Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Martian Manhunter in Lazarus Planet (2023)

While there was a part of me that wanted to continue with Bloodwynd material after Black History Month, just to finally close that long dangling thread, at a rate of one post per week, it would still take up another few months... maybe even the rest of the year. That would rather strain the parameters of this blog, not to mention my interest in the concept. Reader dissapointemnet (don't ask me to spell or pronounce that Ctrl+C/+V) asked last week about covering a recent Martian Manhunter story which felt like a nice pivot point, but I lacked context. I pretty much gave up on the DC Universe during the New 52, aside from a tiny blip following Rebirth, and didn't even bother to collect or fully read the 2018/2019 Martian Manhunter maxi-series (bought the trade only.) When I became estranged from Marvel Comics in the early '90s, I continued to read all of their monthly solicitations as an informed retailer into the next century, but finally gave up on that sometime before the 2010s. With DC, the estrangement began in earnest sometime after Infinite Crisis/One Year Later (I quit 52 halfway through,) but I think we were well into the Rebirth period before I finally opted out of reading the DC solicits, or as Grandpa from The Lost Boys might have put it, my TV Guide. I just stopped caring about the ebb and flow of that universe, and even a stab at creative writing that saw me try to catch up was abandoned more than a year ago. Lazarus Planet has been well reviewed, but it's also a weird mash-up of super-heroes, Vertigo, and Chinese lore that's daunting to wrap my brain around.

As I understand it, current Robin Damian Wayne has been mucking around with his mother's side's resurrection apparatus, some monstrous entities got involved, Batman got possessed by one, and a volcanic eruption of the Lazarus Pits caused alien parasites to gene bomb an underworld. Or as less of a geek test, a plot device gave DC editorial an excuse to muck around with people's powers on a grand scale to mine crossovers and spin-offs. And because a good chunk of the readership hate anything magic or related to China, the Batman Family get shoehorned in to force feed it to that lot. Also, they continue to push the entire discipline of inking over a cliff by shooting directly from the pencils to turn everything into a washed out muddle, and inflict a bunch of excess text on the audience by crediting nine different artists for variant covers that they (hopefully) only bought one of. But I'm not bitter.

Where Dark Crisis (I'm already exhausted by the title alone) seems to have been the more classical (if perhaps largely irrelevant in the excessively grand scheme of things) crossover, Lazarus Planet feels like an old Marvel Age Annual on steroids, cocaine, and PCP at the same time. Aside from the Batman vs. Robin tedium and a two(ish)-part bookend series, this event is mostly a collection of short stories by a vast number of creative teams setting-up/previewing new directions for the DC line. I guess this is where Jon Kent gets his dad's (and Strange Visitor's) old electric blue look/powers, and where the decision to make Renee Montoya the Question that got reverse years ago de-reversed (can I quit yet?) There's a lot of the Maryest of Sues, Black Alice (trigger warning, come @ me,) and a mountain of ah-spaghetti hits-ah alla the walls (best/worst Chris Pratt Mario voice?)

In a huge, very 21st Century tell, a mash-up of Martian Manhunter and Doomsday that might as well have been generated by an art AI program (did Dream get a credit with all the variant cover guys) was used to promote the event, even though J'Onn J'Onzz barely appears in any of these books. In the core story, the Alien Atlas is simply adjunct to the Superman Family, showing up as part of a cavalry straight outta Metropolis.

In the March cover-dated, January-shipping one-shot Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods #1, Dan Watters and Max Dunbar had the thankless task of validating the gimmick image in a ten page story. A person of color (but indeterminate race,) Raphael Arce gained the ability to absorb people's pain from the Lazarus rains. Arce selflessly visits hospices to relieve all the terminal (exclusively white male?) patients at a Metropolis hospital. In a big reach, his proximity to the city has him absorbing the residual pain of the time Doomsday "killed" Superman, and that memory is enough for Doomsday to begin regenerating within the dude's body. Martian Manhunter tried to relieve the reliever by taking the Doomsday seed into himself, becoming the advertised hybrid for barely two pages. Arce then takes the Doomsday back from him, seemingly immolating into a hyperdense red crystal. "Crushed down into a psychic gem of blood and pain. He allowed his flesh to become this. Dense enough to absorb the living memory of Doomsday."

There's a bookend where Martian Manhunter likes to fly way up into the something-sphere (he still needs to breathe, I assume, but can also see the whole Earth from wherever he stops) and partake of a symphony of pain and pleasure down below that's supposedly better than music. In the end, he's explaining all this to Superman, his seeming immediate superior in the DCU these days. For all his powers, Superman can't pick up "The patternless patterns of emotion rippling on the surface of the Earth?" I'm right there with you, pal, and since when did J'Onn switch from Chocos to pot brownies? Anyway, the pseudo-poignant denouement offered by J'Onzz is, "There are no songs among them today."

The intent is unclear, but we can choose the yarnwall this as a set-up for a post-Infinite Flashpoint 52 Convergence Rebirth Infinite Metal Dark Crisis reboot of Bloodwynd, even though the exact phrase is never uttered. I'm not sure if Raphael Arce is Black/Hispanic/Both/Neither, though that was definitely some "Magical Negro" s---, and I have exactly zero (hour) faith that this will ever be follow-up in any way. YMMV.

1 comment:

Kevin from New Orleans said...

After seeing the promo I thought M.M. was going to be featured more in the story than that. What B.S.!