Thursday, August 9, 2012

Martian on Finite Earth

Stormwatch #12 came out this week, though I won't read it for another month. I'm not concerned about it getting spoiled, as we all know from the solicitations that this is the issue where the Martian Manhunter gets written out of the book. Presumably, the exit is motivated by his taking part in another solo/team/event series yet to be announced. The departure did not appear to be planned from the beginning, although one wonders if J'Onn J'Onzz's presence was intended to make the former Wildstorm team more palatable to DC readers before reverting back to a more "pure" version of the group.

Reader will_in_chicago asks, "What characters from either the Milestone or Wildstorm lines would work well with the Alien Atlas?" I was very excited by the Manhunter from Mars acting as an emissary to the newly integrated Wildstorm Universe, as he helped welcome the Charlton and Fawcett properties after their integration following Crisis on Infinite Earths. One mistake that I think the New 52 made was the "Five Years Later" conceit, wherein whichever stories from the old continuity still stand will be consigned to a truncated timeline. Instead of getting in on the ground floor of a legitimately new DC Universe, it turns the entire line into an X-Men comic with megatons of back continuity being vaguely hinted at constantly. A side effect was that the Authority went back to being Stormwatch, and the Martian Manhunter was entrenched amongst them, until he wasn't. There were no proper introductions outside of Apollo and Midnighter, and the Martian Manhunter just sort of hung out for a year before bailing.

The simplest answer to Will's question is that after the build-up of the New 52, I still want to see Martian Manhunter as a member of Stormwatch. When first introduced in the early '90s, Stormwatch was the official super-team of the United Nations. They were like the Global Guardians played straight in the Chromium Age, with obvious influences from Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D., Tower's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and Hasbro's G.I. Joe. The team also tended to fight a lot of aliens, since one of the diving concepts behind the Wildstorm Universe was a centuries long intergalactic war between the "good" Kherubim and the "evil" Daemonites. The individual members of the team never amounted to much, and most were slowly pushed out when Warren Ellis reworked the title and staffed it with his own creations. Eventually, Ellis just decided to rename the lot as the Authority, leaving Stormwatch and its related characters up for grabs. Thanks to his now erased but still felt history with the Justice League International, as well as the whole being an alien himself thing, Stormwatch seemed like a good place for the Alien Atlas to build a new backstory from the ashes while propping up a group that never quite left the shadow of the WildC.A.T.S. I'd have kept Weatherman One for tension, Battalion as the natural leader, and kept a few of the more well liked characters like Backlash, Diva, Winter, Fuji or Hellstrike. I'd have probably also recruited DC spy types from series like Suicide Squad and Checkmate. Heck, why not borrow from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, now that DC owns that, too?

Milestone has always been adjunct to DC, since Dwayne McDuffie and company may have an ownership stake, but DC bankrolled the initiative. As a result, they've always kinda sorta been part of the DCU, and at the same time, partitions remain that continue to separate the companies. Also, Image Comics was formed by the biggest artists of its time, whereas Milestone was the big black publisher that couldn't land Christopher Priest, Larry Stroman, Mark Beachum, Brian Stelfreeze, etc. etc. I never really warmed to Milestone, but their shortlived super group the Shadow Cabinet could definitely intermingle with Stormwatch. Hardware would also be a great mixer to set next to the Manhunter.

Despite his time with the "Detroit" Justice League and the second incarnation of the JL Task Force, I'm not big on J'Onn J'Onzz mentoring teen teams. For one, he's not that great of a team leader. For two, he's not a very protective guardian or even the strongest role model. Third, Young Justice made that more of a Red Tornado thing, and The Usurper can have it. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Charles Xavier. Still, Static could be cute in a non-Teen Titans team, perhaps a new Gen13 where Gypsy might also find a slot.

Ideally, I'd prefer a Martian Manhunter solo series, but he's had so many "bold new directions" that I feel he'd be ill-served divorcing himself from old continuity. I have a fantasy about rebuilding his Silver/Bronze origins of the Martian Marvel using Wildstorm characters. It was revealed in a 1977 story that J'Onn secretly co-founded the Justice League in 1957 with Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Aquaman to battle Commander Blanx. How about a DC version of Team One forming to deal with the first invasion of Helspont, leading into the modern incarnation of Stormwatch (relative to their Demon Knights beginnings?) It always seemed redundant for DC to buy Wildstorm, since so many of their characters were Jim Lee's versions of DC characters. Having lost DC's Golden Age to Earth 2, suddenly WS could fit nicely as a covert replacement. I still see so much potential for Martian Manhunter's involvement in the DC/Wildstorm merger, but I expect little of it being realized. Nice to daydream, though.


will_in_chicago said...

Frank, thanks for a great blog and I am glad that my question led to it. I agree that a team with J'Onn could have been handled a lot better. Possibly some of the characters you mentioned can still interact with him.

I just feel that J'Onn has been underused and badly used, much like many of the Milestone and Wildstorm characters. I don't know what the DC brass has in mind for J'Onn but I hope it is something good.

mathematicscore said...

A nice daydream indeed. The biggest failing of the New 52 for me was the botched melding of the Wildstorm properties. A difficult task, to be sure, but surely they could have done better than this.

I can just feel the reboot coming sooner rather than later.

will_in_chicago said...

I will share a few opinions on Stormwatch 12 soon after I go through it. It is just that a lot of potential has been wasted.

The conceit of the five years later for the DCnU may help out the Batman and Green Lantern lines but does a disservice to the rest of the line. I think that a hard reboot might have been easier in many respects. The Justice League, for example, does not feel like a team. I think Stormwatch in more recent issues felt more like a team.

The question of the next reboot will depend on how well DC does with customers. I do agree that one could argue that it was time for a reboot. The Post-Crisis on Infinite Earth Batman probably would be getting ready for an AARP card. Still, I think a lot of things could have been handled better. As for J'Onn, I think he may be the most solitary hero in the DCnU, searching out for plots and hidden dangers, realizing that the people he likes could be dangerous to themselves and others. (Stormwatch and Justice League both could become tyrannical with a few tragic events. The DC animated universe explored what a loss of a single member meant to one world's Justice League.)