Thursday, June 24, 2021

JLA: Year One #8 (August, 1998)

Locus' plans were near fruition, thanks to the purple gengineered host bodies derived from Appellaxian DNA. Robert Anderson's last day as a fully human member was defined by distraction and detachment, even from Locus itself. After years of knowing Mr. Genuardi at the neighborhood store, Anderson refused to remember his name, even as he inquired as to the health of Anderson's brother. A dinner invite from a sunny married couple in his building was refused. Robert took his girlfriend Linda out to dinner for a one-sided tearful break-up, as he emotionlessly asserted "I just don't see a future for us" while imagining the smoldering corpses of everyone in the restaurant. At Rolling Hills Mental Hospital, "Bobby" saw his intellectually disabled brother "Stevie" for the last time, as he again blames himself for the Frankenstein-style accidental drowning of their sister, Janie.

Back at the sanctuary, Green Lantern angrily threw Superman's chair into space, ignored Black Canary's personal inquiries, and became a unappeasable martinet with his teammates and associates. While most of the League focused on Superman's lame "My time is not my own" excuse, Aquaman rightly noted that the more interesting comment was the Man of Steel's having fought another Appellaxian during their invasion. If the League missed that one, who's to say if there weren't others? Snapper Carr hacked into a bunch of government databases on satellites, and sure enough, he counted eight meteors on the day the League was born.

After a snarky comment while searching Star City Harbor for signs of the meteor, Green Lantern was called out for being a jerk by Green Arrow, as well as by Aquaman. Flash explained the Superman scenario, and apologized for rubbing any salt in the wound of Arrow not having been asked to join. The Emerald Archer displayed maturity over Lantern, chiding "What a baby. He's got to learn to take the blows..." Meanwhile, a Martian alternative to capacitors was offered to Snapper Carr for the headquarters, and he made the cringe joke "Mighty human of you" before immediately expressing regret to the Green Dude. "Think nothing of it, Snapper. It is a compliment... in a way. Over these past few weeks, I have learned a great deal about being... human." After, Uncle Simon was sweaty and acting weird, asking Snapper to keep an eye on J'Onn J'Onzz specifically, to see that he didn't do any unwanted snooping. Elsewhere, the brief turn of the Blackhawks acting as costumed super-heroes ended with them shedding their ridiculous short-lived affectation. Also, Barry Allen and Iris West were having relationship troubles over his growing affection for Black Canary and secret double life.

While crawling through ducts to set up more requested surveillance cameras, Snapper accidentally looked in on J'Onn's private quarters. Alarmed by what he saw, Snapper began filming. He immediately showed the footage to the human members of the League, declaring J'Onn a spy. The Manhunter was recorded shapeshifting between various identities, including Mike the cop, Detective Paris Jackson, F.A.A. investigator Lora Denton, and Coast Guard Officer Perez. The League smashed through the wall of J'Onn's private quarters demanding answers, only to discover detailed files on Earth's metahumans like the Atom, the Metal Men, Metamorpho, and the Spectre. Black Canary finally realized that J'Onn had once called her by her real name in battle, only heightening her feelings of violation. Aquaman felt that it was an obvious mistake to have taken Manhunter at his word, and wondered if the deception was so deep as to cover for his being the missing Appellaxian. J'Onn asked for trust, but in a new reason for calling him Snapper, "NO! Why should we? Why should we believe anything you say?" Manhunter started to fly off, but was caged by an energy construct, Lantern declaring "Forget it, alien! You're not going anywhere!" A little weird that the Alien Atlas used invisibility and presumably malleability but not intangibility, blasting through the roof to escape the base. Lantern gave chase, while J'Onn's only (barely) defender The Flash smashed his globe of Mars. Rude.

Mr. Anderson was not another identity of J'Onn J'Onzz, in case you were wondering. He finally committed to reengaging with his life, and tried to warn the Justice League about the Locus plot. While attempting to make his way into their base, he was discovered and shot dead by Simon Carr, who branded him a traitor to Locus.

"Loose Ends" was by storytellers Mark Waid / Brian Augustyn / Barry Kitson with inker Michael Bair. More than half the series has been noodling and character work, so this issue was almost jarring in its use of a one-off POV side character and throttling acceleration of the plot. Not so much a slow burn ratcheting tension and more the sudden panic of realizing the big test is coming up and you need to start cramming. Everything was in place already, but the contrivance of it all hitting at once with peak histrionics was an artificial turn following seven relatively languid issues. The writers did such a great job of indicating Hal Jordan's toxicity in a story clearly informed by his fall from grace a few years earlier that I still can't accept his redemption arc under Geoff Johns. It was just too clearly another example of white guys always getting another chance, even with the blood of an entire corps and parallel universes on his hands. Your mileage may vary on J'Onn J'Onzz being the first non-white member of the League, but the othering portrayal here leans hard into that aspect. Jordan especially said "alien" with a hard "r," and while J'Onn's trespasses were grievous, the reaction went full Karen.

1990s, Aquaman, Black Canary, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter, Retcons, Superman,


kevin from new orleans said...

this was the only time I did not hate Carr in a story , I usually hate him.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, they found a good way to employ him here. He was pretty cool as a Rick Jones stand-in for Hourman, as well.