Friday, December 31, 2010

Justice League America #42 (September, 1990)

The fetal version of Despero floated in a tank of liquid mounted onto a high tech panel. The tank was flanked by Gypsy and the Martian Manhunter...

"...Disgusting little thing-- Why didn't you just destroy it, J'Onn?"
"It isn't our way-- or our right-- to take Despero's life."
"He killed my family... He killed Mister Miracle!"
"And to murder is the worst offense against the gods of this-- or any-- world."
"Right! And that's why--"
"That, Gypsy, is why I will not do to him... what he has done to us."
"I don't know if I agree with you, J'Onn-- but I guess it doesn't make a difference, does it? I mean, he's dead, isn't he?"
"No, Gypsy-- there's still a consciousness in there... however vague, however faint. Yet I can't say that he's truly alive... It's as if Despero has... devolved. Withdrawn into some protective, primitive state. What, if anything, grows from this new form I cannot say-- but the sooner we find a suitable place for this... thing, the happier I'll be..."

J'Onn asked if Gypsy had considered his proposal that she join the JLI, but despite her enthusiasm for the Detroit incarnation, she now had too many painful associations with the League. However, Gypsy still felt "As long as I have you-- I'll always have a family. I don't have to be a member of the League for that to stay true..." Gypsy had to sort through the jumble of emotions from her recent tragedies on her own. "I know loss, child. And I know pain. I won't stand in your way-- but I want you to know that I'm always here for you... always."

Maxwell Lord discussed this first of many refusals from prospective new members of the day, and recognized Gypsy meant a lot to J'Onn. "I intend to keep a careful eye on her... It's funny: When I first met Gypsy-- I knew nothing of my past life on Mars... of the wife, the child I'd left behind-- yet she touched something in me so deep-- now I see that despite the differences of worlds and time-- she's so like my daughter..." J'Onn preferred to change the subject, rather than continue. It was time to press on with the membership drive.

In Texas, Blue Beetle and Fire had a talk with El Diablo. Actually, Fire and El Diablo did all the talking, and flirting, for hours, in Spanish. By the end, Beetle didn't care if they got turned down, just so long as he could get the heck out of there.

In Arizona, Green Lantern Guy Gardner acted like Guy Gardner, and ended up trying to forcibly draft the Will Payton Starman. Both heroes acted rather infantile about the matter, and violence ensued. Guy turned back up at the New York Embassy with his costume in tatters, still proclaiming Starman a wimp.

Ice and the Huntress showed up wherever the Hawk and the Dove operated out of in '90 (Virginia?) Ice was disturbed by how rude the rejection was. Huntress offered "They're loners, Ice. I understand that." Bea countered, "Sure... but you're part of the team."
"I still don't understand that."

The Cluster, the intergalactic traders governed by Lord Manga Khan, returned to Earth the return Mr. Miracle... to Earth. Also, Oberon and Funky Flashman, responsible for bamboozling Scott Free into leaving him wife and teammates in the care of a twitchy robot duplicate. The one Despero blew up. Which explained Max Lord's shocked reaction to Mr. Miracle's "resurrection."

Batman was still working with the JLI part time, but refused to expand his role. J'Onn confessed, "The problem is-- I'm tired. These recent months, Batman-- I've changed. I know it sounds clichéd... but I've found myself... in a way few beings ever do. I've had much to absorb and understand. Just sorting through what's inside myself has been a full-time job. To have to lead the League on top of that... to have to play the great green martinet... hasn't been easy. And after this Despero fiasco-- So time alone... for retreat, for meditation... would--"

Batman cut him off. "Wouldn't change anything. Life is what it is, J'Onn... and what it is is hell. And sometimes it's far worse than that. You've handled more than most. You'll keep handling it."
"I don't share your world-view, Batman. On Mars we believed--"
"Mars is dead, J'Onn. You're alive... on Earth. Be a survivor. It's all you can be."
"No. I think we can all be-- far more."

Max Lord wanted to give the Despero fetus to Manga Khan, but the bartering lord refused, instead trading him L-Ron for it. As the Cluster departed for other destinations, Scott Free called his wife, Big Barda, to try and smooth over that whole presumed-dead-and-funeral snafu. Martian Manhunter half-jokingly offered up L-Ron as new team leader to Max, "I need some time to myself. Perhaps a month or two... maybe more. There are matters of selfgrowth... future lifepaths... that I must consider. Our experience with Despero has only underscored my--"

Now it was Max who cut J'Onn off, pleasing with J'Onn that the team needed manpower terribly, especially with all their rejections and Mr. Miracle's decision not to return to the fold. However, Orion and Lightray of the New Gods chose that opportune moment to demand membership on the team...

"Solicitations" was by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, Mike McKone & José Marzan, Jr. Man, Roger Stern must have really hated the JLI. He had the Atom refuse to join halfway through his short-lived series, only to have the poor selling Starman do the same thing a couple of years later. Neither El Diablo nor Hawk & Dove had any business on the team, so they felt more like ringers to sell a joke. Perhaps their editors begged for a cameo to maybe boost sales on their ongoing series.

Despite all the goofy business going on, this was actually a major issue for the Martian Manhunter's development. J'Onn's game changing solo mini-series initially had little impact on his JLI adventures, but its role in the Despero story arc brought important elements to the fore. This issue reestablished the break from J'Onn's Silver/Bronze Age continuity, reminded readers of J'Onn's dead family, further set up Gypsy as a surrogate daughter (redefining Gypsy through the relationship,) and laid the groundwork for J'Onn's eventual departure from the team. Mike McKone was still polishing his craft on this fill-in issue, but it was plenty good enough to keep folks from missing Adam Hughes. Too bad even under his pen, the redesigned New Gods could not be redeemed. Blech!


LissBirds said...

I'm going to miss seeing the Despero fetus every day. I was starting to get attached.

Diabolu Frank said...

It's a little like the melancholy of taking down the Christmas ornaments, crossed with pulling an overcooked Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven. Despero was quite the festive fetus.