Monday, June 30, 2008

Review of Ancestral Style, By Johnathan

Boy oh boy, was I lazy this week or what? I could blame it on busyness at work, but that would be a lie (not that I wasn't busy, mind you). Nope, it was just plain inertia. Well, tomorrow is Canada Day, and I plan on lazing about here in the John Cave, so perhaps I'll get that review of the Human Flame off my chest, like I've been meaning to, before Grant Morrison has him eaten by Titano the Super-Ape or something.

In the meantime: check this out:

That, boys and girls, is my great, great grandfather, William H. Hazel, and he is rocking a friendly muttonchop/neck beard combo that the world of today couldn't even handle. From now on, whenever I'm blue, I'm just going to think about how those same beard-genes are somewhere inside of me. I'm tearing up a bit, here.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Review of Even More Martians Manhunter, By Johnathan

Howdy, y’all! The grand crossover that is Martian Manhunter Week continueth! Today, we’re going to keep on looking at alternate versions of J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter from Mars. Fair warning: there’s a chance of spoilers for the stories that these guys come from, though I’m going to try to focus on the green men rather than the plots surrounding them.

Here’s another look at J’onn in his natural state, oddly shiny and blasting eye-beams all over the place. Wotta guy, huh?

Sadly, this isn’t the J’onn J’onzz of Earth-X-Men-Movie or something, this is what he’s been wearing since Infinite Crisis or so. I’m not sure quite why I dislike this costume so much. I definitely favour heroes who wear a complete outfit instead of running around in their underwear, so that’s not it. Plus, I really like collars like the one that he’s sporting there, and this costume does a good job of incorporating elements from the classic Manhunter getup. I think that it might be the radical shift in the balance of colours in the outfit as a whole: green with some red and blue looks nice, while blue with some red and green looks bleh. NOT APPROVED.

This is a fun one from a yarn called JLA: Riddle of the Beast that I haven’t actually read yet but which I understand to be the Justice League set in a fantasy world, one of the ones with goblins and such everywhere. From what I’ve gathered, he’s all hermitish and creepy, which is fun. And I always like it when non-humans don’t look completely human, so JOHN APPROVED.

So at one point, someone decided that they’d heard enough bitching and moaning about how a fear of fire was a stupid weakness for Martians to have and decided to justify it. The route they took was the same one that was ultimately used to explain the Green Lantern weakness to yellow. To whit: “It’s because of a monster! In the power battery!” Or in this case, in the Martian genome. Turns out that J’onn is descended from a race of flaming warmongers, and that the Guardians of the Universe did something to make them the nice green chaps that we know and love to this day, and that the fear of fire thing serves to seal the deal. So, when J’onn eventually conquers his pyrophobia, FAZAM! He becomes a giant, burning asshole named Fernus. It’s kind of a neat story, I suppose, but I mostly threw it in here because of that cover, one of my favourites ever. Go, Plastic Man, go! JOHN APPROVED.

Act of God was a neat idea for an Elseworld – one day, everyone on Earth who has super-powers loses them, and the world needs to adjust to this. Two big problems crop up pretty quickly: first, everyone who used technology to pull or fight crimes is unaffected, so there are a lot of guys like Captain Cold and Lex Luthor still running around causing trouble. Secondly, some of the former heroes find themselves unable to adjust to being unable to zap evil with their eyes and whatnot. In order to more effectively combat the former group, several members of the latter went to Batman and received training in vigilanteism. I’ll let our pal introduce himself:

“J’onn J’onzz, formerly the Martian Manhunter, now the Green Man – detective and martial arts skills, shock-value appearance, and a full range of multipurpose skull grenades.”

I don’t think that the 'multipurpose' part of the skull grenades was explored very thoroughly, beyond "You can put them down on the ground and they explode later, or you can throw them and they explode now." Regardless, they're pretty cool. As is J'onn, actually. Let's watch:

Possibly my favourite thing about this whole exercise was the effort that was put into creating new identities for the powerless heroes, without just saying "Okay, this is the new Aquaman, and since he can't breathe underwater any more, he'll be using a SCUBA rig. And the Flash takes a lot of speed." Yay, Green Man! JOHN APPROVED.

Okay, a bit of setup for the next one: J'onn J'onzz was once affiliated with the Justice League Task Force, which was a... task force made up of various members of the Justice League. At one point, this task force was off on a mission to a place full of alien Amazons. The team that was going on that mission consisted of a bunch of women and J'onn, and they convinced him that he would stick out like a sore something if he was the only guy in the whole damn place. And so, after much writerly effort and justification...

Joan J'onzz was born! Yikes, right? I mean, there are certain parts of my brain that are responding in a traditional ape-man fashion, but for once they are being shouted down by the peanut gallery that is the nerdy portion of my psyche. I have questions, Joan.

Okay, first question: what's with the costume? I mean, I appreciate the effort that you went to to shapeshift the classic elements of your regular costume (oh, ew. I just realized that the Manhunter's cape is almost certainly a part of him, like a curtain made of skin or something. *shudder*) into something that will cover up girl-parts, but... but you can do more than just cover them. The x-bra thing I can see - it's just too clever a modification not to use - but why the hell would you give yourself a thong, with what looks like a bit of camel-toe? Have you just been hanging around with lady super-heroes too much?

Secondly, and again this might have its roots in the fact that you hang around with people like Maxima all the time, why the hell do you look like that? I mean, I can understand wanting to look good, but disregarding the juvenile sexual aspect of the whole thing (and J'onn J'onzz is generally as asexual as a beet), what the hell is the point of having breasts the size of your head? Are you planning on hiding behind them in battle? Did you have a lot of extra mass to use up? Gah. Martians today...

Man, this cover is pure bondage cheesecake, but it's so blatant about it that it's almost admirable. Still and all, J'onn's gender-bending is too mind-bending and gets a stern NOT APPROVED.

Oh, man. Justice Riders. This one's easy to explain: the JLA in the Old West vs. Maxwell Lord as a corrupt rail baron. Not too much to say about this incarnation of the Manhunter, except that it was fun and well-characterized - like the whole book, really. Oh, and he had a great line when he first joined the team:

Man, if he had only said "I reckon." at the end, it would have been perfect. Still, JOHN APPROVED.

This next one's from early in the Grant Morrison run of JLA. Superman and the Martian Manhunter are trapped in a maze that is being generated by the Joker's mind and J'onn's solution is to, well:

I just threw this one in because it was a really neat solution to the problem, and the Manhunter looks great with that grin plastered across his normally-stoic face.

It's also really creepy when he starts adding little "ha ha ha"s to every sentence. It's not even like he's finding anything amusing, it's just an eerie little vocal tic that comes with the Joker-brain. Brrr. JOHN APPROVED.

Not that I looked very hard, but this is one of the few pictures that I found of J'onn in his native form (and on his native planet). Everyone's so pointy! JOHN APPROVED.

From JLA: The Island of Doctor Moreau. Fairly straightforward: what if Dr. Moreau had turned various animals into analogues of the Justice League and they hunted down Jack the Ripper? J'onn is Komodo, the lizard-man, 'cos he's green. It was an interesting premise, but a bit stretched. I think that the lion with electric eels attached to his arm was supposed to be Superman maybe, and that's a head-scratcher.

Still, it's rare to see someone fill out a singlet like that nowadays.


This is just Kyle Raynor, trapped in J'onn's body and unable to control it fully. He's all melty.


Ah, the Legion appearance. J'onn showed up while Mysa Nal, the White Witch, was going on some grand spirit-quest in an attempt to reclaim her powers after they were sapped by a painful divorce (this is what happens when you marry the most evil sorcerer ever, ladies). I never quite got why he was so interested in helping her, but it was nice to see 20th Century/30th Century interaction again.

Okay, so J'onn wasn't exactly 20th Century anymore, what with his having lived through the intervening years and all, but you get the idea.

He looks like he's been bumming around the galaxy for a thousand years, doesn't he? The word is "weatherbeaten", kids.

I actually thought that I'd have more to say about this one. It was a good time, I suppose, even if nobody took J'onn's advice.

He's as quick on the uptake as ever, folks!


Okay, this one is weird. It's from All Access, a spin-off of the Marvel/DC Amalgam Comics collaboration. Now, I really enjoyed that whole event, what with the neato combinations of characters and so forth. Imagine my consternation, though, when I looked up J'onn's role in the proceedings and found that he had made only a one-panel appearance, merged with Phoenix and not even rocking a punny new name. Boo! Boo I say! Look, I'll make one up right now: J'onn Sampson, the Martian Hulkbuster. See? It's easy, Amalgam writers. NOT APPROVED.

(Aw, poo. It turns out that Mister X of the JLX comic was Manhunter, too - I just hadn't been looking in the right places [and god forbid I should go to the trouble of reading the comics again]. Well, live and learn, I say. I'll just change this one to JOHN APPROVED, hey? Wait, no... that amalgam's still hideous. Still NOT APPROVED)

The great hope for present-day Martian Manhunter to be alive: future Martian Manhunter! From Martian Manhunter 1 000 000, this is J'onn after 800 000 years or so of life, with all kinds of scraps and adventures and so forth having happened in the interim. Eventually he ended up as part of the since-terraformed planet Mars and got to make giant heads like this to impress Kyle when he came to visit. I liked this one - it was a good yarn, and J'onn looks good made of dirt.


From the JLA/Young Justice crossover Sins of Youth:

Klarion the Witch-Boy has pulled some mystic mumbo-jumbo on the assembled heroes of Earth, making the adults youngsters and vice-versa. According to a text page somewhere in the comic, the de-aged Manhunter is known as the Martian Kidhunter, which actually sounds a bit creepy (though not as much, I just realized, as the Martian Boyhunter would).

Aside from the fact that his boots are too big and that he hasn't yet learned how to make a nose, the Kidhunter isn't too different from the Manhunter, which is a shame. I guess that by virtue of the fact that he was super-serious all the time whilst in the Morrison-to-Infinite Crisis JLA, J'onn was cast as the quiet, responsible type of kid that I'm sorry to say that I might have been at one point. Meh. The above scene was neat, though, with the pint-sized JSA and JLA rampaging around in the old Justice League cave HQ while grown-up Stargirl tried to keep them in check. JOHN APPROVED.

Another one I haven't read yet, a JLA special called Primeval. I include it here because that green blob at the back is everyone's fave Martian Manhunter, J'onn J'onzz, all devolved and this is more the sort of thing that I was hoping to see him become in JLApe. JOHN APPROVED. (the cute little devolved Zauriel at the top of the panel is also JOHN APPROVED!)

From the Elseworlds 80-Page Giant:

I love "Slim Green Lord of Glam Rock" as an alternative to "Martian Manhunter". I'm going to try to use it more often in casual, Martian-related conversation. That mullet, however, is a hundred million times more horrifying than Superman's ever was. NOT APPROVED.

That's pretty much it, folks, though if you can think of some neato variation on the Manhunter that I missed, let me know. I'm going to wrap up with a look at some images from the Secret Origins version of J'onn's trip to Earth:

Okay, now that is an alien that could inspire a heart attack. Plus, he was apparently in a Martian mosh pit when he was teleported. I like Doc Erdel's goggles, but a flattop is no substitute for a gigantic walrus moustache.


The world tour from the original J'onn J'onzz origin tale was neat, but I like the newer version, as shown here, where he just watched a whole lot of TV. That's one of the reasons that he was such a great character in New Frontier, I think: the 1950s broadcast enthusiasm that he had about things and life and stuff.

And those are just the cutest couple of panels ever. JOHN APPROVED.

Good night, folks! I've got one more Manhunter-related post in the works - look for it soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Review of Martians Manhunter, By Johnathan

Hello again, folks! Time for the second installment in our portion of the Paul and John Review/Living Between Wednesdays crossover tribute to our favourite dead Martian, J'onn J'onzz! Today, I'll be looking at some of the Manhunter's different appearances in Elseworlds yarns and what have you and trying to review how he looks instead of the book as a whole. Easier than you think, though, because I haven't read some of this stuff yet.

For comparison, here's J'onn J'onzz in his standard configuration, before he made his head pointy and started wearing that terrible uniform that he died in.

I'm writing these in no particular order, so first up is J'onn in an Elseworlds tale about the JLA, called Destiny (I think that I might have to do little mini-reviews of these things to keep my opinions about them from seeping into the main reviews. In brief, this one is about a world in which there is no JLA: no Superman, no Batman, etc. There are some really neat original characters and I remember liking it enough that I'm not going to spoil it more than I have to. Thoroughly JOHN APPROVED). As I recall (it's been a while), J'onn has been half-dead in a desert for years, and is slowly dissolving or something like that.

Or maybe it's his mind that's dissolving, since you can see him floating in the middle of the forehead there. In any case, for the purposes of this story, J'onn J'onzz is an immobile, intangible green giant lying in a desert and conversing with Destiny, the title character.

He acts as a sort of informant and clues the good guys into some of what's been going on in the world (if this isn't one of the 52, it should be. It's a damn sight better than that crappy Red Rain universe, I can tell you that.). It's really fun; I wish I could tell you more but there are ethical considerations. Read this one if you get the chance.

Oh, he's also really ugly, even for a giant. Even so, I enjoy the creative use of the character - this is the good kind of Elseworld, where it's not just Batman in a pirate outfit (not that that's necessarily a bad time, just that it's not as cool).


Here's the Manhunter from the much-maligned JLApe event (I haven't actually read this yet, but I like the concept and the name is kind of clever, so it's tentatively JOHN APPROVED):

I have to admit, I was hoping for some sort of Martian primate, or a weird lizard-man or something. This just looks like Beast Boy doing some cosplay or something. This:

terrific look/sound of surprise kind of makes up for that, but doesn't mitigate the fact that the Manhunter immediately uses his shapeshifting powers to become normal and wreck the whole premise of the thing. Damn internal consistancy.


Three quick ones:

First, Mr. Mxyzptlk takes him out in World's Funniest:

Nothing new, really, but it's a great comic, so I felt compelled to mention it at one point or another. (JOHN APPROVED!)

Next, the Manhunter in an Elseworlds called League of Justice, which is a fantastically creative name:

I haven't read this one, but the J'onn-analogue is really creepy looking, so I felt like including it here. Bug eyes and veiny head? ugly is one thing, but this guy is ugly-ugly.


And here's the funny animal version of him, from Captain Carrot No.14:

Martian Anteater? Mediocre at best - better than Rat Tornado but nowhere near Elong-Gator. Though it wouldn't have quite as effectively hammered home the THIS IS AN ANIMAL VERSION OF THE JLA message, I feel that calling him the Martian Anthunter would not have caused panic and rioting in the streets. NOT APPROVED

Here's the Manhunter in Kingdom Come:

He's a shell of his former self, but he doesn't deserve this:

Real tactful, Spectre.

I have a theory about why J'onn ended up this way here (and it applies to his similarly neutered state in Dark Knight Strikes Again): Ross (and Miller) had written his great big epic featuring a conflict between Superman and Captain Marvel (or Superman and Batman's brain), the two most powerful forces in the DCU, and then remembered that there was a third, slightly more green guy floating around in the same weight class. Thus, the telepathic self-lobotomy is born (or the nanotech-to-the-brain. Nanotech that both invalidates mental powers and makes someone all hard-boiled and Sin City-esque). It kind of makes sense, but it's an ignominious end for the noble Martian.


Here's a non-pathetic-looking Ross Manhunter, just for the hell of it.

Guh. I'm done for the day. Turns out, though, that I have enough of these pictures for a whole 'nother day of this. Tune in next time for J'onn J'onzz as a kid, as a cowboy and as a lady!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

First Impressions: Review of the Martian Manhunter, By Johnathan

Hallo! J'onn R'eview here, teaming up with the irrepressible Rachelle to bring you some Martian Manhunter tribute action. SPOILERS SPOILERS VERY RECENT SPOILERS (although not terribly spoilery ones, I guess) READ YE NOT THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YE WISH NOT FINAL CRISIS NO 1 SPOILERS. Poor dead Martian - who's going to be the JLA Mom now?

Because it's one of the things I already do, and because Mr. J'onzz never tried out for the Legion (though the time that he hung out with them might just have to get a mention...), I'm going to cover his first appearance, in Detective Comics No. 225.

Here goes:

Good logo, I like the crossed "J"s (as a John, I have opinions about the letter - form is all!) and the fact that they're emphasizing the 'JOHN JONES' over the 'manhunter from mars'.

Introducing... CLARK KENT, a super man!
Introducing... BARRY ALLEN, who is quite fast!
Introducing... HAL JORDAN, a pilot with a ring!

Oh, the humour. Enough laffs, though - on with the show!

Here's the big ol' intro panel from JJ (the MM)'s first story. I include it here for a few reasons. First off, that text piece, I'll bet, probably reveals exactly how the Manhunter came to be. Detective had, by this point, had any number of, uh, detectives, including Slam Bradley (pugilist extraordinaire), Cosmo (racist master of disguise), Pow-Wow Smith (frontier sheriff), Roy Raymond (TV Detective) and Captain Compass (sleuth of the high seas). Someone was given the task of thinking up a new one and figured "Why not make him an alien? He'll fit right in."

Secondly, that's a great title. The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel, indeed.

Finally, see J'onzz over there, with the giant Martian head-halo? That was an effect that cropped up a lot when he was appearing to be a human but using his Martian powers, like an eerier version of Peter Parker's face turning half Spider-Man whenever the spidey-senses kick in. Not sure why, but I like the implication that the Manhunter has a huge cranium.

That's Dr. Erdel, who has, I just noticed, an incredibly cool desk. In fact, His whole lab is pretty bitchin'. My copy of Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter says that Joe Certa is responsible for the art on this story and I think he did a bang-up job, yessir.

I mean, look at Doc Erdel! That is one skillfully rendered potty old science-man.

And this is one of several panels that I threw into this review purely for aesthetic reasons. If I had a really good scan of this I might be tempted to have it blown up into a poster. It's pure fantastic. The colours! The sound effects! One of my favourite panels ever.

Enter the Manhunter! Arms akimbo, he stands ready for adventure! I wonder, did he have some warning that he was about to be teleported somewhere where he could make a great entrance, or was Mars going through a 'dramatic body language' fad? If so then J'onn is lucky - he could just as well have been ostentatiously thinking with one foot upon a low wall and his appearance on Earth might have been marred by him toppling sideways as soon as he materialized.

Martian Manhunter is HUGE! His head is HUGE! And he looks inappropriately amused by the fact that he has been teleported to another planet.

This story was mostly about introducing the character of J'onn J'onzz, so stuff like this happened a lot. Doc Erdel is suitably impressed, I think, by the fact that all Martians can make themselves look like a young Ronald Reagan.

Poor Dr. Erdel. The Martian Manhunter didn't have one of those giant, tragic origins like Superman or Batman, but it always struck a chord with me. Erdel dies while realizing his dream, while J'onzz is trapped on Earth - a very sad little origin scene, with nary an exploding planet or murdered parent to be seen, just a little old man with a tenuous grasp of where his heart is located.

See? Touching! Though I half suspect that that whole 'Xymo Serum' thing is a scam, just in case Erdel was holding out on sending the Manhunter home. Clever, cold-hearted Martian bastard.


I need a minute to myself...

Okay, I'm back.

Ah, the classic John Jones look., back in the days when he was a detective first and a Martian second. As I've blogged before, I really wish that someone would take the opportunity to write him as a super-detective again, rather than constantly increasing his level of alien-ness and alien-ation. His being an alien that had adopted humanity was always a lot more endearing to me than Superman's equivalent gesture, given that J'onn did so as an adult. Come on, DC! J'onn J'onzz as the immigrant done good! You know it could be cool!

As Rachelle has been pointing out in her posts, The Martian Manhunter used to have a whole lot more powers than he does now. Good thing he got all of that gold before that happened, hey?

Post gold-harvesting, J'onn decides to take a trip around the world, looking at Earth stuff while thinking about how much cooler the stuff on Mars is. Here, I will pointedly refrain from comparing this to the manner in which North Americans tour the rest of the globe.

At the end of the tour, he absent-mindedly wanders out into traffic, while thinking about traffic. This incredibly focussed forgetfulness has got to be another one of those since-discarded powers.

Luckily, he had intangibility on his side (still does, too!)! This is the other panel that I threw in for purely aesthetic reasons, by the way. Between the angle, the colours and the reaction, it looks super-nice. There's not even a caption on there - possibly the captioneer thought it was as nice as I do and didn't want to clutter it up.

I'm not sure if this younger planet = more primitive inhabitants thing was cultural or if it was just a DC Comics theory, but I remember seeing it quite a few times in Silver Age comics, like Batman would end up on a planet and there would be dinosaurs everywhere and he'd assume that the place was geologically younger than Earth. I wish I knew a scientific historian so I could ask 'em about it.

After his powers have been established, J'onn spends a page or so thinking about how much crime "Earthians" (fantastic) have to put up with and deciding to help out with cleaning it all up. The origin story is nearly complete!

There we go, a weakness! Everything required for a super-character is now present: origin, costume, secret identity, motivation, powers, weakness. And all in six pages - highly efficient!

You know, life must have been considerably rougher for Mr. J'onzz back when everyone and their dog smoked. Could he be covertly influencing anti-smoking regulation? Probably.

I need to meet a police historian, too. Could you really just walk into a police station and sign up to be a detective? That's great!

Well, there's a somewhat rambling review for you. Personally, I really enjoyed the Manhunter's origin tale. It was compact and well told and looked real pretty. J'onzz, you're


Plus, I just realized exactly why The Martian Manhunter isn't dead: he was killed in a Grant Morrison yarn, and Morrison continuity is frequently more cohesive than the DC continuity that it lives in. So, since Martian Manhunter No. 1,000,000 laid out a future history that did not include J'onzz being a mouldering corpse in the far future, it's likely that he'll be back (and better dressed) by the end of Final Crisis. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.