Saturday, December 8, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Rott

After spending almost all of the two weeks of voting at 100%, one contrary choice landed Triumph at 90% favorability as a Martian Manhunter villain out of ten votes. Jeez, the guy can't even catch a break at being absolutely demonized.

Rott should have made for a short and sweet entry in the SurVILEvor Island series, but there's just too many scabs to pick. Basically, antebellum negro slaves performed voodoo to make an Eclipso diamond thingy to kill their master, which created a demon that grew ever more powerful over the centuries by drawing strength from the darkness in their Black Person hearts. This was the idea of the honky that created Booster Gold. White men from Ortonville, Minnesota should not write stories like that. It's unseemly, not to mention convoluted and inane.

Let's break this down. First, why do expatriate Africans always practice voodoo? It's the same deal as Native American and Jewish mysticism. If these guys could create golems and magic gems and stuff, how come soulless white thugs still end up killing/enslaving the hell out of them? Who saves their God Mode code until after their weapons cache is down to a pocket knife so that you have to kill all your enemies in the most tedious manner possible? You don't see Japanese comic book people, who all know martial arts, doing that stuff. Every Japanese man, woman and child was a super-stealth ninja assassin who could glide on air currents until World War II, which is why we had to drop the bomb on them, and even then they just harnessed its power to grow Ultraman to combat Godzilla. Only Japanese-Americans went to internment camps, because they were technically Americans, who don't have any special powers that don't involve being such dirty cheats that we still manage to overcome magic crap like manitou spirits with smallpox blankets. Point being, if you're going to open up a big 'ol can of creepy crawly worms, you'd best have set aside the time and effort to bait fish.

Secondly, the creation of the Blood Gem was spearheaded by a priestess named Clemma. She's the one who snuck into the bedroom of slave master Jacob Whitney to kill him where he lay... as opposed to just stabbing or bludgeoning him with whatever was handy en route? Why was a Blood Gem needed if all it did was steal the guy's soul or whatever? Did it empower the gem and allow the plantation slaves their freedom? Was that the plan, but it went awry? If the Blood Gem was in Bloodwynd's family for generations, what were they doing with it all this time, and why did in take a sesquicentennial to attract the JLA's attention? It's kind of important to explain those small but crucially important details.

Third, Rott's plan was to use a major energy source to free himself from the Blood Gem. However, he'd already pretty much beaten Bloodwynd before Martian Manhunter stumbled along. What would have happened if it had gone another way? Would Bloodwynd and Rott have just waited in the gem for some other poor sap to come along? Why wasn't the Martian Manhunter form just included in the plot? Having taken control of Manhunter's body, why shapeshift into Bloodwynd and then try to join the Justice League? He'd be more readily trusted as J'Onn J'Onzz, but why bother if he was simply looking to wrangle a power source? Does that require a team effort? Why risk life and limb against the likes of Starbreaker and Doomsday? Why not directly engage an energy powerhouse like the Ray, instead of waiting months for one to join your team after a completely unforeseeable event like the death of Superman? Hell, pass immaterially into a S.T.A.R. Lab and commandeer experimental technology to feed the Blood Gem. There are so many ways a geek could spitball a more effective and sensible plan than Rott's that wouldn't involve inviting super-heroes into your home domain at a vulnerable point in your master plan. The only way it could halfway work at all is by force of a bad writer's will.

Fourth, did Dan Jurgens consider that by making Rott control the Manhunter/Bloodwynd, he invalidated the first year of Bloodwynd appearances and rendered him merely "the Black Martian Manhunter clone?" Was it his idea to diversify the League, or perhaps to recast Martian Manhunter with a black alter ego? Was Bloodwynd initially intended to be a standalone character, or just a device that became a separate character by semi-popular demand? Was the whole thing dreamed up by editorial and forced on him? Was Bloodwynd's origin so full of plot holes and political incorrectness because it was hacked together as an afterthought, or perhaps outright authorial sabotage?

Fifth, like his counterpart Bloodwynd, we never really find out what the hell this guy can do. This story made a point of explaining away everything Bloodwynd had done as creative applications of the Martian Manhunter's powers, and the character wasn't redefined to a substantial degree afterward. Rott brought heroes into the Blood Gem where they either had no powers or were neutralized by his situational partner, Weapons Master. When Rott escaped, he wielded the power of the Blood Gem against non-powered humans and a notably diminished Martian Marvel. He's big, he's probably strong, and what? All we know is that whatever power Rott did have was taken back by Bloodwynd, which I guess establishes that Bloodwynd has the power to keep undefined power from Rott, so he's got that going for him.

Finally, Rott has no personal enmity toward J'Onn J'Onzz, nor does he contrast all that well conceptually. He doesn't appear to have any plans beyond getting loose from the Blood Gem, which is a bad thing only because he's an ass and goes about it in a rude way. Rott is apparently some vague combination of the restless soul of an especially nasty slave owner and the dark parts of the souls of the descendants of his killer. He's mostly white, but has some African features, which could have been a subtle twist in a Milestone book but just confuses things in DC black & white. He also looks like a mythical ogre. Jacob Whitney probably didn't have to deal a lot with immigrants, and J'Onn J'Onzz wasn't part of an oppressed/slave race like Jemm. I guess there's the supernatural versus science fiction aspect, in which case Rott can go to the back of a long line of better candidates (Korge, Diabolu, etc.) and that's more of a Superman thing besides. It didn't help that Rott is the generational foe of Bloodwynd who targeted the Ray and tussled with a bunch of other Leaguers. Rott screwed-up J'Onn's intended sabbatical and kept him out of comics for a period of time in which the Alien Atlas was supposed to be out of sight anyway. He feels very tangential to the Sleuth from Outer Space narrative, and as such, seems unsuitable for the Vile Menagerie.

1 comment:

will_in_chicago said...

I vote no to Rott as the story is screwed up. Plus, the story makes little sense period.

If the DCnU 52 wants Rott, introduce him on his own with Bloodwynd as a well defined adversary. I found the whole story to have more twists and turns than a roller coaster. J'Onn has better potential foes out there.