showcase Presents and wailing, "Where did it all go wrong?!"

The fact that the idea of even thinking about whether or not to help humanity is so completely opposite to the character premise of J'onn J'onzz that I want to Superboy-Prime-wall-punch that line out of existence. Since when is J'onn that selfish? Since when is J'onn EVER selfish?! I added this to my Top Ten just to remind folks that J'onn sacrificed his own needs and chose to stay here and help us, on more than one occasion.

will_in_chicago said...

I think that you can argue that J'onn has consistently stood on the side of humanity -- pre-Crisis and post-Crisis. I think that J'onn should perhaps have been show as trying to show Black Adam the beauty of the Earth and what befell Mars as a cautionary tale. (J'onn as an adult faced the tragedies associated with Superman and Batman -- loss of one's world and loss of one's family. One could argue that of all the heroes of the DC Universe, it is J'onn who is best equipped to show people the consequences of hate and senseless violence.) However, let's face it -- too often we have writers who are resting on their laurels. I guess we should be glad that Black Adam did not put J'onn in a refrigerator.

mathematicscore said...

"I've got one!" - Joyous.

Agreed that the art is nice though. Bryan Hitch meets JLI, right down to the lack of clasps.

52 was enjoyable for me, and gave me a greater appreciation for a number of nook and crannies in the DCU. Forcing in editorial mandates would have ruined some of that, as countdown suffered from a bit. Funny, 52's side series were often weak, while countdowns were usually better than the main series (not that that's saying much)

Diabolu Frank said...

Will, while I wish more heroes (especially J'Onn) tried non-violent solutions, Black Adam strikes me as one of the most exceptionally unreasonable characters to attempt such with. Deaf, pointy ears.

M.C., just for the record, I loved Bart Sears on JLI, and am embarrassed to admit I still dig him more often than not (CAF was dreadful, though.) Andy Smith I am less inclined toward. It's not because he's bad, but his work is similar enough to Sears' to share most of its flaws, then adds a number of its own (weaker storytelling, less detail, awkward effete postures, etc.) Most clones grow into their own over time (we both love Tex, who came out of Neal Adams' studio,) but Smith seems content to stay the blah course, this instance aside. I wholeheartedly encourage him to embrace this Hitchiness.

I bought 52 for Steel and continuity. By the halfway point, I realized not a one of those four writers had a handle on John Henry Irons, and his was easily the worst plotline with regards to story and art. Further, 52 barely touched on the details of One Year Prior, and when it did, it was to show how every hero who isn't a JLA founder (and a few who were) couldn't keep it together without Supes, Bats & WW to hold their hand. AND the bastards killed Vic Sage, but only after mischaracterizing him.

Of course, if I bailed on the well-regarded 52, you know I treated Countdown like a leper. I avoided even tossing through that travesty.

mathematicscore said...

You know, I like Steel, but I don't know that I have the good a feel for him, so it was kind of a deaf ears thing. I met him in his first appearance, then again in JLA, and probably picked up a good chunk of his solo in the cheapy bins. Even with that much info, 52's take was neither nailer nor consistent. I enjoyed the space crew, and the booster/time shenanigans, and the black adam line. Plus, having only a passing familiarity with Vic and a soft spot for renee, enjoyed her stuff. Batwoman, though mishandled until recently is on my nice list as well, and I enjoyed the little prequel to Batman RIP. Morrison. So basically, I liked pretty much all of 52. As a bonus, the Usurper was a disembodied head for the whole thing!

As for Bart Sears, while not anywhere on a favorite artists list, I've enjoyed nearly everything I've seen by him, including X-O Manowar.

Diabolu Frank said...

Ohhh-- Godfall. The black & silver resurrection suit, only linier. Perfect for people whose fashion sense is only slightly sadder than their imagination.

Man, the second and third years of Steel could give the worst '90s series a run for their money. Did you happen to find any of Christopher Priest's run? I liked JHI from jump, but it took Priest to make me fully understand and appreciate what a great character Steel is. Too bad it took until the last year of the series, marred by Denys Cowan's phoned-in art.