Sunday, April 04, 2010

Hero of the Week 2010 #13: Martian Manhunter

Real Name: J'onn J'onnz
First Appearance: Detective Comics #255 (November, 1955)
Group Affiliation: Justice League, Black Lantern Corps (former)
Gaming Credentials: Justice League: Injustice for All (2002); Justice League Chronicles (2003); Justice League Heroes (2006); DC Universe Online (TBR/2010)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #36

He's been described as the heart, the soul, and the conscience of the Justice League, but no amount of sentimental attachment was enough to save the character from the march of death that populates mainstream corporate comics today. After years of having the axe dangle during major stories, Martian Manhunter finally met his fictional demise at the hands of The Society in 2008's Final Crisis.

As you no doubt know, death has a way of being less than permanent in comics, and in honor of Easter, it seems all the more appropriate that our HOTW is officially back among the living as of this week's Blackest Night #8! The timely resurrection came courtesty of the White Lantern light of Life (provided by "The Entity"), which resurrected a dozen heroes and villains who were gripped by black rings provided by Nekron: sentient personification of black nothingness, guardian of death, and enemy of all flickers of life, who instigated the year-long DC Universe/Green Lantern comic book event epic, Blackest Night. Trust me, it's not as complicated as it might at first sound!

Left-to-Right: Maxwell Lord, Professor Zoom, Hawk, Jade, Captain Boomerang, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Deadman, Osiris -- twelve resurrected by the White Lantern for reasons to be explored in Brightest Day!

Like most of DC's secondary iconic heroes, the Martian Manhunter's career in video games has been brief, but thanks to a fixed role in the animated Justice League cartoons, many fans across the globe have gained new appreciation for one of comicdom's favourite sons. The character is likely to be front and centre when players dive head-first into an interactive parallel world when Sony finally launch their action-adventure MMO -- DC Universe Online! All part of DC's growing network of cross platform properties that will no doubt foster a greater awareness of what they have always had to offer.

For characters like Martian Manhunter, the sales pitch begun with the comics, depicting a process of refinement that's branched the entirety of the character's fifty-year history. It was quite recently, in Darwyn Cooke's 2004 opus DC: The New Frontier, that many fans were introduced to what they feel is the stylistic and representative definitive version of the Martian Manhunter's earliest days, a tale that separates him from the similiarities he shares with another last survivor of a far off alien race, Superman. In these early days, Martian Manhunter is introduced to humanity through observations of 1950s paranoia and intolerance, as well as the moral templates depicted in entertainment such as noir detective tales that inspire him to create the fictional human persona of Det. John Jones -- a chiseled beat cop with a hunch that'll lead you to water in the desert, thanks in no small part to his Martian-borne powers of telepathy, invisibility, and intangibility.

For the super-man who has everything, a weakness quite unlike any other -- fire!
Those who saw the lighter-fare animated adaptation of The New Frontier were still privvy to one of the greatest lines of the six-issue mini-series, spoken by the Martian's fellow Gothamite, Batman; "Make no mistake -- It took a seventy-thousand dollar sliver of meteor to stop the one in Metropolis. With you, all I need is a penny for a book of matches."

It's a beautifully simple line that sums up the predicament of Martian Manhunter's ultimate frailty, the differentiation between he and Superman, and the social distrust he faces in his early days after accidentally being transported to Earth by a scientist who died of a heart attack upon seeing him. An origin that paints a steady contrast to Superman's Moses/Christ-like tale of being adopted by a loving family and nurtured to recognise the good in humans, and reminds us how the devil lurks in the details within the otherwise simplistic superhero archetype.

Needless to say, it's a lot of fun to have the character back in the world of DC comics!
He and the other characters resurrected in the final issue of Blackest Night will now become the subjects of a brand new storyline, the contrasting Brightest Day. The names come from another New Frontier reference, namely the oath sworn by members of the Green Lantern Corps who accept the mantle and quote it to charge their powerrings. For more information on all things comic book, you should check out! Otherwise, that's a wrap on a nice and quick Easter HOTW!

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