Monday, August 9, 2010

The Brave and The Bold #56 (Oct.-Nov. 1964)

Manhunter popped up again in #56 (Oct.-Nov.'64) with The Flash. Even though he received second billing in both team-ups, MM really showed up The Flash in the latter adventure. In fact, the Manhunter's winning appearances may have been used to test the waters for his own lead feature.

On the planet Argon, Queen Tatania decided she wanted her own hero with the combined power of the Justice League. Her scientists created that very thing, a mutated creature which escaped before he was even activated and presented to Her Majesty. A Bio-Ray was used to halt the creature's rampage on Argon, and it's body was stuffed into a rocket bound for deep space. It instead landed on Earth, and was taken for a time capsule by workmen at "the gigantic International Fair of '64". On opening day, Barry Allen and his girlfriend Iris West were in attendance. They were unaware that they had been joined by an exotically bald and bearded Manhunter in admiring, "...a unique exhibit of me and my Justice League comrades!"

Meanwhile, the "time capsule" opened, revealing a composite Flash/Manhunter (split straight down the middle) with the combined power of both. It's destruction of "The House of Steel" caught Barry's attention, as he released his chemically treated costume from a secret compartment in his ring to become The Flash! Strapping on his cape, the Manhunter joined his JLA buddy, but was the first of the pair to fall. "...that hybrid's wrapping The Manhunter so tightly, he can't flex his Martian muscles to break out!" The Flash tried to outrace the hybrid, but ended up literally falling on his face.

The mysterious mutant went on to steal a robot girl from an exhibit. The Manhunter and Flash found the composite aboard an atomic submarine, where it was drawing power into itself. Now a Green Arrow/Aquaman meld, it felled J'onzz with acetylene arrows. Later, a solo Manhunter was hit with an emerald jackhammer by Flash/Green Lantern. Flash next slipped in a puddle created by Hawkman/Aquaman, and got tangled in a bolo by Batman/Green Arrow while on his own. Our heroes couldn't seem to stop the creature from wrecking the fair!

Iris found a torn piece of the robot girl near the time capsule, which she reported soon after. Using his Martian Vision, J'onzz learned that the hybrid was stowed away within the rocket, but was pushed back by a sudden emission of radioactive rays. "No doubt, whatever's inside needs atomic energy to operate! ...Wait here!" says The Manhunter, as he retrieved a piece of lead shielding from the atomic sub. "With powerful Martian muscles, the alien detective molds the lead around the glowing canister..."

J'onzz asked The Flash to watch the rocket while he followed a lead. "I didn't tell The Flash that my hunch means going millions of miles through space, via the teleportation beam that originally brought me to Earth! ...Unless my Martian education was faulty, that canister could only have been built and designed here... on Argon! I'll just slip inside Queen Tatania's private quarters!" What a perv! J'onzz asked her majesty for help (...with the hybrid. What were YOU thinking?), but was denied. Returning to Earth, J'onzz was shocked to learn that The Flash had okayed a strike against the rocket. "OH, NO! If that missile so much as dents the forcefield, there'll be untold disaster... a power greater than an atomic bomb!" Luckily, Manhunter caught the missile, then explained to Barry his error.

Next, J'onzz called Carter (Hawkman) Hall to request the aid of his wife, Hawkgirl. The Martian was just disrespecting heroes all over that day, huh? He explained that Tatania had released the mutant out of curiosity, and been horrified by it's instant attraction to her. To play on it's emotions, J'onzz wanted to make use of Shiera's acting and disguise abilities to portray the queen. Hawkgirl's facade lacked Tatania's pointy ears, which alerting the creature to the duplicity. Manhunter and Flash failed to capture the mutant before it returned to it's ship. The real Tatania arrived, and intentionally set off the rocket's booby-trap. She expressed her guilt and sorrow over the hybrid's treatment, touching the creature. Within it's last few moments, the mutant piloted his rocket into outer space, where it exploded. "Your visit, Manhunter from Mars, shamed me into flying to Earth to stop the disaster I had caused! The poor mutant... He had the heart of true super-heroes all the while!"

The Manhunter gave his fellow heroes a pat on the back, even though they both failed miserably. I normally hate a story like this, which fawns over one hero at the expense of others. However, since J'onn never gets to be the hero of such a tale (unlike, oh... say.... SUPERMAN!!!), it's nice to see him shine in a team-up for once. This is especially true when you consider the bone he threw to Hawkgirl, when he could have simply shapeshifted into a perfect Tatania duplicate himself. Either he was trying to give his fellows a shot, or he just wasn't in a feminine place that day.

Bob Haney (Script), Bernard Baily (Pencils), Bernard Baily (Inks),


will_in_chicago said...

It is nice to see J'Onn be the star for a change. Also, J'Onn did show he was a team player in this tale.

Unknown said...

I remember reading this comic years ago -- published before I was born but found in a big old pile and a yard sale one weekend. An usual team up for B & B but a good one!