Sunday, July 3, 2011

Martian Manhunter #1 (October, 2006)

The mini-series began with Martian Manhunter citing human violence dating back to Cain and Abel, and alluding to a hellish year beginning with the murder of a friend and the death of his killer. I racked my brain trying to figure out who that referred to, and only came up with Alexander Luthor offing Superboy. That seems like one heck of a stretch. "The JLA disbanded, costing me the only family I've known on this planet." I never got a good answer as to why that happened following Infinite Crisis. The main problems were Batman's trust issues, Wonder Woman's legal issues, and Superman's loss of powers. All three of them took a year off, but there were plenty of other heroes left to pick up their slack, foremost among them being the Martian Manhunter. Since Coneheadhunter was born out of his World War III battle with Black Adam in the 50th week of the lost year, he really had no excuse for not keeping his "family" together, even if it meant joining Firestorm's ridiculous line-up.

"I thought I'd lost everything, only to learn I had more to lose than I had ever dreamed possible. And in losing, I allowed a greater tragedy to unfold. One far more personal." Dial it back, Green Tornado. This will not be a good mini-series, it's a shame Cartoon Network canceled JLU, and it sucks that you finally lost your spot in the JLA, plus you'll be dead in a couple of years. All that said, you'll get better, you'll get some decent new costumes, several new action figures, and some solid direct to DVD material. Don't be such a gloomy Gus.

For a month, J'Onn J'Onzz had been following a trail to New York City, from which a Green Martian named Roh Kar escaped a secret underground laboratory. This lab was run by some amoral, egotistical scientists, and Rio Ferdinand oversaw their security for their mysterious employer, Keane. When current head Dr. Rooney proved willful and skirted blame for the preventable breach, Rio shot him in the head and appointed Dr. Figo his successor. Then Rio consulted with Mr. Giggs, a beret wearing hardcase from "Psy-Ops." Roh Kar was still weak enough to be caught, but Rio worried that "If the creature gets telepathic, the first thing it'll do is make contact with Martian Manhunter. That happens, we won't have time to pack." With the help of a tracer implant, Rio wanted Roh Kar back or dead inside thirty minutes. To assist, Rio triggered some sort of Manchurian candidate from "the Liberty List," who went from a clean cut soldier to a homicidal nutter constantly mumbling "Twice around, then slip and fall down. Twice around, then wake and fall down."

The Martian Manhunter traced Roh Kar to a highrise building under construction. A robot sentry was tracking the Martian, but ran afoul of the Alien Atlas, who sliced its head and arm in half with a psychic pulse. Invisibly and intangibly, the Manhunter continued his search, although his body heat remained traceable. J'Onzz also smashed through a bunch of walls, which I guess was to facilitate the escape of a weakened brother who couldn't go intangible in his condition. Do I get a No-Prize for that?

Coneheadhunter fell for a rookie mistake when the exact right phone in the exact right room on the exact right floor rang for him, and the bad guys tried to negotiate via speakerphone. Manhunter allowed the bad guys to stall and distract long enough for Roh Kar to find J'Onzz, and a sniper to find Roh Kar. The Manhunter took the bullet though, or rather "...a psychic pulse. Exactly like the kind I can produce. Exactly what any Green Martian, under enough duress, can produce. Which is why I didn't see it in time. If whoever's behind his capture has managed to develop weapons based on our physiology-- we're in far more trouble than I though."

The Martian Manhunter was knocked out of the building to the street below, where he paused to whine about how onlookers wouldn't be afraid if that had happened to Superman, and that cop wouldn't have drawn on him, even though he had only been in this scary new form for two weeks. J'Onzz was still yammering when Roh Kar had escaped the building and reestablished mental contact after removing the tracer bloodily from his shoulder. J'Onzz was all giddy about not being alone while learning "My name is... Roh Kar. They know I escaped... and I am weak. We must leave here." J'Onzz responded, "You have nothing to fear here anymore. I promise, you're safe." Roh Kar was immediately shot dead and immolated by one of those psychic pulses from the crazy sniper guy. Coneheadhunter caught up with the guy and socked him, all while thinking about how he was one of the few Leaguers who had hope that mankind would evolve beyond violence, but now he was filled only with rage, and wah wah wah.

Ever play Resident Evil? I loved the early installments in that series, back when I still had the time and patience for video games. There was this running gag where a hero would assure someone to "hang in there," which meant whoever they were addressing was doomed to a horrible death in the relatively near future. Be aware that if any character in this mini-series is assured of their safety by the Martian Manhunter, they will die in a fire. If there's one thing comic book fans are hot for, it's heroes who fail repeatedly and spectacularly at every opportunity in direct contradiction to their stated intentions. Also, there aren't a lot of writers who understand the need to tell a story visually through compelling imagery like a dude standing in an empty office talking to the speaker phone on the floor for twelve panels over three pages. That is something truly "special."

"The Others Among Us Part 1" was by A.J. Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo and Bit. It's not as bad as it sounds, mostly because it's bad enough early enough that you keep your expectations low. "Oh, this is a dumb ass, basic cable friendly action movie. I think I caught clips from this at Everything Is Terrible!" How can the the props and sets in a comic book look low budget? Is A.J. Lieberman a pseudonym for Paul W.S. Anderson? See how I tied that together? Rock!

Brave New World


LissBirds said...

I just don't know whether to laugh or cry after reading this. Okay, I'll go with laugh.
Now why is a shapeshifter, who can assume any pleasing, friendly shape he wants, complaining about people being afraid of his appearance? Either be happy with your new alien look and quit the whining, or change into something less-alien. Just a suggestion, J'onny.

And who knew Andy Rooney was so cruel? Didn't see that one coming.

Diabolu Frank said...

I worked with a guy who had (tattoo) sleeves and piercings. He wanted to join the Marines, but the sleeves got in the way, and he finally got taken in by the Army. Before that, we heard a news report about a coalition of the tattooed suing companies for not hiring "their people." This really offended my pal. He pointed out that he got the sleeves as a choice to go against the norms of society and make a statement. He felt that if you got inked, and then wanted to become a banker, you missed the point.

The thing I find endearing about this series is its conviction to stupidity. A lot of stuff in the Ostrander/Mandrake series made me really mad, because they took mean/dumb/easy routes when I knew that they were capable of better. That isn't an issue with A.J. Lieberman. If Chris Carter had a six-year-old grandson, and converted their playtime adventures with action figures into a grandly looney comic strip, this would be their Axe-Files. This first part is at worst problematic on adult terms, but I assure you that we have not even scratched the surface of its amusingly obvious incompetence. The Cucumber's fetish gear is made out of cheesecloth, or something.

mathematicscore said...

Well said as always Frank. I have only this to add. The dead friend he's referring to is Blue Beetle if I'm not mistaken. This was still relatively fresh after infinite crisis.

Diabolu Frank said...

Doi! Good catch, M.C.! How could you have missed that, Liss?