RandoMonday: Martian Manhunter #4

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Martian Manhunter (1988) #4 by J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Mark Badger (art/colors/cover), Bob Lappan (letters), and Andrew Helfer (editor)

J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, has long been a favorite DC character of mine. When I found out about this mini series, I had to get it, and what a doozy. This was 1988, and everything was being shook up at DC, evolving, changing, much like a certain Martian. In this mini series, everything you thought you knew about J’onn’s past is wrong, or at least different. J’onn’s fire weakness is not some weird, convenient plot device, but rather a psychological weakness that manifests on a physical level. The scientist that brought J’onn to Earth and then died is shown to be quite alive. Also, not only did Erdel bring J’onn from Mars, he also brought J’onn through time from the past. Even J’onn’s real physical form turns out to be different (though, unfortunately, abandoned or shifted again over the years).

In issue 4, J’onn is on Mars to confront his past and the Martian God of Fire, H’ronmeer. Meanwhile, Batman and three Justice League members (Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Mr. Miracle show up at Dr. Erdel’s Colorado retreat to convince him to bring J’onn back. When he refuses, Batman threatens him (“Do you realize who I am? What I’m capable of doing to you?”), but Dr. Erdel is taking none of Batman’s shit, thank you very much. When Batman asks if Miracle can work Erdel’s equipment, Miracle refuses, stating that when H’ronmeer confronted him (in an earlier issue), Miracle realized what was going on. So, Batman has to grim and bear it until J’onn does finally arrive back on Earth. But while he’s on Mars, J’onn remembers the plague, the burning bodies, his dead wife and daughter. He acceptance of these memories allows his family’s spirits to move on. The story ends with J’onn singing and dancing in the way of his people in a desert on Earth–it’s a dirge, but he is healing.

I really enjoyed this story back in 1988 and thumbing through it again nearly 27 years later. The art, while not my particular cup of tea, fits the character very well. What doesn’t quite fit is the insertion of the Bwah-ha-ha Justice League members in this story. Out of everyone, only Batman and Mr. Miracle was needed–Beetle and Booster were entirely superfluous, which was maybe the point? Still, a minor bump in what was an interesting retelling for one of the Silver Age’s most enduring characters.

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